Importance of Violence in Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born

Importance of Violence in Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born

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The Importance of Violence in Of Woman Born  

In cultures as different as Sweden and the Yucatan, women have a part in the decision-making process during their deliveries. The Yucatan midwife emphasizes that 'every woman has to 'buscar la forma,' find her own way, and that it is the midwife's task to assist with whatever decision is made.' This does not mean that births are painless, but that needless pain is prevented, birth is not treated as a 'medical event,' and the woman's individual temperament and physique are trusted and respected." (p.175)

Rich both begins and ends her book on the topic of violence to get our attention. Once the realization that something must change has occurred, her ideas are further developed, by implying that with some major change in the patriarchal system this violence may end, and being a mother would not be so difficult. I agree that it can be much better than this dated account of life as a mother, but as the Yucatan midwives have stated, there will still be pain. Rich would agree that woman's individual temperament and physique need to be trusted and respected, but I take it a step further and think that this particular discussion on labor should be a metaphor for the argument of this book. The description of labor and delivery above is the way in which motherhood should be approached, substituting the partner, husband, or friend for the role of the midwife. In this situation patriarchy does not need to fall, a much more attainable goal.

By both beginning and ending with violence, Rich is making a statement that these atrocities can be mended or at least should be mended by her proposal of denouncing patriarchy. Not only may this not be possible, but it implies that once the balance of power has been shifted, this violence which is discussed at length could change. Although the balance of power could shift, abusive, violent, and uncaring parents, fathers or mothers, will still exist regardless of who is holding the power, thus leaving the burden of child rearing on the other parent, creating the same situation that we have today. By Rich placing such emphasis on the violence, in a backhanded way she gives hope that with her plan this violence will stop. Since Rich implies a solution to the problem, she, too, is carrying on a myth of sorts.

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She is not taking into account how culture has change in all of the other ways, including violence in other areas, both parents having to work, stress involved at work, single parenting by default or choice, and much more, all of which effects the psychiatric welfare of the mother or parents involved. It is not so easy to say that a shift of the balance of power will change the way in which motherhood is perceived and acted upon. As the midwife says, there will still be pain involved, even as one is finding there own way.

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