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The F word: Midwifery students' understanding of feminism

02 November 2018
13 min read
Volume 26 · Issue 11

Abstract

Background

Not all midwives embrace the word feminism however, it could be argued that providing midwifery care is an expression of feminism's core values.

Aims

To describe and explain the views and knowledge of midwifery students on feminism and midwifery.

Methods

A qualitative descriptive approach, employing an anonymous online questionnaire was implemented and analysed using thematic and content analysis.

Findings

Eight themes were identified in this study that revealed midwifery student's views and knowledge on feminism and the impact it may have on midwifery clinical practice.

Conclusions

This study suggests midwifery students should receive adequate education regarding feminism. The advantages of midwifery students understanding feminism within the midwifery professional are undeniable and it is important that feminism is integrated into midwifery programmes.

The Oxford Dictionary defines feminism as ‘the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’. This is a basic definition, and it is argued that feminism has many, with an earlier definition describing it as a philosophy, a world view, a theory, a practice and a research method (Kramarea and Triecher, 1985).

The first wave of feminism has been described as the struggle for gender equality, which included the fight to end slavery, and the women's suffragette movement during the nineteenth century (Walters, 2005; Ehrennreich and English, 2010). The second wave of feminists in the 1970s believed that to gain true equality, the rights of women should include not only the public and political position of women, but also private worlds such as family, sexuality and health (Cott, 1987; McCool and McCool, 1989; Kitzinger, 2011). This was the time when women began to question the prevailing paradigm of childbirth, which focused on birth as a medical event (Katz Rothman, 1982; Kitzinger, 2012), and feminist writers such as Ann Oakley (1976; 1980) began to make the connections between childbirth, birth attendants and the position of women in society.

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