Listen Up! Opinion pieces are meant to inspire reasoned debate

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Hugh Mackenzie Huntsville Doppler

Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Poking a Stick at a Hornet’s Nest –

A few days ago my friend and fellow commentator on Doppler, Dale Peacock, posted an opinion piece about natural childbirth and breast feeding. The response was astounding and at times cruel. Now Dale does not need me to defend her. She can do that very well on her own.

However, there are a few takeaways from the column that Dale posted that need to be addressed. Some of my family are visiting this Labour Day weekend and they have advised me to stay away from all of this. I tried, but I can’t.

First of all I was surprised at the vitriol of some of the comments; blasting Doppler for posting the article and ridiculing the author for writing it. They of course are entitled to their opinion and that really is what this is all about and why Doppler posted their comments. But that is not a one way street.

Let’s start with Doppler. Part of what we do is to expose people to different viewpoints and provide a forum for reasoned debate. The views expressed in commentary on Doppler are those of the people who write them, whether it be me, Dale Peacock, Laura McLean, or anyone else. Short of libel or personal character assassination, management does not interfere. We would be derelict if we did so. Instead, we leave it to our readers to decide what they agree with and what they do not. We encourage diverse opinion and healthy debate. We do not suppress it.

Second, I was also initially surprised by what Dale Peacock wrote. I didn’t expect it from her. She is a strong feminist and a huge advocate when it comes to women’s issues. At first blush I thought she had stepped away from this role, as did obviously some of the folks who responded to her article. But having read the article again (several times) I conclude that she has taken a much braver stand FOR women by encouraging them to do what they believe is right for them and their situation and not be pressured by others who think they know best. Far from “shaming” women, I fell she was telling them NOT to be ashamed for doing what they believed was in their best interest and that of their family. She was not, in my view, criticizing natural childbirth or breast feeding but rather pointing out that some women make other choices for whatever reasons and should not be ‘put down’ by others for doing so. As I said, a brave stance.

My own view on all of this is simple and it is that women have the right to control their own body. When it comes to a family, hopefully partners or spouses are part of the decision-making process but at the end of the day it is a woman’s choice. It is her decision as to whether she becomes pregnant or whether she does not and it is her ultimate decision how to give birth and how to feed her baby. Hopefully, these are informed decisions, but they should not be subject to pressure groups, by whatever name you wish to call them, telling women what to do or what is best for them. If a woman finds for whatever reason, that a natural birth or breastfeeding is not for them, then that is her business. Period.

So now I have poked my stick firmly in the hornet’s nest! But I have a right to my own opinion and a right to express it. I also enjoy listening to and learning from other people’s opinion. I am not one of those people who tolerates no opinion other than their own. I cherish the debate and from that perspective, welcome the hornet’s nest!

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12 Comments

  1. Thanks Hugh….you obviously ‘got it’. But since you had to re-read it a couple of times I may well have erred in not making the point early on and with greater clarity.

    As a long-time feminist, women’s advocate and mentor to a goodly number of my younger ‘sisters’ there is nothing that I believe more strongly than that women have a right to control their own bodies.

    I was inundated with private messages relaying stories of women feeling inadequate following childbirth for a host of reasons both diverse and poignant. To a woman they all said they wanted to write a comment but were afraid to tell their stories in public given the vitriol – which was truly baffling to me – that met my opinion piece.

    As you said, I don’t need anyone to defend me. I’ve been around awhile and I have a thick skin. But it did demonstrate that far too many young women – more than I ever dreamed – DO need someone to support them when they choose HOWEVER they choose to birth and nourish their children.

    Thanks for the soapbox. Mind you, I think my next column will be on choosing our national bird for Canada’s Sesquicentennial. Who knew, but we don’t actually have one! :o)

  2. I think you should have let Dale do the talking. The women who spoke up about their choices being mocked, are not likely to be consoled with some mansplaining.

  3. Well said Hugh & thanks for giving of your time over a long weekend with family.

    Yes, “a forum for reasoned debate” – so true & fundamental for nurturing a decent, civil, & hopefully a compassionate community/society, especially given the increasingly polarized world we appear to be living in right now. It is a also a disposition we attempt to instill in our children/grandchildren as students – and future citizens of Canada – as they head back to school on Tuesday …

  4. Thanks, Hugh, and thanks Dale.
    We may not always agree, but an honest opinion, without vitriol, really matters, and should be allowed to be expressed. We are all fortunate in not having lived through the horrors of Nazi Germany, and more recently, cultural revolutions. Let us value these freedoms, and stop throwing rotten tomatoes.

  5. Cynthia Hawkins on

    Thank you SIR/MAN, for clarifying for us women who can’t interpret an article on our own.

    If so MANY people “misinterpreted” the opinion/article, don’t you think there is a lot of truth in the interpretation? I mean, WE CAN’T ALL BE WRONG!

    If you don’t want backlash don’t write political articles. I did not once get the feeling of inclusion in this article. It was, to me, a definite “us vs. them” opinion. Hence the backlash. If it were inclusive it would have been more educational and compassionate to all family choices.

    The thing is………

    When someone tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.

    STOP JUSTIFYING THE ARTICLE.

  6. Liked Hugh’s comments. Many years ago I had a C-section due to not being able to deliver a big breech baby and other issues complicating a natural birth. I was upset that it had to go that way, with all the stories of how beautiful a natural, no medicine, birth could be. I experienced postpartum depression/psychosis and was unable to continue breast feeding past 6-8 weeks. So I agree with Dale, don’t make those of us, who for some reason cannot do the ‘natural thing’ feel inadequate. A healthy mother, baby and bringing up children with love and attention, is the main goal. I was proud of my daughter-in-law, who also had to have an emergency c-section and stop nursing after severe mastitis. She carried on proudly, happy to gave a healthy child.

  7. Kathleen Gilchrist on

    I did not find Dale Peacock’s article offensive at all. I really don’t know why people got their ass in a knot over this article. You may disagree with some comments, but not enough to be so ugly about it. I chuckled reading Dale’s article. I could relate to so many of her comments. I never had the privilege to experience natural childbirth. I was told by my Doctor when I was 6 weeks pregnant that I would have to have a C-section. From the 24th week to the birth of my son, he was breach. I got to stay awake and that meant everything to me. I would love to have held him immediately after he was born, but at that time it was not allowed. I was able to breast feed, but 38 years ago, you only got 17 weeks off, and it was not feasible for me to be able to continue breast feeding on a full-time basis. I remember my sister being anal with me because I didn’t. I did the best I could. She did not have to go back to work. Now mothers get a lot longer off. I am not sure of the actual weeks, but I believe it is 50 to 52 weeks. Things are so much better for mothers and their choices in childbirth and so much more. Just do the best you can, love and nourish your children.

  8. Marcia Kuehnen on

    Maybe an article titled ” Women should be supported regardless of how they birth their babies ” as opposed to ” the cult of natural childbirth has gone too far “, the reaction would have been very different. Generally speaking, when a group of people are insulted for their choices and labelled as “kooky”, “privileged”, etc, the opportunity for a ‘healthy discussion’ is removed.

  9. I read both the article and the comments re: natural childbirth.
    I thought that the points made were good in both cases, however, the presentation was, in my opinion, too fraught with emotionalism.
    Certain words were inflammatory (i.e. “this crap” or “you’ll throw up in your mouth a little”) and drew attention away from the message.
    The media today has become, I observe, less respectful, and it seems that there is less ability to state a position with consideration for the perceptions and sensibilities of the reader.
    If the approach is calm, reasoned and informed, the listener is usually more receptive and willing to consider a viewpoint that differs from their own.

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