Shouldn't it be "Midhusband?": The Dynamics of Masculinity and Structural Femininity in American Midwifery.
- Midwifery today has been recontextualized as subversive within the American medical system. This is in large part due to the gendered, clinical takeover of birth care by obstetricians during the 18th and 19th centuries. Reentering the medical system in the early 1900s, midwifery subverted the obstetric conception birth as pathological, and established a women-centered approach to birth care. In th... read moree face of this history, this study asks what happens in the clinical and professional spaces of midwifery when masculine identified folk become midwives. A group of six mothers, and nine midwives were interviewed for this study. The mothers in experienced their pregnancies as inseparable from their identities as cis-women; this translated into their expectations of midwifery care, and their relationships to masculine clinical providers. The mothers experienced a relationship arc with their masculine midwives characterized by a positive shift in their perspective on the masculinity of said providers. Midwifery was found to be a hyperfeminized profession that, in some ways, pushed back against the presence of masculinity unlike other feminine professions. The trans-masculine and genderqueer-masculine-of-center midwives experienced transphobia characterized by invisibility and isolation within the midwifery community, and blatant exclusion from and by their cis-feminine counterparts. Unlike the cis-masculine midwives, the queer midwives in this study voiced a desire to create space for, and to support queer and trans patients. These results help to define the concept of a “hyperfeminized profession” wherein agents and recipients of midwifery care adhere to structural femininity in recognition of the gendered power dynamic in clinical pregnancy and birth care created by the history of the profession. The study showed that the dynamic of hyperfemininity in midwifery required masculine identified agents to conform and uphold the standard of femininity defined by the profession.read less