Towards a feminist philosophy of fertility consciousness

Hampton, Kerry (1998) Towards a feminist philosophy of fertility consciousness. Research Master thesis, Victoria University of Technology.


In this thesis it is argued that the fertility-awareness aspect of the Ovulation Method-Billings (OM) can contribute towards women's liberation in patriarchal societies because it enables fertility consciousness. Mosse and Heaton (1990) define fertility consciousness as a conscious participation in the events of the menstrual cycle. The Fertility Consciousness Group (1980), Mosse and Heaton (1990) and Valins (1993) argue that until we establish a feminist fertility consciousness our ability to act with self-governance in relation to our fertility will be compromised. O'Brien (1986), Mosse and Heaton (1990) and Valins (1993) argue that our reproductive consciousness (which includes consciousness of our fertility) has been eroded in patriarchal societies to such an extent that we have come to rely almost exclusively on the medical and pharmaceutical establishments for "birth-control". Our knowledge is consequently rarely found on the shelves in book shops where fertility and reproductive knowledge is coded, commodified, and legitimised for our consumption. It is even less likely to be found in the libraries of the nursing and medical practitioners whom we are most likely to consult when seeking this information (O'Brien, 1986; Owen, 1988; Watkins and Danz, 1995). Prior to this situation occurring, a plethora of historical and anthropological evidence suggests that women in various cultures around the world were knowledgeable about their fertility in various ways and "managed" it effectively in accordance with their cultural norms (see, for example, McLaren, 1990; Billings and Westmore, 1992; Siedlecky and Wyndham, 1990) Fertility-awareness knowledge is today principally conveyed in Natural Family Planning (NFP) discourse. NFP discourse combines the medical model of the menstrual cycle with the Roman-Catholic Church's moral theology on sexuality and marriage principally to achieve or avoid pregnancy. NFP became a medical science in the 1930s with the development of the Rhythm Method, following the significant discovery by Ogino and Knaus that menstruation always follows ovulation within eleven to seventeen days in the absence of pregnancy occurring. Further scientific investigations into the menstrual cycle gave rise to the Temperature Method in the 1940s and two decades later the OM was developed (Richards, 1982; Billings and Westmore, 1992). The Roman-Catholic Church is the main political advocate of NFP, and over time the Roman-Catholic Church and NFP methods have become synonymous.

Additional Information

Master of Arts in Women's Studies

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > FOR Classification > 1116 Medical Physiology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Keywords Natural family planning, Ovulation, Detection, Menstrual cycle, Feminism
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login