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Science and Professionalism

I took a course on feminist theories in a graduate program last semester and understood that feminism is being sensitive to isms in the society so as to understand socially vulnerable populations such as the young, the aged, the handicapped, people of color, and sexually minority people as well as women. I would like to talk about the isms that seem to affect women's perinatal periods.

Information about pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing tends to be inconsistent and changing across generations and cultures, including superstitions. Moreover, preferences and authorities of transmitters of the information such as health care providers and media can make women in the perinatal periods confused. The followings are examples of education for mothers that provided by a nurse-midwife at a clinic in Japan.

A) Although babies used to be given tea, fruit juice, and rice water at three to four months, the latest experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

B) Although babies used to be forced to stop, or "graduate from", breastfeeding by the time they become one year old, recent experts encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding as long as possible until the baby is satisfied.

C) Although women used to avoid taking a bath for a month after childbirth, recent researchers concluded that taking a clean bath did not cause intrauterine infections.

Mothers generally choose conventional ways that their family members and/or close friends have practiced. Thus, the cultures in pregnancy, childbirth, and childrearing have been inherited from the earliest times. However, due to the wider generation gaps and nuclear family styles, transmission of common knowledge is more difficult today than before. Modern mothers have to rely on other sources: information from media and experts. Professionals such as health care providers and scientists became important sources of knowledge for people. Therefore, I would like to discuss professionalism and scientism.

Being a professional usually means that having a license or a certification. However, having a license or a certification may merely establish that the holder of the license studied the subject for a certain period in the past. While the license-holder's passions, abilities, efforts, and experiences of licensed professionals should be respected, it may be unwise to grant them too much authority or rely on them too much.

Science alone cannot provide absolute proof of any theory. There is no perfect clinical trial, if any, no clinical trial can guarantee that its results are applicable for a future case. While a mother needs to know only about her or her baby's particular case, science seeks universal truths.

Professional practices and scientific knowledge are helpful, but it is also true that people survived well even when science and professionalization were underdeveloped. The current powerful institutions of professionalism and science may not sufficiently address aspects of health and happiness for people. How should we make the best use of knowledge from scientists and professionals? What other isms do we tend to have?
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