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Writing Childbirth

Writing Childbirth

Women's Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online

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Kim Hensley Owens


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
5 illustrations

Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms


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About the Book

Women seeking to express concerns about childbirth or to challenge institutionalized medicine by writing online birth plans or birth stories exercise rhetorical agency in undeniably feminist ways. In Writing Childbirth: Women’s Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online, author Kim Hensley Owens explores how women create and use everyday rhetorics in planning for, experiencing, and writing about childbirth.

Drawing on medical texts, popular advice books, and online birth plans and birth stories, as well as the results of a childbirth writing survey, Owens considers how women’s agency in childbirth is sanctioned, and how it is not. She examines how women’s rhetorical choices in writing interact with institutionalized medicine and societal norms. Writing Childbirth reveals the contradictory messages women receive about childbirth, their conflicting expectations about it, and how writing and technology contribute to and reconcile these messages and expectations.

Demonstrating the value of extending rhetorical investigations of health and medicine beyond patient-physician interactions and the discourse of physicians, Writing Childbirth offers fresh insight into feminist rhetorical agency and technology and expands our understanding of the rhetorics of health and medicine. 


Kim Hensley Owens is the director of composition and an associate professor of English at Northern Arizona University. Her research focuses on intersections of rhetoric, feminism, health and medicine, bodies, technologies, and ethnography. She has published essays in Rhetoric Review, Written Communication, Computers and Composition, JAC, Pedagogy, and Enculturation.


“In Writing Childbirth, Kim Hensley Owens dexterously reads women’s experiences around birth as rhetorical negotiations. Although Owens engages women’s birth rhetorics at various levels, from broader cultural responses to generic conventions to specific linguistic expressions, her careful rhetorical readings of individual birth plans and birth narratives tease out the subtlest of rhetorical moves and their potential to reposition the women making them. In her respectful incorporation of women’s expressed purposes and language, and in the accessibility of her analyses to nonacademic readers, she fulfills her goal of producing research with the potential to support women.”—J. Blake Scott, author of Risky Rhetoric: AIDS and the Cultural Practices of HIV Testing
“A rhetorical analysis, when well executed, can change the reader’s world by forcing us to reinvent, rethink, and reimagine the truths we have held most dear. In Writing Childbirth: Women’s Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online, Kim Hensley Owens accomplishes all of these things, and more. Owens is one of those rare scholarly writers who can interweave the personal with the professional and the theoretical, resulting in a manuscript that is as informative and persuasive as it is delightful to read.”—Amy Koerber, author of Breast or Bottle?: Contemporary Controversies in Infant-Feeding Policy and Practice


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