gracie janove is an acupressurist, photographer, writer, sociologist, pro-choice feminist and radical doula. She is proud to offer doula support for all pregnancy options including birth, abortion and adoption as well as care for all families and pregnant people. She recently helped organize the Bay Area Radical Reproductive Workers Alliance. Aside from birth work, she is dedicated to empowering youth through teaching media literacy. She currently resides in the SF Bay Area. Contact her at BirthBeautifullMoments@gmail.com.
Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I work with individuals (and families), yet I am committed to creating lasting systemic change in the reproductive health world. I envision a society where all people have all the health care and support they need, and where they don’t need money to get it. This means safe abortion access, midwifery services, any other form of health care. Currently, women in prison, homeless women, queer women and trans people are especially marginalized groups that need access to these services. I’m working towards a world where informed consent and empowered choice are the norm.
What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
“In white supremacist capitalist patriarchal Western culture neocolonial thinking sets the tone for many cultural practices.” -bell hooks
I want to inhabit a world where the choices that impact the communities in which we live are made collectively and democratically. People deserve agency over if they want to, when they want to, and how they want to give birth. I provide unconditional support for pregnant persons and every choice they make, because I believe they know best. So many parts of our culture work against women, and as a doula I am there to bestow compassion and support to all involved. One way the culture misguides us is through the use of mainstream media, an inescapable force that is great at playing on our emotions. I’m interested in examining the media’s role in forming people’s lived experiences of childbirth. Someday, I’d like to launch a media campaign with other reproductive justice workers to help reconstruct the way people perceive and experience birth.
What inspired you to become a doula?
Feminism changed my life. I was probably 12 when I heard the word used for the first time. I was thrilled that I has just stumbled upon this other world, in which it was acceptable for women to be strong and bold. Throughout college, as I learned more about capitalism, patriarchy, and our medical system, I became outraged at the rules women were made to follow during labor (in hospitals) and how that was considered the norm. I became passionate about studying women’s health, and felt the urge to do something. I met a doula, and then I met another one. I felt becoming a doula was one thing I could do, one way I could contribute to such a massive problem that is generally hidden. Becoming a doula also allows me to educate people on the issue.
If you could change one thing about birth, what would it be?
I would take (most) births out of hospitals. Birthing in hospitals is a VERY recent practice, given how long humans have been procreating. The fact that almost all births in this country happen in hospitals is connected to two ideas that need to be debunked. First is that in our culture, birth is seen as a medical procedure. The entire Western medical system exists in order to make a large profit, and doctors are continually trying to fit “deliveries” into their 9-5 schedule (hence part of why the US C-section rate is the highest in the world). The institutional framework that indoctrinates people to believe they aren’t capable of birthing naturally or healing themselves is causing people harm. Secondly, there is a myth that women are weak; that they’re not to be trusted. It is outrageous that doctors are perceived as more knowledgeable about women are about their body. This tends to undermine women’s bodies’ wisdom and often disempowers them from using natural birthing methods.