Bounty Mutiny – it’s a feminist issue

Bounty – never liked the taste of ‘em anyway

I must confess that as I didn’t encounter a Bounty Rep in the maternity ward, I hadn’t really tuned in to the whole MumsNet Bounty Mutiny thing until this week. In fact, having read Mutiny On The Bounty from the amazing Jennie at Edspire on the subject earlier in the week I left a comment in agreement with Jennie that there are more important things to get up in arms about.

But this morning I read The Bounty Mutiny: Let’s Ban Sales Reps From NHS Postnatal Wards from Alison over at Not Another Mummy Blog and through greater knowledge of what Bounty is and does, my opinion has changed. And I’ve signed the #BountyMutinyPetition.

To my mind the issues around Bounty Reps being allowed onto maternity wards to market and sell to women who’ve just given birth, is all part of a bigger issue. That issue is the attitude towards many women when they are labouring, birthing and post birth. It’s a feminist issue and one that is symptomatic of the inequality that women in this country are faced with everyday.

Here’s a couple of ‘highlights’ from my birthing experience to help illustrate my point:

The Birth:

As the ventouse equipment was brought into the labour room, towards the end of my long and arduous labour, a whole host of people appeared. To this day I have no idea who most of them were. As I lied back on a bed raised high up in the room, a male doctor stood between my open legs preparing for the ventouse. Two women stood to the side of me. One of them turned to the other and asked, “why didn’t she want a male doctor*?”

It was as if I didn’t count. These women – yes WOMEN – didn’t see me as important enough to either speak to directly, to bother lowering their voices around when I was in such a vulnerable position.

The NHS Helper:

There was a woman hovering around in the general labour unit – where mothers not yet 3cm dilated are kept in pens not dissimilar to pig pens!! – who was some kind of auxiliary volunteer. Her purpose was to offer chat and support. I found her annoying. I was determined she wasn’t going to intrude on the privacy I wanted around the birth of my baby.

She witnessed the birth of my baby.

Along with the array of people who didn’t even get introduced to me. Who just trooped in to watch and stare as I had a ventouse shoved up my vagina to pull my close to death baby out of me.

My point:

I know the NHS is strapped for cash. BUT the attitude towards women during labour, birth and post-birth can be appalling. Out of all the people I encountered through my birthing experience, only two stood out as really giving a toss about my welfare – the midwife who spent most time with me once I was in the labour suite and the doctor who delivered my baby.

The general impression I got is that pregnant women should like it and lump it. Be grateful for what they’re given and just get on with delivering their babies. Privacy and being able to keep your modesty are add-ons that you may or may not get rather than standard procedure.

Commercial gain maternal loss

And this is why the whole Bounty thing really rankles with me. Yes the NHS can do with any cash injections that come its way. Bounty offers this. But the maternity ward should be a place for women to recover from the experience of giving birth. Whether it is a good experience or a bad experience, it is still an experience that means they’ve either pushed out a human life through their vagina or endured major surgery. Hormones are surging, they’re very likely in some kind of pain and discomfort and also totally and utterly knackered.

Where else in a hospital would a sales rep be allowed to intrude and start marketing their wares?

Yes, some women might like meeting the Bounty Rep. For some the freebies aren’t so much nice little extras as essentials. But for many women – as shown in the results of the MumsNet Survey on Bounty Reps - the Bounty Rep visit feels like an intrusion.

I think Rachel from Mummy Glitzer has a really good point of view…

“I understand the financial need to have Bounty in hospitals. We need to face facts that the NHS simply doesn’t have enough money any longer and private organisations will be propping them up.

However, as someone who was extremely tired and emotional and did feel hassled despite saying no to the rep frequently, I can still recognise that for many women they provided a listening ear.

I think that they could still provide a service within hospitals but perhaps in a side room with the MW/HCPs informing patients on their rounds that there is the option to visit the Bounty Lady or have her come to you? I think this way there is a REAL choice and a lot less pressure”.

On my feminist soapbox

What we need to create is a society that has more respect for women and mothers. Yes, thousands of us women give birth in this country every year. But it doesn’t mean it’s something that we should all just shut up and deal with. Each and every woman has a right to be treated with respect and consideration.

If society put a greater value on women and mothers there would be no need to be posing the question about whether women should have to deal with unsolicited visits from sales reps at one of the most emotionally charged times in our lives. The answer would be a simple and unequivocal NO.



*I hadn’t ever said I didn’t want a male doctor. As an induced labour means lots of internal examinations, I’d asked if they could be done by a female rather than a male, as I felt (slightly) more comfortable with this. Ironically it was the male doctor that commented back to them, “perhaps it was out of modesty”.