exam 3 - 1 Impoverished women in Bom Jesus say that an ideal family has three children yet most poor women undergo somewhere between nine and twelve

exam 3 - 1 Impoverished women in Bom Jesus say that an...

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1. Impoverished women in Bom Jesus say that an ideal family has three children, yet most poor women undergo somewhere between nine and twelve pregnancies to rear four to six living children. A question that comes to our minds, as to Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s mind, is —why do these women have so many children? Why, indeed? Many of us are a product of our environment and the women of Bom Jesus were no different. In order to understand why these women had so many children, you have to look at the cultural, economic, and religious aspects of their lives. First of all, Brazil is a country where 85% of the population considers itself to be Catholic (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 330). Catholic “morality” guided their reproductive choices. This meant that women had a duty to “cooperate with God and nature”. In other words, it was a woman’s duty to procreate (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 337). Thus, most women did not receive a hysterectomy or sterilization (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 231). When asked for such services, doctors ridiculed the patient and often sent them home (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 207). From an economic standpoint, these services were expensive and beyond the reach of a woman who couldn’t afford to feed herself or her children (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 336-337). Birth control, which could be another option, was a cultural taboo. Although it was effective, and many women did have at least one experience with it, birth control was considered dangerous. Much of the population was under the impression that birth control pill would cause cancer, swelling, headaches, nausea, and extreme nervousness (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 333). Condoms, the simplest and cheapest form of birth control, were only worn by men when frequenting a prostitute. While diaphragms were not known or available in stores (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 333). Still, there were other methods available to women. The older women of Alto had many different herbal teas, baths, washes, and infusions that would effect a women’s period so that it would be late and could theoretically induce an abortion (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 334). However, many women chose not to take these herbal remedies as they were known to be dangerous (Scherper-Hughes 1989: 335). Sex on the other hand, was readily available.
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  • Spring '14
  • Alto, Nancy Scheper-Hughes

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