This is the second part of a two part series. The first pamphlet, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, will be posted soon.
Barbara Ehrenreich &
Our motivation to write this pamphlet comes out of our own experiences as women, as health care consumers, and as activists in the women’s health movement. In writing this, we have tried to see beyond our own experiences (and anger) and to understand medical sexism as a social force helping to shape the options and social roles of all women. Our approach is largely historical. In the first sections of this pamphlet we attempt to describe medicine’s contribution to the sexist ideology and sexual oppression in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (approximately 1865 to 1920 though a few important medical books were written earlier). We chose to begin with this period because it witnessed a pronounced shift from a religious to a bio-medical rationale for sexism, as well as the formation of the medical profession as we know it – a male elite with a legal monopoly over medicine practice. We feel that this period provides a perspective essential for understanding our relation to the modern medical system. In the last two sections we attempt to apply that perspective to our present situation and the issues that concern us today.