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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976
Page 4
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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 4. November 1976. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 13, 2021. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/182.

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(November 1976). Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 4. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/182

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976 - Page 4, November 1976, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 13, 2021, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/199/show/182.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 1, No. 9, November 1976
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date November 1976
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Transcript WARNING: j'our gynecologist • it's largely due to myths and fallacies in med school texts By Marilyn Ivory To the woman He said: "I will make great your distress in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children." Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 76. Medicine, like the constitution, is for men.1 For centuries, women practiced medicine and were burned at the stake as witches for it. Now it is as patients that women are punished. The male-dominated medical profession accepts a carefully constructed body of myths as gynecological science and sanctions selective mistreatment where women and so-called women's diseases are concerned. One of the cruelest forms of sexism we live with today is the unwillingness of many doctors to diagnose people's diseases with equality. To let a patient's organic diseases go undiagnosed and refer that patient to a psychiatrist just because she is a woman is not medicine, it's punishment. Yet in 1972 it is estimated that twenty percent of the U.S. adult female population were given tranquilizers for the same diseases for which men were given medicine.2 Examples are migraine headache, abdominal pains and fatigue. The education of doctors, for and by men, can explain this. Many of the obstetrics and gynecology textbooks used in medical schools focus more on how neurotic women might be than they do on the etiology and treatment of disease. When reading them, it is easy to see why women are serving the medical industry almost as much as it is serving them. The low esteem for women results in more than discriminatory or negligent care. Last year three thousand experimental techniques were tested on women, in most cases without their knowledge.3 In some instances the results were so tragic that Congressional Hearings were called to investigate the damage done to their bodies and minds.4 SHE NEEDS PAIN The use of women in experiments is usually rationalized by society with an ideology of the inevitability of women's passivity and suffering in intercourse, contraception, pregnancy and labor. In Obstetrics and Gynecology,5 a leading medical textbook, it is justified with a belief in women's need for pain and masochism. Freud's theory that pain is mere nourishment for woman's masochistic nature^ is the dominant theme of its fifty-five descriptions of women's minds which, in an otherwise adequate medical textbook explain much about doctors' attitudes toward women. The portrayal of doctors and women in many gynecology texts parallels the ancient Chinese principles of Yin and Yang. The female principle of Yin stood for earth, the moon, darkness and evil, while the male principle of Yang became elaborated into heaven, the sun, light, fire and goodness. That this attitude was held by at least part of the medical profession in the past can be seen in the 1968 text World of a Gynecologist7 which states: "W like all human beings he [the gynecologist] is made in the image of the Almighty, and if he is kind, then his kindness and concern for his patient may provide her with a glimpse of God's image/' after a D & C that has been done for diagnostic reasons. The physician has reassured and helped her in her emotional conflict. As he continues to care for this woman, he should be aware that an emotional problem exists and that this woman is under additional emotional strain during her pregnancy. Any operation can have symbolic meaning to the patient. This especially true of surgery performed in the pelvic region." The implication is strong that surgery might be performed for its psychological effect. No mention is made of the other implications of the many unnecessary pelvic operations performed on women each year.9 maternal mortality is still a problem when women in childbirth are still referred to as sinners in medical texts. Nowhere does the stereotype of woman as hysteric have more damaging application than in the text's warning that the woman's fear of injury in childbirth might be so neurotic that it could interfere with the normal progress of labor: the medical student is persuaded that he will have to administer a labor- inducing drug to "most" patients. Yet research has shown that labor-inducing drugs can lengthen contractions causing fetal respiratory distress, one of the causes of infant mortality. -a C i _jl cf To the woman He said: "/ will make great your distress in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children." Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 76. But the condescension expressed in this 1968 text is in fact surpassed by the recently revised (1971, 4th edition) text Obstetrics and Gynecology which is used this year in 60 of the nation's medical schools.8 In the latter text, women are childlike, helpless creatures who can't get through intercourse, pregnancy, labor or child-raising without "enlightened" physician intervention. The physician's will is so powerful and the woman's psyche so sensitive to suggestion that he can make an infertile woman conceive by performing an operation which will cause her to think some mythical blockage to pregnancy has been removed. "The inability to conceive has many organic, etiologic factors, but not infrequently emotional problems may be . . .the cause. This is readily apparent in the case of previously Infertile women' who become pregnant SHE'S A CHILD In the text, the woman in childbirth is just a child herself. Her doctor, even if he is a novice and she an old pro, is a fount of knowledge while she is "anxious," "fearful," afraid of "getting messy" and may feel "ashamed" and "guilty." The medical student is taught to believe that many symptoms of illness in pregnancy (excessive nausea, headache) are really a result of her "fear of pregnancy" rather than any physical condition he (all medical students and physicians are "he" in Obstetrics and Gynecology) need test for. She "may have fears of death during childbirth" but these fears are always neurotic, never justified. They are most often caused by guilt: she may "fear that the rewards (of pregnancy) will be damaged or denied because of past sins." It is easy to see why The text says that women in the menopause may be even more neurotic than women in childbirth. With facile prejudgement, the text explains, "The patient may seek treatment for these conditions (headache, malaise) without realizing that her basic problem is emotional." Yet these symptoms can be signs of serious disease. In one particularly dangerous example the student is told, "Postmenopausal women who have been separated from the significant men in their lives . . .may have vaginal bleeding," although vaginal bleeding in this age group is one of the signs of uterine cancer. SHE LOVES RAPE Many gynecology texts reveal a greater concern with the patient's husband than with the patient herself and tend to maintain sex role stereotypes in Page 4 Houston Breakthrough November 1976 the interest of men and from a male perspective. But Obstetrics and Gynecology clearly spells out the attitudes that other texts only imply: "The normal sexual act . . . entails a masochistic surrender to the man . . .there is always an element of rape. " "The traits that compose the core of the female personality are feminine narcissism, masochism and passivity." "Every phase of a woman's life is influenced by narcissism. Women then love in a different way from men. The woman falls in love with the idea of being loved; whereas the man loves an object for the pleasure it will give. She says, 7 am valuable, important, etc. because he loves me . . .' This type of narcissism finds expression in . . .her interest in clothes, personal appearance and beauty. Too much feminine narcissism without masochism produces a self- [ centered woman." "The idea of suffering is an essential part of her life." Since the dictionary defines "masochism" as an "abnormal condition in which sexual satisfaction depends on being subjected to abuse of pain," this text is teaching our future to define the normal patient in terms of what is clinically abnormal. Further, the text's requirement for narcissism, masochism and passivity in the "normal" woman leaves women who aren't beautiful, women who don't have children and women who aren't married outside the realm of normalcy. "The [normal] woman gives up her outwardly oriented active and aggressive strivings for the rewards involved in identification with her family . . .and sacrifices her own personality to build up that of her husband." One wonders how many women are referred to psychiatrists each year for not fulfilling these requirements for servitude. One can hope that Freud's belief that women have a "lust for pain"10does not really cause careless and painful treatment on the part of today's physicians. But a male medical student is a young impressionable person who knows little about women. Obstetrics and Gynecology tells medical students that "mature" women don't react to pain. And that women who suffer from dys- pareunia (acutely painful intercourse) are "fearful," "anxious" women whose frustration has led to "unexpressed anger." If their pain is caused by a thick, rigid hymen, surgical incision of the hymen is recommended, but this acutely painful procedure should be done without anesthesia for the purpose of "demonstrating to the patient that she is quite capable of withstanding the discomfort . . pain . . .is usually a valuable part of therapy."