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Old 04-11-2017, 10:02 AM   #1 (permalink)
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The wandering uterus

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History
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In our undergraduate seminar at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we discussed “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the context of the nearly 4,000-year history of the medical diagnosis of hysteria. [...]

The course is titled “The Wandering Uterus: Journeys through Gender, Race, and Medicine” and gets its name from one of the ancient “causes” of hysteria. The uterus was believed to wander around the body like an animal, hungry for semen. If it wandered the wrong direction and made its way to the throat there would be choking, coughing or loss of voice, if it got stuck in the the rib cage, there would be chest pain or shortness of breath, and so on. Most any symptom that belonged to a female body could be attributed to that wandering uterus. “Treatments,” including vaginal fumigations, bitter potions, balms, and pessaries made of wool, were used to bring that uterus back to its proper place. “Genital massage,” performed by a skilled physician or midwife, was often mentioned in medical writings. The triad of marriage, intercourse, and pregnancy was the ultimate treatment for the semen-hungry womb. The uterus was a troublemaker and was best sated when pregnant.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” was conceived thousands of years later, in the Victorian era, when the diagnosis of hysteria hit its heyday. Medical attention veered from the hungry uterus and was placed on a woman’s so-called weaker nervous system. Nineteenth-century physician Russell Thacher Trail approximated that three-quarters of all medical practice was devoted to the “diseases of women,” and therefore physicians must be grateful to “frail women” (read frail white women of certain means) for being an economic godsend to the medical profession.

It was believed that hysteria, also known as neurasthenia, could be set off by a plethora of bad habits including reading novels (which caused erotic fantasies), masturbation, and homosexual or bisexual tendencies resulting in any number of symptoms such as seductive behaviors, contractures, functional paralysis, irrationality, and general troublemaking of various kinds. There are pages and pages of medical writings outing hysterics as great liars who willingly deceive. The same old “treatments” were enlisted—genital massage by an approved provider, marriage and intercourse—but some new ones included ovariectomies and cauterization of the clitoris.
Ancient history? Consider how the media went into apoplexy over Hillary Clinton's bout with pneumonia last summer. They may not have blamed her uterus, but there was certainly a lot of reactions that, once you cut back the political bias, seemed to spark on gender alone.
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Old 04-11-2017, 01:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This attitude still carries over into the medical industry (I call it an industry instead of a practice because in the US, that's what it is).

In any case, I can't tell you the number of times I was diagnosed with a psychological issue and/or hypochondria until I had my first grand mal seizure (once I was even accused by a [male] teacher of faking my seizures). In any case, it took them years to finally figure out I had lupus. YEARS. That would never happen with a man.

When a man walks into a doctors office the assumption is that he must be REALLY sick because why else would he be there.

When a woman walks into a doctors office the assumption is that she has over hyped the issue or is an actual hypochondriac.

I think these assumptions have killed a lot of women.
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