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CLA March 5.doc

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Victoria Wohl

CLA March 5 We saw in Airs, Waters, Places that Hippocrates was trying to find natural, physical and environmental sources for the differences between Greeks and Barbarians. Medical texts on gynaecology. Focus is on physys – anatomy. What we see is that even as Hippocrates, Galen and Aristotle are trying to understand sex, gender is always creeping in. What we find is that sex may always already be gender – meaning underneath the anatomical differences, those differences may not be explicable without a set of gender presuppositions. All of the writers insist that women produce seed, that they are colder, that the uterus moves around. Women = inverted men. These texts come from a range of authors & periods. Hippocrates writes in 5 C th BCE. Aristotle 4 C BCE. Galen 2 C C.E under the Roman Empire. You can trace the evolution from Hippocrates to Aristotle to Galen. What’s most remarkable is the similarities and how little approaches to gender changes in 6-7 centuries. Up until the 19 century the idea of the wandering womb as causing female hysteria was still accepted. Hysteria comes from the word hystera (womb). Women are reproductive machines and when they’re broken that’s when medicine intervenes. Both men and women have semen but men’s semen is creative and reproductive, but women’s is passive and needs to be activated by male semen. Passage 341 from Hippocrates: spontaneous abortion. A woman who is keeping prostitutes calls Hippocrates to abort one of the prostitutes’ baby. Hippocrates gets to observe a 6 day old embryo. He observes the ovum in detail. He also alludes to women’s knowledge (what the women tell each other). Hippocrates even suggests that this female medical tradition can be useful to men. The only reason a man might be willing to let a stranger (a doctor) is if she’s having reproductive problems or facing death from childbirth related problems. The Hippocratic oath – talking about not talking with patients’ wives. Greeks were VERY secretive and reclusive about their homes and wives and lives. If it’s a problem to have men investigate females and probe them, why not have women doctors? They did have female midwives. The midwives were trained by men. Soranus’s text – treatise for midwives. Aristotle and Galen draw a sharp line between male and fema
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