Many women have noted the biases in medical practice; the objectifying mission to cure whatever is deviant begs the question of what is normal to begin with. The answer to this question is, naturally, 25 year old heterosexual white guy. Who would have thought.
I hadn’t really thought about this aspect of medicine until a few years ago. I had ventured off to Wisconsin to live close to the land and participate in a women’s herbalism apprenticeship. My teacher practiced under a framework called the Wise Woman Tradition. This philosophy was introduced in the context of two other traditions, the Heroic and the Scientific. The Scientific tradition was about linearity, mind-body, mechanization, and objectification. The Heroic was about asceticism, the masculine, and a representation of health that was based on young, white, unchanging men (a perspective that informs much of the alternative healing movement). In stark constrast, the Wise Woman Tradition was about spirals, unimaginable transformation, intuition, sacred blood, sisterhood, and the divine feminine. In this perspective nourishment was privileged over curing. Young speaks to the devaluation and unexpectedness of such an approach; it is not a surprise that the masculinist Heroic healing tradition would assume battle with the body and set itself up for triumph.
I wonder if the labeling of a woman’s body as deviant is not related to a certain jealousy of its capabilities. What comes to mind is our discussion about sperm as being the seed of life – a seed that women merely gestate. Conscious or unconscious, this is an appropriation of pregnancy. The technologies discussed in this week’s readings also prompt a sort of suspicion; Young notes that things like the sonogram create visuals (which she relates to masculinity) which equalize the experience and knowledge of pregnancy between the pregnant and the on lookers. This is not to say that men cannot have experiences of pregnancy, but that they cannot serve to devalue a woman’s subjective experience.