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Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a…

Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World (udgave 2021)

af Elinor Cleghorn (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
771279,782 (3.5)2
Titel:Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World
Forfattere:Elinor Cleghorn (Forfatter)
Info:Dutton Books (2021), 400 pages
Samlinger:New Books
Nøgleord:Adult, Non-Fiction

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Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World af Elinor Cleghorn


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This is a really tricky one to rate. On the one hand, Elinor Cleghorn writes with convincing passion about how the long-standing patriarchal biases of the medical profession have resulted in the misunderstanding of women's illnesses and suffering, and have often compounded them. (Cleghorn looks at western Europe fairly broadly in the early part of the book, but the closer she gets to the present day the more she focuses on Anglophone bio-medicine in the UK and US.) I appreciated her awareness of how race and class affect how women are treated: wealthy white women might be patronised or infantilised about their illnesses, but Black women's pain is often dismissed by physicians as non-existent. Some of the events Cleghorn recounts are really horrific, like the early testing of the contraceptive pill on poor and mostly illiterate Puerto Rican women who were unable to give informed consent and who suffered horrific side effects.

On the other hand, Cleghorn isn't actually a trained historian of medicine (her Ph.D. is in "humanities and cultural studies", and her dissertation appears to have been on twentieth-century dance and film studies), and it shows. Her understanding of ancient and medieval history simply isn't strong, either in the general terms or in the specifics of medical history. There are factual errors (no, Gutenberg didn't invent the printing press in 1500; no, dissection was not illegal in the Middle Ages), simplistic presentations of medieval women like Jacoba Felicie and Trota (the yas queen framing of the latter in particular had me side-eyeing), and an overall reliance on cliché not grounded in any real knowledge of pre-modern history (the Middle Ages as a "time of superstition" while the eighteenth-century was one of enlightenment—both characterisations that don't quite work because they're founded on a Whiggish belief in history as an upward trajectory).

Cleghorn is writing with the goal of improving the lot of women in the present day, and that is an admirable goal! But at least in the earlier chapters of the book I could see a tendency on her part to highlight aspects of history that are more dramatic and emotive than necessarily illuminating for the topic at hand. Did the witchcraft trials (presented here as medieval but far more an early modern phenomenon) exert more of a force on how women were treated in medical situations than, say, the development of coverture laws? I don't think so. But the former topic is "sexier" and more dramatic than the latter, and I imagine far better known. Plus, the fact that there medieval feme sole and that economic opportunities for women may well have constricted in the early modern period would be another point that would jar a bit with that Whiggish trajectory that is one of the book's unquestioned assumptions.

Take my three-star rating here as being a rough average of her overall argument (five stars) and Unwell Women as a work of history (two stars). ( )
  siriaeve | Jul 27, 2021 |
Cleghorn marshals her ambitious quantity of material with clarity and often with dry humour, but there is a sustained note of justified anger running through the book.
tilføjet af Nevov | RedigerThe Observer, Stephanie Merritt (Jun 7, 2021)
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Oprindelig udgivelsesdato
Vigtige steder
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Beslægtede film
Priser og hædersbevisninger
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