Fixing Women: The Birth of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Britain and America
Using the tools of book history, media studies, and literary theory, Fixing Women examines the construction of a masculinist professional selfhood in male-authored midwifery textbooks during the long eighteenth-century. Ordinary birth events were cast as archetypal struggles between life and death that required the intervention of the “Hero-Accoucheur,” who fought valiantly to rescue the pregnant damsel-in-distress endangered by her own body. By casting themselves as literary heroes, medical men could present themselves as altruistic, disinterested professionals. Yet under the mask of altruism and scientific curiosity lurked a self-interested, hegemonic masculinity that justified the emerging medical specialties of obstetrics and gynecology—specialties that required the homogenization of white, bourgeois women as “the Sex.” By charting the development of and struggles of obstetrical discourse, Fixing Women sheds light on the gender politics of a biomedical model and practice that continues to reverberate in our own time.