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Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness

This is another illustatred history book, somehwat like the morphine book I read earlier this month. That one was a slick glossy affair and this one was a black and white pamphlet with a purple card stock cover. However, this one has what the other did not -- a solid set of opinions on which to hang their research on. Ehrenreich and her co-author Deirdre English make a compelling case for the Western medical system’s systematic oppression of women, with resultant poor care and creation of dis-ease where previously there had only been complaints

The book is chock-full of illustrations -- photos, advertisements, editorial cartoons -- that support the claim that while women may have had a tough time of it generally in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, doctors and social pressures made this worse. Fashion dictated that upper class women be idle, delicate, and even frail while at the same time being completely at the beck and call of their husbands. Lower class women, on the other hand, were somehow able to overcome this ‘weak’ trait of womanhood, but were thought to spread disease and poison community morals. The authors do a good job describing the odd split in heath care for upper and lower class women while at the same time showing how they were both victims of a male-dominated medical establishment that was more concerned with preserving the status quo than with improving the health of womankind.