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Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness
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Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  209 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
In this exciting sequel to their underground bestseller, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English document the tradition of American sexism in medicine before and after the turn of the century. Citing vivid examples, including numerous "treatments" and "rest cures" perpetrated on women through the decades, the authors analyze the biomedical rat ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published December 1974)
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Apr 25, 2011 Tabitha rated it really liked it
I first became interested in the influence of gender on illness and its treatment after reading The Yellow Wallpaper--the story of a woman driven mad by either 1) the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom or 2) the rest cure proscribed to her for her nerves. In short, it was either an external physical factor that drove her to madness or it was the institute of madness. Either way, it the story offers interesting insights into the differing treatments.

The authors in this work take a longer and more o
Mar 14, 2013 Kimberly rated it really liked it
A short yet convincing exploration of the class-based sexist underpinnings of the medical industry from the 19th to 20th century. Short, but hard-hitting: "The medical system is not just a service industry. It is a powerful instrument of social control, replacing organized religion as a prime source of sexist ideology and an enforcer of sex roles." "We must never lose sight of the fact that it is not our biology that oppresses us--but a social system based on sex and class domination."
Tara B
Jan 12, 2008 Tara B rated it it was amazing
A great introductory pamphlet on medicine's treatment of women and its effects on women and how they are perceived by others. It's depressing how I still see the problems the authors talk about in the "current issues" sections at the end, considering this was written in the SEVENTIES! Oh, feminism . . .
Mar 24, 2010 Maggie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, feminist
While the book is 37 years old, it still offers a solid (and frequently horrifying) look at the treatment of women by the medical profession. The thought that leeches were once placed on the cervix to help "fix" amenorrhea makes me flinch.
Apr 25, 2014 Malynda rated it it was ok
First part, four stars. Second part, 2 stars. Perhaps I enjoy remote history better than recent history as that is how the book is organized. I did enjoy learning about the origins of "hysteria" and the crazy bogus and misguided "cures" the patriachal medical society inflicted on upper society women.
I liked how they separated out the dichotomy of how the same women, but from different social classes, could be sick and the other sickening, i.e a rich woman gets "put to bed" while a poor woman is
Erica Greil
Jan 25, 2016 Erica Greil rated it it was amazing
My greedy little feminist health care worker hands couldn't turn these pages fast enough.
Aug 25, 2015 Valerie rated it really liked it
Super fast read has lots of photos/diagrams/drawings of women sick in bed. I hadn't really thought about the way women in old books were always sickly. I thought it was just the characters in the books, but it sounds like it was upper class women, in general. Interesting read, wish it were longer.
Jul 25, 2015 Zoë rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, feminisms
By far one of the best books I've read recently. It's hard to believe it was written over 40 years ago because it still seems painfully relevant and accurate. If you are interested in a good intro to public health as power play, I would definitely recommend.
Jan 01, 2011 Virginia rated it liked it
Shelves: 2005books, nonfiction
This is the second of two pamphlets that these authors published in the 70's - I didn't like the first very much but I really wish they had expanded their research for this one. I would be interested in a whole book on this topic.
Feb 11, 2008 James rated it liked it
Great look at period views on women, especially during the Victorian era. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote the fantastic Nickel and Dimed, and she also is worthy of a read in this short introduction to the sexual politics of sickness.
Jul 28, 2007 HeavyReader rated it liked it
Shelves: womens-health
Jessica Goodman gave me this booket too, which tells how western medicine is tied up with the patriarchy and how sick women are diagnosed and treated differently from sick men. Very interesting and informative.
Jun 08, 2013 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f
"...our bodies are not the issue. Biology is not the issue. The issue is power, in all the ways it affects us."

Should be required reading for everyone all the time.
I was exited to find this stagnating on a shelf in a high school. Clearly written and also a superb example of quality small press work.
Nov 11, 2011 Molly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
An excellent overview of reasons why women need to be put to bed and shouldn't learn things.
May 22, 2007 Jeannine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Women
A very tiny book about how the begining of modern medicine for women. Quite scary at times.
Kate Klein
Mar 23, 2012 Kate Klein rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read. Short, accessible, and still applicable 40 years later.
Feb 21, 2011 Anya rated it it was amazing
Very interesting. I wish there was a book. 90 pages is not enough.
Apr 21, 2013 Anhelo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best "Concluding Thoughts" chapter ever. This book is a treasure.
Dec 16, 2008 Marley marked it as to-read
hm this looks really good...
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Let's Read About ...: January Discussion Thread 7 21 Feb 03, 2016 02:45AM  
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Barbara Ehrenreich is an American journalist and the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including the bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. A frequent contributor to Harpers and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time Magazine.
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