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

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  161 ratings  ·  17 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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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
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
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 . . .
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
"...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.
An excellent overview of reasons why women need to be put to bed and shouldn't learn things.
May 22, 2007 Jeannine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Women
A very tiny book about how the begining of modern medicine for women. Quite scary at times.
Kate Klein
Fascinating read. Short, accessible, and still applicable 40 years later.
Very interesting. I wish there was a book. 90 pages is not enough.
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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Barbara Ehrenreich is 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.

More about Barbara Ehrenreich...
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts' Advice to Women

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