In the Victorian era exercise became all the rage for women, but if you look at instructions from the time, you’ll see that all the exercises were above the waist, because people believed that rigorous movement in the nether regions could cause women to damage their reproductive organs. They believed they weren’t firmly fixed to one area of the body. That seems silly to us now, but at the time it was a serious concern. If we were so fragile, then all our organs would probably exit our system the first time we experienced childbirth, but that never occurred to them back then.
Crazy beliefs about women’s health can be found throughout history. Some were sincere misunderstandings about the functioning of the body, and some were simply blatant attempts to keep women in their place.
The whole “hysteria” concept appears to have been a little bit of both. At certain points in history it referred to female emotional excess, and at other times it referred to sexual dysfunction, but it was thought to be caused by a “wandering womb”. The cure was genital massage by the physician. That must have made for some very strange doctor’s visits.
The whole concept of females being out of control has never quite left our culture to this day. I’ve actually heard it, quite recently, being used as a reason that women should not become president. Sigh. But one good thing came out of the whole hysteria concept. It was the reason for the invention of the vibrator. Hallelujah! Does that mean that my insurance company will pay for my batteries?
It was quite gratifying to see that women were finally allowed to participate in the ski jump competition in the most recent Winter Olympics. They had been prevented from doing so in the past due to absurd notions about health risks. So that was one step toward reality in a competition that had otherwise set human rights back at least a century. Much about Sochi did not show humanity at its best, but hey, at least we’re allowed to ski jump now.
And then there’s this, from a recent article in the Huffington Post: “You can thank Dr. Edward Clark, a physician and Harvard professor for this charming theory. In the 1870s, Clark published a book asserting that women who read and threw themselves into their studies were at risk for atrophy of the uterus and ovaries, as well as sterility.” Apparently knowledge isn’t power after all.
Lest you think all of this absurdity is a thing of the past, take a moment to contemplate that the medical world still understands almost nothing about the G spot or female ejaculation. That inspires confidence. Not.
Some people used to believe that if a woman were raped, her body would somehow flip some sort of internal switch and automatically prevent pregnancy. That belief is still held by some people to this day. The reason Republican Todd Akin got laughed out of office in a recent election was that he said “Legitimate rape rarely, if ever, results in pregnancy.”
I have been thinking about all this foolishness today because a friend of mine sent me a link to a recent CNN article entitled Saudi cleric warns driving could damage women’s ovaries. Well, then the future of mankind is doomed because it’s a rare country that doesn’t allow women to drive in this day and age.
The ironic thing about these absurd concepts about women’s health is they say less about women’s health than they do about the ignorance and and insecurity of Man.
[A montage of women’s hysteria via Wikipedia]