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Unformatted text preview: 75 75 Chapter 5 A NALYZING A RGUMENT In 1973, feminist scholars Ehrenreich and English published a slim vol- ume entitled Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers. They began as follows: Women have always been healers. They were the unlicensed doctors and anato- mists of western history. They were abortionists, nurses and counsellors. They were pharmacists, cultivating healing herbs and exchanging the secrets of their uses. They were midwives, travelling from home to home and village to village. For centuries women were doctors without degrees, barred from books and lec- tures, learning from each other, and passing on experience from neighbor to neighbor and mother to daughter. They were called “wise women” by the people, witches or charlatans by the authorities. Medicine is part of our heritage as women, our history, our birthright. Today, however, health care is the property of male professionals. Ninety-three percent of the doctors in the US are men; and almost all the top directors and ad- ministrators of health institutions. Women are still in the overall majority—70 per- cent of health care workers are women—but we have been incorporated as workers into an industry where the bosses are men. We are no longer independent practi- tioners, known by our own names, for our own work. We are, for the most part, institutional fixtures, filling faceless job slots: clerk, dietary aide, technician, maid. When we are allowed to participate in the healing process, we can do so only as nurses. . . . Our subservience is reinforced by our ignorance, and our ignorance is enforced. Nurses are taught not to question, not to challenge. “The doctor knows best”. . . . CH05.QXD 7/30/2004 9:05 AM Page 75 76 UNIT II: GENERAL FORMS OF CRITICISM Our position in the health system today is not “natural.” It is a condition which has to be explained. In this pamphlet we have asked: How did we arrive at our present position of subservience from our former position of leadership? We learned this much: That the suppression of women health workers and the rise to dominance of male professionals was not a “natural” process, resulting au- tomatically from changes in medical science, nor was it the result of women’s fail- ure to take on healing work. It was an active takeover by male professionals. . . . The suppression of female healers by the medical establishment was a political struggle, . . . part of the history of sex struggle . . . [and] . . . part of a class strug- gle. Women healers were [the] people’s doctors. . . . Male professionals, on the other hand, served the ruling class. . . . They owe their victory—not so much to their own efforts—but to the intervention of the ruling class they served. . . ....
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This note was uploaded on 04/12/2009 for the course COMM 401 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Maryland.
- Spring '08