Women's Work and Women's Studies 1971 Questionnaire, Deirdre English and Barbara Ehrenreich, 1972

Primary tabs

Results for

Download: Transcript

Pages: 1 2 3 View All

Show transcript

The Barnard Women’s Center recently sent out a questionnaire to people involved in women's studies requesting their opinions on a proposed interdisciplinary bibliography of the year‘s work in women's studies. As the response soundly supported our project, we would now like to proceed with collecting information both from organizations and from individuals. Our purpose is to incorporate the year's academic studies on women, either completed or in progress, along with information on innovative action projects such as women's health collectives, community day care, legal aid, women's publications, feminist theater, film projects, and so forth. In this way we hope to spark a livelier interchange between theory and practice. 
 
 What we need from you in the space provided below is a description of the research or project in which you are involved. Or if you know of an individual or group whose work should be included, please either let us know about it or else pass this request for information on to them. Finally from those associated with women's publications, we would welcome any publicity for our project that your publication can provide.
 
 Thank you in advance for your participation.
 
 Name Deirdre English/ Barbara Ehrenreich
 Address 70 E. Main St. Oyster Bay 11771
 Organization or Institution College at Old Westbury
  
 In the space below please try to summarize the purpose, goals, methods, and any other vital information about your research or project. Attach additional sheets if necessary and return to:
 
 The Women's Center
 Barnard College
 606 West 120th Street
 New York, New reek 10027
 
 Dear Center:
 
 I'm sending you a copy of a sheet we prepared for a workshop on
 institutional sexism that took place at a recent women's health conference.
 Barbara Ehrenreich and I are now working on an article/pamphlet on the
 suppressed history of women health workers, and we will follow with an
 already-outlined article on women health consumers. The two topics are
 integrated in our understanding of the historical roots of institutional
 sexism: women have been driven out of healing roles and into sick roles.
 Our work is historical and theoretical both; we are seeking for the
 economic as well as the psychological ("raw sexist") interpretations
 for our data. 
 
 We are very interested in giving presentations and workshops on our
 topics-- especially in the Fall and Winter. And we'd like to hear from
 
  
 
 
anyone, doing related research-- for example,
 
 a. anthropological research—-the origins of the male drive to control female sexuality and reproductivity. Womb envy. [handwritten] and the relationship of this to the origins of property and of the family.
 b. the Catholic Church and women-- religious anti-sexuality. . 
 c. a feminist interpretation of the suppression of witches-- especially, witches as healers. 
 d. the history of midwifery-- the suppression of midwifery.
 e. What was hysteria? What was the social meaning of hysteria?
 f. Freud-- his impact -on the 'control' of hysteria.
 g. the sexual revolution. male control of female sexuality in the 20th century.
 h. the health system today. male control of reproductivity. women as health [workers] and health consumers. 
 i. the mental health system today. male control of female sexuality and "mental health". What would be a feminist psychology?
 
 In a more general sense, we are interested in research into the origins
 and nature of institutional sexism-- not only in the health system but
 in other settings as well. What is professionalism? What is a Feminist
 response to professionalism? What has been the relationship, in the past,
 between the women's movement of the 19th cent. and emerging professionalism?
 What has been the history of the relationship between the women's movement
 of the past and other insurgent movements, particularly working-class ones?
 What can it be today? What would a working-class Feminism be?
 
 Please keep us informed. Your function as a clearinghouse and meeting-place
 for feminist scholarship can be very important.
 
 We found the names of the study groups hard to figure. Where would we fit
 in, for example? At the time being, we need to work alone anyway. However,
 it would be helpful to know what work the study groups are actually
 involved in.
 
 See you at the Fall conference.
 
 Deirdre English
 
   
 
 
INSTITUTIONAL SEXISM IN HEALTH: A REPORT AND DISCUSSION 
 
 We have been doing research --in connection with teaching a course-- into the historical roots of sexism in the health system. We'd like to share some of the things we've learned and discuss their implication for the movement today. 
 
 We came to the overall conclusion that the sexism of the health system is not just a reflection of the sexism of society in general. Sexism in the health system is INSTITUTIONAL sexism, and serves to maintain the existing caste relationship in our society. One of the most important ways it does this is by providing medical, "scientific" justifications for the oppression of women by all institutions. 
 
 Historically, women have been the prime providers of health care in western countries (and probably some others). Women were the central life-givers and healers-- as midwives, "wise women," folk doctors, etc. The history of the rise of the modern male medical profession is the history of the active suppression of women as healers. As women have been displaced from healing roles they have been forced into sick roles-- a shift that has been "scientifically" justified by the idea that the natural functions of women, both physical and psychological, are defective and sick. 
 
 We have studied two periods in particular: The suppression of "witches" (really women healers) in the middle ages, and the period of the rise of the modern male medical establishment in America at the turn of the century. Contrary to the conventional medical history, we found that in both cases the political attack on women as healers PRECEDED the technological advances which are usually said to account for the male takeover of health care. In both cases, women healers were associated with lower class movements and culture; male professionals with ruling class interests. 
 
 The sexism of the health system finds its internal expression in a rigid male dominated hierarchy. The functions of "curing" and "caring," once united in a single healing practitioner, are now split into the sharply sex-typed roles of doctor and nurse. The nurse, left only with caring functions, is little more than a professional woman-- a comforting, but unscientific, mother. 
 
 Deirdre English and Barbara Ehrenreich