Episode 66

Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World, by Elinor Clegnorn

Published on: 21st December, 2021

Amy: Welcome to Breaking Down Patriarchy! I’m Amy McPhie Allebest. Every year on my birthday since about fourth grade, when my birthday cake is brought out and I blow out my candles, I have thought, “I wish for my mom to get better.” All these years later that’s still what I wish for, every single year. My mom has dealt with chronic pain for her entire life, and there were some years as I was growing up that she was in bed with the lights out with a violent migraine for half of the week, every week. She has also suffered from back pain, jaw pain, and stomach pain among other things, and her doctors’ inability to help her, despite their best efforts, was a huge source of discussion and anguish in my house, growing up. So when I heard the title Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World, I knew this was a book we had to add to our reading list. And then I immediately knew who I wanted to read it with me, and that’s Cassy Christianson, from my master’s program. So I’m excited to welcome you to the show today Cassy! Thanks for being here!

Cassy: It’s a pleasure!


Amy: We met in Anne Firth Murray’s class, etc., invite to share bio.


Cassy:  I am a therapist working in pediatrics and maternal health and inclusion specialist but like you, I also went back to school and graduated from Stanford with a focus on the history of medicine. We met there in Anne Firth-Murray’s  seminar on Global Women’s Health-- that's a subject I am really passionate about and on which  much of my writing focuses on. My research involves the history of medicine, especially women’s health in the Early Modern period in France.  I talk and write about this alongside covering current research in both pediatrics and maternal health and am currently working on an exhibition on Women in Science and Medicine during the Renaissance that will be at Stanford in the Fall of 2023. 

So  I’ve happily been on the West coast for a long time now but I grew up in Florida, living for quite a while on the island of Key West.  My family, originally midwesterners, came from strong Scandinavian roots so I’m a mix of that and the Latin culture so prevalent in Florida.  Now, I’m also French, through marriage and raising three bilingual, bicultural boys.  


Amy: Tell me your thoughts about the term “Breaking Down Patriarchy”


Cassy: I’m very excited to be with you today both as a fan of your own work exposing  patriarchy and as a feminist who sees the difficulties in the history of women’s health as being largely attributable to patriarchy. Much of my research has been searching for collaboration and exchange between medical women and men.  It's been hard to find!  So my writing is often unpacking the hows and whys surrounding the early modern masculinization of work surrounding women’s sexual and reproductive health.


Amy: Intro of the author:

Elinor Cleghorn has a background in feminist culture and history, and her critical writing has been published in several academic journalsAfter receiving her PhD in humanities and cultural studies in 2012, Elinor worked for three years as a postdoctoral researcher at the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford on an interdisciplinary arts and medical humanities project. She now works as a freelance writer and researcher and lives in Sussex. Her own pain and other symptoms were dismissed for seven years before she was finally diagnosed with lupus.



Cassy: Introduction


Throughout much of history, a woman's worth depended on having children: whether it was through forging alliances by producing heirs, continuing the family line or producing children to assist their parents in the fields or household. Within a society that viewed reproduction as the primary role of a woman, medical men reduced women’s illness entirely to being attached to their reproductive organs.  Throughout the book, Cleghorn often brings us back to this point.

As a feminist cultural historian, Cleghorn exposes gender biases as she looks at the history of medical disparities through the lens of gender and she provides readers a faciniating side-by-side description of medical history and the women's movement all while exposing bias in medicine.


...medicine has inherited a gender problem. Medical myths about gender roles and behaviors, constructed as facts  before medicine became an evidence-based science, have resonated perniciously. And these myths about female bodies and illnesses have enormous cultural sticking power. Today, gender myths are ingrained as biases that negatively impact the care, treatment and diagnosis of all people who identify as women. (3)



 Endometriosis, a chronic, incurable disease whereby endometrial tissue grows and spreads in other places in the body, is an object lesson in male-dominated medicine’s historic failures. This disease was named in the 1920’s, but it has existed in medical literature for centuries. Across those centuries, so many punitive fictions and fantasies have been projected onto women’s blood and pain. Its symptoms - including excruciating pelvic, back and stomach pain, pain during sex, and heavy bleeding - have an extremely long history of being pathologized as physical expressions of emotional distress. In the nineteenth century, women’s pelvic and abdominal pain, as well as their menstrual ‘derangements’, was met with aggressive, butchering surgeries, hysteric accusations and spells in asylums. Today, women are frequently dismissed as neurotic, anxious, depressed, hypochondria and even hysterical when they report the early symptoms of endo. For too long, menstrual and gynecological pain has been minimized as the ‘natural’ and inevitable consequence of being female. (8)

This quote struck a chord for me because I have a few friends with endometriosis, and it has been so debilitating and disruptive to their lives, and I grieved that it isn’t better understood.



Speaking out about your own body is profoundly feminist. It is generous and courageous to revisit and recall the trauma of pain, and a radical gesture in a culture skewed towards doubting and disbelieving women. It’s a risk- but at the same time it’s an act of defiance against those power structures in the man-made world that would prefer us not to speak. (12)

Throughout the book there are examples of men who violently abuse and silence women, and we will tell some of those stories of misogyny. But Cleghorn also mentions the softer side of patriarchy - the fact that men (and women themselves!) were ignorant about women’s bodies because religious patriarchy had taught women to be so embarrassed of their bodies that they wouldn’t/couldn't talk about them!! (Story of my Pfeifferhorn hike with my dad - I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what was going on with me, even at my age! He would have been soooo embarrassed, and my picking up on his embarrassment throughout my life is what continues to make me too embarrassed to talk about it. It’s not his fault… he was taught that way. It’s not my fault…. I was taught that way. But if I don’t want to pass that along to my kids, I **have** to be willing to break the cycle. So next time I have an opportunity like that I am going to say to myself “Speaking out about your own body is profoundly feminist” and I am going to withstand my own and whatever man’s embarrassment, asserting that a woman’s body is nothing to be ashamed of. (And this is one of the themes that will keep coming up in the book!)



Amy and Cassy: Chapter 1: Wandering Wombs

Amy: Read pp 23-25, from “On the Greek island of Cos”... “women’s health was entirely defined by their uteruses.” (25)


The cure for Hippocratic uterine pathologies - from the madness of suppressed menstruation to the horrors of womb suffocation - was as much social as it was medical. Marriage, ideally by the age of fourteen, regular sex with one’s husband - who was usuallly aroudn the age 0f thirty - and multiple pregnancies. 


Women were under the dominion of male authority, and medical discourse legitimized this by making women’s bodies subordinate to the whims of the very organ that defined their social purpose. Whether these physicians believed the womb literally wandered, or just imagined it did, the idea that all women with uteruses were susceptible to becoming unwell because their bodies were hell-bent on making babies persisted for centuries. (28-29)


The ancient Greeks had blamed all the sickness of the world on Pandora, the mythological first woman, who was too weak to resist opening the forbidden jar of evils that her husband Epimetheus was taking care of. Chrsitianity spun a different story about women and their bodies being responsible for all the sin in the world. The Book of Genesis decreed that Eve, the original woman, imperfect and incomplete from the get-go - and an afterthought spawned from Adam’s rib - ruined everything because of her desirous and disobedient ways. Medical writings that survived the fall of Rome were closely sanctioned by the Church, so those very men who proselytized that women were universally deviant were also the ones in charge of teaching texts that claimed the female body was inferior, defective and always governed by the whims of the womb. (29)  

I want to note that I don’t personally know any men or any doctors who think “women are universally deviant” and “the female body is inferior and defective.” However, as a student of history, I do think it is extremely useful to look back at the timeline to see what influences are still guiding the course of our beliefs and assumptions. It’s like the analogy that I used on the very beginning of the podcast of the modern town that is still built on a medieval street grid so the streets are too narrow for cars… sometimes those ancient foundations keeps things stuck in a  way that is really hard to get out of. 



Cassy:

Medieval Christian moral laws forbade medici from physically examining any woman. The female body was shrouded in secrecy and shame, and not only to the eyes and hands of male physicians. Women themselves wouldn’t have dared reveal intimate details to men about what was going on in their own bodies. Some medical writers of the time echoed these sentiments, including one who referred to a woman’s gynecological complaints as ‘her disgrace.” (31) “Hippocrates and later Pliny the Elder, thought menstrual blood could make men ill, ruin crops, kills bees and drive dogs mad.” (Ch 2, 43)


In addition to the poisonous powers attributed to ‘impure’ menstrual blood, shame permeated much of what was said about women’s health problems historically.  Even in the anatomical vocabulary used. Early modern French medical texts divided women’s organs into les parties nobles et parties honteuses  which means the noble parts such as the brain and liver or in the case of her sexual and reproductive organs, the shameful parts. So most physicians rarely interacted with women’s bodies, relying on a woman to self-report her problems if she felt comfortable or they left the manual work to midwives or in the case of birth emergencies, to surgeons.  Cleghorn highlights that these myths set the stage long ago for medical disparities which continue to affect women today, even more so women of color. I had a  meeting with a physician recently to determine if some symptoms I’ve been experiencing  could be GI related or something closer to asthma.  The male doctor spent quite a bit of time sharing his viewpoint but nearly no time examining me and then explained that he did not see the point of conducting the uncomfortable tests that would be necessary to rule out one diagnosis or the other.  Instead, he posed the question if I might be experiencing anxiety that could be the ‘cause of my symptoms”.  While this is a legitimate question, I don’t think it should be one of his first questions and  he should have offered the tests.  I really question how he might have approached this situation with a male patient, or what would he have asked a woman of color.


By the fourteenth century, women physicians were prohibited from practising professionally across Europe. (34) [But]...even when medical men were forbidden to touch women’s bodies, it was male-authored knowledge that determined how they might be healed. (32)  


Unfortunately, this was largely the case.  Male physicians and surgeons went on to use the power of the printing press to make their reputations and accrue position as authors. Cleghorn goes on to  mention Trota of Salerno, a rare exception to this male dominance.  An 11th-century medical woman, she’s thought to be the author of the Trotula, a treatise on women’s health.  Although not  mentioned in the book we read, it’s interesting to note that in the 12th century Hildegard of Bingen authors another text sharing her experience with healing women but we have to wait until 1609 for another authoritative text authored by a medical woman, the French midwife Louise Bourgeois to appear. Access to academic medical knowledge and knowledge-sharing was nearly exclusively a male domain although predominantly midwives did much of the manual work caring for women’ health. 


Cassy: Chapter 2  SO moving on to ch 2

So in looking at religious doctrine and medical discourse, both claimed that women's bodies and minds were inferior, defective and dangerous. Women carried the added burden of suffering painful childbirths as punishment for original sin.  As if this was not enough to control women already, Cleghorn now walks us through how the church used this medical idea of female inferiority to show that women were susceptible to channeling demonic forces and committing evil deeds meriting their destruction. 


“13th century Italian physician d’Ascoli wrote that women “menstruate every month because they are by nature imperfect beings.” Medieval physicians and natural philosophers upheld the traditional wisdom that female biology was universally weak and inferior because of its difference to the male ideal….medical men were putting a new theological spin on the ancient teachings.  All human women were daughters of Eve who had to endure God's Punishment by submitting to their husbands and suffering the pain of childbirth. But the problem... wasn’t God, but mortal men who manipulated Christianity’s foundational myths to justify society’s subjugation of women.” (38).  

(I might argue with Cleghorn that these myths didn’t need manipulating to subjugate women but that subjugation was their original intent).  This sacralization of women’s pain not only strongly influenced period perspectives on childbirth but had long standing continuing influence on how medical men perceived--and importantly--whether or not they treated women’s pain.  A 17th century French text on what we would now refer to as obstetrics, related that a woman experiencing pain during a typical birth was “just what was normal as was foretold to her for her sins...she should accept her suffering with patience” (Guillemeau, De la Grossesse 1609, 168, 208). Later we’ll talk about the physicians who experimented on slave women (read story of perfecting surgery for prolapse and fissures) or total mastectomies.  These medical men were still under the influence of these patriarchal myths that had now become sacred myths.


Going back to this idea that we opened with that society viewed (and on some level still views?)  women’s primary role as procreation, Cleghorn makes a convincing case that women who deviated from this role or helped others to gain power over their own bodies had to be controlled and stopped----witch hunts were one form of this control.  She explains that as great plagues decimated the European population at times by nearly 50%, “women--the very vessels of conception, birth and new life-- had to be scrutinized, regulated, surveilled and controlled.  Men not only had “the power to determine how women should live and behave”(44)….they had medical control over women’s physical bodies. This theme will reappear again in later chapters as Cleghorn exposes how medical men vigilantly inspected women for signs of syphilis, although it was often spread by male soldiers, etc (find this section along with other examples she gives) or signs that a woman may have had an illegal abortion but in chapter 2 Cleghorn ties this scrutiny to witchcraft accusations in the Middle ages.  She says, “Suspicion around women’s deviant and demonic potential rose stealthily across Europe, especially through the teachings of Catholic churchmen who upheld the religious and social sanctity of marriage.One such man was Henrich Kramer.” (45) according to Cleghorn, Kramer believed that the devil needed agents on earth to afflict people with evils on his behalf...in order to infect a woman with witchcraft, she must have any one of three specific vices: infidelity, ambition and lust.” (47)  No surprise, Just the sort of women that the Church and state would want to control and possibly eliminate. Besides some interesting anecdotes about supposed witches collecting men’s penises in bird boxes and feeding them corn and oats, the book shows a direct line between witchcraft accusations and women’s health through the treatment of midwives in Northern Europe in the 15th century. Official regulation and licensing of midwives did not start until much later, for instance, around the mid-1500s in France, so midwives functioned as part of an informal network often trained through an apprenticeship model. University educated medical men already marginalized midwives and had begun taking their place in even uncomplicated or what they referred to as natural births (when the child presented by the head first or to a lesser extent, feet first).  Despite the vital role midwives served in preserving women’s health, midwives were in a precarious position. Now Kramer has published his ideas which quickly spread through Europe. Referring to his views on midwives,  Cleghorn tells us that “Kramer crafted a narrative of secrecy and deviance around their practices childbirth at the time was perilous and fraught with dangers women and their babies frequently died during labor Kramer attested that the infant death and miscarriage wasn't a natural occurrence but the devil working through possessed midwives to slaughter innocents among his more egregious tales of witches stealing newborns drinking their blood devouring them and offering them to the devil as a sacrifice he strongly implied that any instance of failed pregnancy and a woman attended by a midwife should be suspected as witchcraft in an abortion after all was one of the seven methods of witchcraft Kramer defined no one does more harm to the Catholic faith than midwives he wrote towards the end of the malleus Kramer declared that which midwife surpass all other which is in their crimes and that such evil is so rife that there is scarcely a tiny hamlet in which one has not been found” (48). While it's difficult to quantify, by most accounts the rate of maternal and infant mortality in early modern Europe was astoundingly high. Take an early modern married French woman for an example-- she would have experienced an average of five to six pregnancies in her lifetime.  If as research suggests, 10% of labours were fatal, a woman had a 50 to 60% chance of surviving during her reproductive life. Infants' risk was even worse-- they had a 2 1/2 times greater chance of dying than their mother. Why is this important to think about?  Well, by Kramer’s popular standards, social and religious authorities must accuse midwives of witchcraft every time a child was miscarried or died in birth.  Women and children's lives depended on the childbirth techniques and medical knowledge of sexual and reproductive health accumulated and practiced by midwives.   Without these midwives the mortality rate would only increase.


Cleghorn goes on to explain that kramer's book recommended torture to extract a confession and I won’t go in to the sadistic procedures she describes that were meant to force women to confess. Eventually if they were judged to be witches, they were sentenced to flames. She states that “during the 16th and 17th centuries approximately 45,000 people were executed for the crime of witchcraft 80% of them were women, many over the age of 40 women especially those who were unmarried, older, poor, involved in healing or practicing midwifery were maliciously scapegoated as the vectors of death and destruction” (51).


“Accusing women of witchcraft was a powerful way for social and religious authorities to maintain male dominance and supremacy in their villages and towns. Trying and executing women was a measure to cleanse communities of those who were not performing the marital and reproductive duties assigned to them under patriarchy” (52).

More here


Cassy: Chapter 3

This chapter touches on many historical misconceptions about women’s anatomy. The uterus, the concealed, hidden organ of human origin, always figured prominently within the all-male world of medicine and anatomical study. Most medieval and early renaissance drawings of the uterus were a composite of human, bovine and fetal anatomy representing a synthesis of many diverse anatomical inquiries. Cleghorn describes the Renaissance physician’s quest to understand the uterus and the entire female anatomy as “a new frontier to colonize with knowledge” (60).  Rare to find for dissection, female cadavers were often condemned women or sex workers.  One such cadaver appears in a woodcut on the title page of one of the earliest and most famous anatomy books, Vesalius’ Fabrica based entirely on dissected human corpses with far more accuracy than previous anatomies.  Cleghorn describes this gendering of medical knowledge figured in this woodcut, “She is splayed open on the anatomist’s table before hordes of onlookers. Vesalius’ hand points towards her uterus. Her body is diminished to a spectacle of knowledge, theatrically unveiled and meticulously scrutinized by men, for men.” (62) Midwives and other women healers would have had little to no access to dissections such as this, even though by the 16th century, statutes governing midwives, at least in France, outlined that midwives were to have access to yearly anatomical lessons even though they were barred from University education.  This knowledge was vital to their practices and the women they treated. And while, anatomists and natural scientists had had little access to women’s bodies for dissection and research for centuries mainly because of cultural and religious grounds, surgeon’s and Physicians did have opportunity both through interventions and through autopsies. Daring midwives, such as Louise Bourgeois, developed an early modern networking strategy with surgeon and physician colleagues so that she might be invited to autopsies and glean the anatomical knowledge denied her as a woman practitioner.



Amy: Chapter 4

Pp 69-71 Read the story of Anne Greene


Although women’s intimate, familial healing expertise was so essential for unwell women during the seventeenth century, the rising professionalism of medicine meant women practitioners were relegated to the unsanctioned margins. In both the Oxford courtroom and the wider medical community, it was men - with all their access to historical learning, lectures and anatomy tables - who, in the end, claimed authority over the female body. (73)


“Much of women's everyday care in health and sickness happened in the home. Practical experience of herbal recipes, in wound dressing and fever relief was shared between mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters” (72). Physician- prescribed remedies called for expensive preparations from apothecaries who usually guarded their recipes secret, writing them in Latin only. But as Cleghorn shares, women collected and shared tried and tested medicinal remedies often based on their kitchen gardens, to treat their families, their neighbors, or in the case of midwives, their clients. In addition to the sicknesses Cleghorn mentioned, one difference we see by women sharing recipes with each other is that women privileged the practical and particular needs of other women as individuals.  Unlike male physicians, women’s recipes addressed the needs of the lactating mother who might want to stop her supply, or recipes to relieve a woman's pain in childbirth. In contrast, most male practitioners perpetuated the aura of sacredness associated with the pain of childbirth or only encouraged women that it was their patriarchal duty to breastfeed their children.


Amy and Cassy: Chapter 5: Feeling Pain

Main point of the chapter: Women’s pain was not taken seriously. Even when there was observable evidence of a physical malady, pain was assumed to be exaggerated, and emanating from the emotional disturbances caused by the womb (especially when the woman was not child-bearing). And the higher the class and the lighter the skin, the more delicate and refined the woman was presumed to be, which was prized as feminine. The lower the class, the darker the skin, the more hardy and impervious to pain. 


Racist assumptions that Black women feel less pain than white women echo insidiously through medical practice today. In the nineteenth century, with its focus on social status and sensibility, these assumptions became firmly entrenched. (97)  



Read p. 97 “One afternoon…” until p 99 “personal profit and professional gain.”


He used enslaved women to ‘perfect’ his procedure for the benefit of white women, whose pain he thought deserved newly available anaesthetics. (100)


In chapter 5 we learn about the early treatment of women’s fistulas of the sexual and reproductive organs. Fistulas are a hole or area of leakage often between the bladder or anus and vagina usually the result of an injury, prolonged childbirth, surgery or infection.  Cleghorn describes the cases of three enslaved girls in the American south in the 1840s who were all used by the physician James Sims to perfect a procedure to repair fistulas.  “To Sims they were not human beings but medical specimens, objects used to innovate his procedure and further his professional reputation…..Anarcha had been experimented on 30 times, always without anesthetics. The reproductive and physical abuse women like Anarcha suffered in the fields and homes of plantation owners on her chattel slavery was continued by Simms in his backyard surgical hospital, where he colonized their bodies for personal profit and professional gain and he felt justified in his actions by the dehumanized perceptions of black women's diminished sensitivity to pain” (98).  This image Cleghorn uses of colonization or appropriating a place or domain, or indiginous people and resources for one's own use really describes exactly Sims appropriating these women’s bodies as a resource for his professional gain.  


And the pain inflicted on women continued.  I found it so difficult to read Cleghorn’s passages on the torturous early mastectomies women suffered.  It also brought to mind similar accounts on the radical mastectomies practiced at the turn of the 19th century as related in Mukerjee’s The Emperor of all Maladies.  These male surgeons never took into account the quality of patient life post-surgery and thankfully now we know that no statistical difference exists in survival or recurrence between radical mastectomies and less invasive surgeries putting an end to needless suffering.


--I have a colleague from Stanford Hospital that I worked with in oncology from time to time.  She decided to start a rehab program to address the needs of women with breast cancer.  Oncologists treat these women with Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery in the hopes of stopping the spread of cancer.  But no one was addressing all of the side effects and disabilities associated with treatment. Breast cancer survivors fell into a heath abyss where their GP,, their oncologist, no one was following up on the problems they were living with post-cancer treatment.


Chapters 10-14 really come back to this ongoing theme of  how certain aspects of women’s health are used as an excuse for the surveillance, control and punishment of women! Starting with The fight for the right to birth control discussed in CH 10. The legalization of birth control methods in the UK and especially in the US is riddled with sexism, eugenics, ableism, racism, and classism.  “Forced sterilization had been legal in the US since 1907” (211). “In 1961 Fannie Lou hamer who later became a civil, political and women's rights leader had been subjected to a radical hysterectomy, performed by a white male doctor, without her knowledge or consent at sunflower County Hospital Mississippi while undergoing surgery to remove a small tumor in her uterus. 60% of black women in sunflower county had been covertly sterilized, given a Mississippi appendectomy as its known, in the name of white greed white social reform white knowledge” (373). Cleghorn also retells Margaret Sanger, the American nurse, sex-educator and birth-control activists complicated role in the beginning or reproductive and birth control rights entangled with eugenics as a way to control and regulate women.  I think you cover Sanger’s story more in depth in an earlier podcast. 


 Ch 14: highlights how sexually transmitted infections became a vehicle for controlling women as  33 states enforced premarital screening legislation.  Although in the past medicine knew soldiers transmitted syphilis,  by the 19th century, its spread was generally blamed on female sex workers ..who were framed as deviant hosts, transmitting their sin to innocent, courageous soldiers” (300).

Ch 13 This discussion couldn’t end without talking about Abortion rights. Cleghorn opines,  “Abortion rights were a class issue.  Women were ending pregnancies regardless of the law.  BUt how much danger this posed depended on their means” (277). Those women who could afford it could but pills for so-called menstrual blockage while those who couldn’t had to resort to herbal brews, knitting needles or worse until abortion finally became legalized.  Today, abortion rights remain a point of political, cultural and religious contention. Texas’ controversal abortion law, SB8 bans abortion as early as six weeks to be enforced by private citizens, who can sue anyone who performs or aids in procuring an abortion. Because of this new law in Texas, women have been forced to travel out of state for abortions, sometimes risking their lives to to manage ectopic pregnancies because local doctors don’t want to risk suit. 


Amy: Conclusion

In the conclusion chapter, Elinor Cleghorn talks about the personal circumstances that led her to write this book. She had struggled for years with terrible pain, going from doctor to doctor, who didn’t understand and sometimes didn’t take her seriously. She was finally, after seven life-threatening years, diagnosed with Lupus, which has a gender ratio of 9 women to 1 man. So it is a disease that is still not well-enough known. This chapter is incredibly moving. She ends by paraphrasing Maya Angelou, “when a woman tells you she is in pain, believe her the first time.” This has come up for my mom over and over and over again - she has had really well-trained and well-meaning doctors throughout her life, but two of the really problematic, really frustrating elements of her healthcare have been this aspect of “mystery” - migraines occur in 17% of women and 6% of men, and while I know men get migraines too - my brother and my nephew get them as well as my mom and sisters, so they are all over my family tree - in my mom’s case they were at least partly triggered by her menstrual cycle, so there was this frustrating sense with so many of her ailments that they were just a medical mystery. And then the other one, to Maya Angelou’s point, is that women in pain are not taken seriously. I know this happens so much more often and so tragically among women of color, but even my white mom has experienced this over and over again - being talked over, not listened to, not taken seriously. And she continues to suffer terribly, to this day. 


Amy: What was a takeaway or two from the book? 


Cassy:   Although it's not the focus of the book, Cleghorn reveals how male medical hierarchies historically have depreciated women’s health work--even tying it to witchcraft and we see how men eventually appropriated even the manual work of women’s health. Women have suffered both as patients and practitioners. And secondly, as I think the recent changes to abortion law in Texas have reminded all women, The fight to call our bodies our own continues. 


Amy: Thanks, etc.!


Cassy: Sign off


Amy: This brings us to the end of our chronological timeline!!! Next week we will be releasing two bonus episodes: One is a book discussion that’s out of order - it’s Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, and I had two people in the same week tell me it was an absolute must read, so I added it on at the end. It’s by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, published in 1989, and I think it’s a perfect way to end the season because it will help us do some of the inner work of breaking down patriarchy in our own minds. 


And then we will have a bonus episode: my husband Erik and I will be going through the whole season and sharing a quick summary of lessons learned and takeaways from all the episodes, as well as some behind the scenes info about how this whole thing came to be. So join us for both episodes as we wrap up Season 1, next time on BDP.



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Breaking Down Patriarchy
An Essential Texts Book Club
Breaking Down Patriarchy is a podcast for everyone! Learn about the creation of patriarchy and those who have challenged it as you listen to bookclub-style discussions of essential historical texts. Gain life-changing epiphanies and practical takeaways through these smart, relatable conversations.

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Amy Allebest

I grew up in Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, reading, writing, drawing, singing, and practicing the piano and violin. I attended Brigham Young University, where I met Erik Allebest during my first week of freshman year, studied abroad in Israel, lived in Chile for a year and a half as a missionary, and married Erik all before graduating with a degree in English. Erik and I moved around - to Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Spain, and Northern California - while Erik started and ran chess businesses for a living (primarily chess.com) and I stayed home to raise our four children. Those four kids have become brilliant, hilarious people and are our very best friends. I am a long-time trail runner, a recent CrossFitter, a lifelong reader and writer, and an almost-graduate of Stanford University's Master's of Liberal Arts program.