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Physiology is Destiny:

Early Modern Views of Gender 15/01/2008 14:06:00

Discussion regarding the essay on Isis called “A Woman Down to Her Bones”

• what is the fundamental issue the essay is arguing?

o The point of the one sex model
 One sex is primary, one is subordinate
o Then the issue comes out that there are two sexes and they
are not subordinate to each other.
• How does it prove it?
o The author speaks about the anatomical differences between
the sexes
 His evidence is that the two others ignored a lot of texts
that contained male and female skeletons that
discussed their many differences.
 He argues that in England, Germany, France, there are
texts that are widely distributed. They are in the
correspondences ability, they ideas get picked up and
transmitted. They were well known at the time and
widely used.
• Why is this important?
o Just getting the historical time frame correct is one of them.
o Stolberg states that Laqueur and Schiebinger maintained that
the creation of the two sex model was created in the mid 18th
century was a deliberate process. In order to deny woman
their equality with men. It was created to keep woman

Why does the discussion begin with the one sex model?
• Galenic is an ancient anatomical physician
• According to them up to the 18th century the one sex model was
based on the galenic model and then they change to the two sex
What is the one sex model?
• Nature when its completely right, you get a male. When nature does
not go completely right you get a female. The idea is that a female
is really an imperfect male.
• Heat is identified with maleness, cold with femaleness.
What according to Stolberg what are the main arguments of the other guys?
• Before the 18th century there aren’t any technical terms for the
female anatomy to separate them from the male counterparts.
• Stolberg refuses the idea that there weren’t any illustrations of the
female and male skeletons until the 18th century.
Stolberg believes that the other guys were trying to find a way to put
women down. In the 18th century the enlightenment was occurring in which
women were starting to be seen as equal.
• Particularly in France.
• A new age of light because it asserts the fundamental human right
to liberty, and to equality.
• Social order is based on a hierarchy. An arrangement of the elites on
top, the not so elite (commoners) on the bottom.
o The claim is that this is natural.
o That the social order is natural. That there are those that are
born to be leaders and show the characteristics of the nobility.
o Natural also means as god intended.
o God realized humans needed a hierarchy. It comes from
nature, not society.
 The enlightenment claims that this is a social structure,
not natural. What is natural is the liberty and human
rights. It is in the very structure and design of nature.
 Many believed it was god, while others believe it was
nature that human rights and equality was given.
• The two sex model argues that the bodies are different and is
natural that women get married, have children. They wanted a
social idea that allowed them to tell women that it was natural for
them to stay home and raise the children. It was a way to keep
women subordinate.
o It is inherently misogynistic
 Regarding this issue Stoldberg states
what does autopsy mean?
• To look for oneself
• It wasn’t until this period that autopsy really begin.
How does Stoldberg refute the ideas of the other guys?
• He is going to identify the differences between the ideas in the
1600s and the 18th century.
• Dimorphism is not inherently misogynistic
On what area of the body did they focus their research on?
• They focused in the skeleton. And a primary point is the pelvis.
Because it contains some of the most striking differences.
• The women’s pelvic differences were made by design. It was meant
to be that way, to serve a function.
Who is Felix Platter?
• Felix Platter (1536 – 1614), professor of anatomy at Basel
University, provided the first comprehensive and systematic
account of the peculiar features of the female skeleton. What is
more, he accompanied it with the picture of a “sceletos mulieris
adultae” offering what is, to my knowledge, the first illustration of a
female skeleton and its peculiar features in the history of Western
What are the distinguishing features?
• Pelvis, thorax,
• Thorax
o Female chest needed to support the breast.
• It is science that is being understood for specific purposes. It
describes women’s rule in the private sphere. More domestic roles.
• The cranium
o Women were a bit child like in the way their cranium was
configured. Men lose more heat through the head than
women, thus it was believed were not as smart.
• Breast milk
What are the social factors?
• What are the gynecologists really studying?
o They are studying female disease and the origin of the
o Why do men have different diseases than women?
 The uterus is the origin of physical and emotional
o There is a market for the treatment of women. In the process
making discoveries such as the fallopian tubes.
What are the driving forces behind this?

15/01/2008 14:06:00
15/01/2008 14:06:00