From the library

A slightly odd choice, maybe, but I’ve been interested in what I see as over-medicalisation of  "normal" people (eg doctor telling me I was borderline obese / blood pressure and cholesterol danger limits moved so I "became" unwell) and this book’s sub-plot is the development of an arrogance and over-control in the medical profession in the 19th and early 20th centuries, which lingers on to this day.

My issues with slight health issues pale into insignificance, obviously, when we’re presented with these objectified people, used as evidence and examples without much thought about respect, consent etc.  The photos are shocking, not for what they show (obviously, genitalia feature) but for the treatment of the subject (or, in fact, object) who often actually has their head in a bag and a doctor’s hand photographed (or drawn – what’s that all about?) displaying them.

And the fascinating and troubling final chapter shows that things aren’t that much better today, with people with particular issues having their gender (ie nurture) and therefore sex (ie nature) decided fairly arbitrarily at a very young age – leading to the need for more and more operations, which those who have escaped claim they often don’t need anyway.

The author obviously has a deep concern for the objects of her predecessors’ research, making time and room for their stories as much as she can gather, and giving a voice to the people around now who have the same issues as those earlier victims.  She celebrates the way in which, in a postmodern society like today’s, they can reclaim their own voices and stories through blogs, books and groups.  

So, an academic but emotional book, which was very interesting on both subjects, hermaphrodism and the medical profession.