Feminism and the body by Londa Schiebinger

By Londa Schiebinger

Feminism and the physique offers vintage texts in feminist physique experiences. meant for undergraduate and graduate scholars, the quantity touches at the scientific historical past of sexual adjustments, the political background of the physique, the background of garments and its cultural meanings, symbolic renderings of the physique, male our bodies, and the physique in colonial and cross-cultural contexts.

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32 Having produced the 32 Skeletons in the Closet fig. 1. Bernhard Albinus, bones of the human body, in Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (Leyden, 1747), plate 1. By permission of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. ’33 Albinus had good grounds for complaining that the study of female anatomy was inadequate before 1740. The standard studies of the human skeleton by Vesalius and Bidloo had been of the male. 34 Within fifty years of Albinus’ plea, however, basic anatomical descriptions of the female body had been established.

37 In 1796, the German anatomist Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring produced a rival female skeleton (Fig. 38 Although d’Arconville’s (Sue’s) work was known in Germany, Soemmerring’s reviewers praised his female skeleton for ‘filling a gap which until now remained 34 Skeletons in the Closet fig. 2. Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring, female skeleton, in Tabula sceleti feminini (Frankfurt, 1796). By permission of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. 39 Directly answering Albinus’ plea, Soemmerring spent years perfecting his portrayal of the female skeleton, and he considered his female to be of such ‘completeness and exactitude’ that it made a perfect mate for the great Albinus male.

Even though each of these drawings purported to represent the female skeleton, they varied greatly from one another. One of the earliest drawings of a female skeleton was done by William Cheselden in 1733. This was a new interest of his in 1733; the 1713 edition of his Anatomy did not include an illustration of a female skeleton. Cheselden’s matched set of male and female skeletons followed the Bidloo tradition of comparing idealized male and female figures drawn from art. 36 Text and image came together in the French rendering of a female skeleton that made its debut in 1759, capturing the imagination of medical doctors for more than half a century.

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