Medicine carries the burden of its own troubling history. Over centuries, women’s bodies have been demonised and demeaned until we feared them, felt ashamed of them, were humiliated by them. But as doctors, researchers, campaigners and most of all as patients, women have continuously challenged medical orthodoxy. Medicine’s history has always been, and is still being, rewritten by women’s resistance, strength and incredible courage.
In this ground-breaking history Dr. Elinor Cleghorn unpacks the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women’s bodies, illness and pain. From the ‘wandering womb’ of ancient Greece to today’s shifting understanding of hormones, menstruation and menopause, Unwell Women: A Journey Through Medicine and Myth in a Man-Made World (Dutton, 2021) is the revolutionary story of women who have suffered, challenged and rewritten medical misogyny. Drawing on Elinor’s own experience as an unwell woman, this is a powerful and timely exposé of the medical world and woman’s place within it.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.