BBC Future published an article asking the question about whether women’s body parts should be renamed. The argument is that men named the unique anatomical structures of the female body, which demonstrate that their is possible sex bias.It is no secret that there has been sexism in the medical establishment against female professionals and the actual academic discipline. To a degree it does seem peculiar that a female body part would be named after a man. There are some obvious flaws with such an argument. To say that organ classification misogynistic , because men named various organs would be extreme. Such assertions make it seem as if politically correct culture is attempting a war on science and sexual dimorphism. Rather than complain about the masculine language, the bigger concern is that there may not be enough women in the medical fields or studying the anatomical sciences. Patterns such as that can hinder progress in gender equality. Negative impacts can be seen on women’s health and general well being. If more women became surgeons, doctors, nurses, physicians, pediatricians, and obstetricians they can challenge the persistent myths about women’s biological inferiority. However, it should not be forgotten that women did contribute to the biomedical sciences. This is a detail that BBC Future seems to forget.
The majority of women’s body parts are named after male anatomists. Notable men such as Gabriel Fallopian, Caspar Bartholin, James Douglas, and Ernst Grafenberg contributed to uncovering the structure of women’s bodies. While it seems simple to condemn these men, it should be lauded that they chose to study the female body. Doing so allowed for advancements in gynecology and women’s health. Science for a longtime did not give women serious consideration in terms of the health sciences. Women’s bodies were either viewed as strange or inferior to male bodies. Eugenics and pseudoscience produced theories about the female body that were false, but commonly accepted. Women who exerted themselves too much physically or mentally those in the medical establishment thought would lose the ability to become pregnant. This was an excuse to exclude women from higher education, exercise, and sports.
Genital decay was proven to be false condition that many doctors and medical professionals thought would happen in the 19th century. It should be noted that names for particular anatomical structures or organisms have changed overtime depending on the writers of academic texts. The fallopian tubes are now referred to as uterine tubes. Terminology can be adjusted depending on the time period or new information based on certain research. The argument lacks cogency that “men have names over women’s bodies.” The science of anatomy has a long history, but there is still more to learn. There are even new organs being discovered. There is even debate on whether new structures of the body could be even classified as organs. The interstitum has been added to the list of new structures of the human body. There is debate on whether it can be given the classification of organ. The name for this new structure could even change depending on its physiological nature.
If there is to be any type of name change it should be done for the sake of making a more lucid classification or explanation of physiological function. The texts cites the interesting explanation for the origin of the name hymen. Hymen was the Greek god of marriage and the anatomical term derives from hyalos. The word means in Greek means membrane. The connections between the etymology and marriage has numerous implications related to sex politics. The name was given with the assumption that women would remain chaste until matrimony. Women were denied access to knowledge or control of their own bodies throughout human history. This was not reversed until the 20th century when women gained reproductive rights, experienced the sexual revolution, and had access to reliable contraception. When examining the simple use of terms and names, it only seems like a minor problem. It is important to realize what the female body can do and how it functions.
There remains a huge amount of ignorance about women’s bodies, especially among men. Sex education is not only critical for health, but also for a strong understanding of anatomy. The sex organs create life through copulation. Each month an egg that is ripe goes from the ovaries to the uterus. If the egg gets fertilized then this allows for development of an embryo and the formation of a fetus. Eggs are not produced after birth of a female; they are born with a full set. At puberty the ovaries begin to produce gametes and girls mature into women. Women will begin their menstrual cycles. An ovary can have thousands of immature egg cells. During the menstrual cycle follicle stimulating hormone causes one egg to enter a stage of development. This happens in the primary follicle, which will enlarge with fluid. It becomes a secondary follicle and relocates to the ovary’s surface. This results in the production of more estrogen. Lutienizing hormone causes the follicle to rupture. This entire process is known as ovulation. Very few people can give an accurate description of women’s physiological and anatomical function due to lack of scientific literacy. The more troubling aspect of this debate is the lack of knowledge of medical history.
While there are complaints about men naming anatomical structures of the body, the text seems to forget women’s contributions to biomedical science. Dr. Jane C. Wright was a pioneer in cancer research and chemotherapy techniques. She traveled the globe treating cancer patients. Her method was to use cell biopsies and test drugs on the tissue. Wright had pioneered precision medicine. Rosalind Franklin was a chemist and x-ray crytsallographer who contributed to the understanding of the molecular structure of DNA and RNA. It should come as no shock that women were involved in the study of anatomy prior to the 20th century. Anna Morandi Manzolini was one of the few female anatomists that got notoriety during her life time. Besides being a scientist, she was an artist who produced wax models of human anatomical structure. She was doing her work during the 18th century, when many women did not have the same career or educational opportunities.
Alessandra Giliani was the first documented female anatomist in the Western Hemisphere. Giliani served as prosector of dissections at the University of Bologna. This was during the Medieval Age, when anatomical science was becoming a serious disciple of study. During the 1300s many women were excluded from higher education in Italy, but she managed to earn her degree and the respect of colleagues. Women are certainly not neophytes to science; they have always been there. Complaining about names of body parts seems insignificant compared to the fact many great figures are forgotten in the historical narrative. It is worse enough that there is scientific illiteracy, but historical distortion poses another major problem. While women were excluded from academic medicine this did not mean women did not become doctors or medical professionals. BBC Future and the author Leah Kaminsky do not realize that men did not have sole ownership of anatomical and medical discovery. The scientific fields were male dominated, yet women were contributors. Some third wave feminists want to cast science as a tool of patriarchy and present it as anti-woman. A claim such as this is false. The irony is that science proves that women are not biological inferiors. Remembering the past and history is pivotal to the understanding of sex politics. Kaminsky most likely favors renaming women’s body parts probably because she associates science with patriarchy. Myths like this will only propagate, if the public does not have the ability to comprehend history.
Language can be a complex means of controlling or excluding groups. Simple terminology or jargon does not create oppression. The problem can be seen in coded language as a whole. What Leah Kaminsky does not understand is that coded language is designed as an indirect means of people with the same prejudices, hatreds, and biases communicating with one another. When blatant racism or sexism is no longer acceptable, bigotry becomes covert. Coded language aids in being an organizing force of disparaging or undermining a particular group. This seems more dangerous than particular names for organs. Phrases like “lady cop” or ” woman fireman” when used are designed to show that the user of such language thinks women are less capable at their jobs. Changing the names of women’s body parts will not stop sexism or misogyny in the medical profession. The only solution is to get women involved in the biomedical sciences and to gain more power in the academic discipline. Policing language also creates complications with free speech. Compelled speech would stifle debate and academic freedom. If anything science needs more debate and rigorous investigation. If other body parts can be renamed, it certainly would not stop other changes. Should the pectoralis major be renamed on the basis to could sound too masculine? Should the gluteus maximus be renamed on the basis that this body part induces lascivious thoughts ? There could be numerous reasons to rename certain body parts or anatomical structures.
Although a simple name change would not be so serious, compelled speech can pose a problem. Censorship or compelled speech does not have a place in science. It may not be that language shapes thought, rather thought shapes language. Words are means of communication generated from the neurons within our brain. Broca’s area specifically focuses on speech production. Our thoughts are series of complex actions generated from the neo cortex. This is the biological and physiological element of language, but its should not be underestimated the impact of cultural factors. The cultural factors that emerge in various communities and societies explain why there may be biases or unconscious prejudice. Language changes depending on the historical time period or socio-cultural conditions. Terminology should not be demonized, considering other matters that are more egregious.
There is sex and gender bias in the teaching of anatomy. The male body was the primary focus in which it was presented as a normal standard in textbooks. A 2013 study conducted by Susan Morgan showed that men were represented more in diagrams and charts and women were represented less in non-reproductive anatomy. The only time women were shown in medical textbooks was to display difference. The female body has been for a longtime viewed as biologically inferior or not worth investigation by academics. This is partly influenced by the frailty myth. The male body was thought to be built better. The female nature according to dated pseudoscience was naturally weak and lacking strong constitution. The reason military terminology was used and continues to be in regards to disease is based on the idea that men are tougher. Women were thought to be both weak mentally and physically. Victorian Age medicine thought women needed to restrict physical activity and that most of their health concerns should be directed at bearing children. These attitudes also made it seem that natural functions of the female body were disgusting. The menstrual cycle and specifically menstrual bleeding has been treated in such a manner.This idea of menstrual bleeding as being unclean or a curse may have roots in Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. This can be seen in some tribal societies of the contemporary period. Female puberty rituals were based around superstition. There was a belief that spirits entered a woman’s body and if ceremonies were not performed during menarche, evil spirits could take over. Many societies globally would separate menstruating women for a certain period of time. Women who were menstruating were seen as “unclean.” Such ideas may persist in particular parts of the globe or there could just be a general taboo about the subject.
Certainly there is nothing unclean about what the human body naturally does. However, a superstition and a level of ignorance has framed women’s natural functions in such a context. Difference related to body function does not imply inferiority.Some of the trepidation that comes from studying the female body is related to how it is perceived. The female body has been described in sexual or lascivious terms. Sexual objectification was even present in medicine and anatomical studies. Women’s bodies were either simply baby makers or objects of male sexual desire. It will take more time to overturn these negative convictions that persist in various communities. Terminology can be debated, there are some facts that advocates should acknowledge.
Sexual dimorphism seems controversial to some. The argument that pointing out difference creates a system of othering normally is the argument of some third wave feminists. The primary and secondary sex characteristics are product of human biological evolution. While there is indication that more male models are used in medical textbooks, many organ systems of the human body are similar between the sexes. The muscular system and skeletal system do not differ between the sexes. The nervous system is not that radically different either or the cardiovascular system. There is a difference in size with certain variation. The female pelvis is wider to accommodate childbirth. Male shoulders are broader. Muscle fiber type can vary, but men tend to have more type II fast twitch muscle fiber and women contain more type I muscle fiber.This partly explains the difference in physical strength between the sexes. The unusual aspect is that depictions of the muscular system normally feature men in medical textbooks. Women obviously have muscle.
The genetics of men and women differ in terms of the X and Y chromosomes. Differences are not just phenotypic; they are also genotypic. The faction of third wave feminists seem to want to reject or ignore sexual dimorphism. The reproductive and endocrine system are different between the sexes, which also relate to sexual dimorphism. What certain third wave feminists advocate is sameness feminism, because either they do not like the idea of women being different or that some how nature made a mistake in the evolutionary path. Arguments for male biological superiority lack cogency, but normally sexists cite men’s greater physical strength as a indication of how the male body is better. This argument is also a ludicrous one considering women can increase strength levels through training and that sexual dimorphism can be flexible in this regard. So, it seems the sameness feminists and their arguments against biology and physiology are misdirected. The only reason to focus on this would be that their is a desire to compete with men for the sake of gender antagonism. This is not about equality, but women adopting an extreme power feminist stance with the intent to place men in a secondary stance. Women can compete with many on many levels, but the one area they cannot is in pure brute physical strength.
The myth is that men used their greater physical strength to control women throughout history. The reality was that gender inequality arose from the unequal distribution of property, education, and employment opportunities. Another problem was that women were not considered citizens of the states or nations they resided in rather, property of their husbands. Thankfully, this has been reversed in the 20th century and progress continues in other areas of the world in the 21st century. There are women who are stronger than men, so in this regard the feminists argument in this regard seems irrelevant. The female body is capable of amazing feats, yet the connection between women and weakness remains part of the public’s general concepts. Hysteria illustrates this problem. Hysteria also had a mental element. The reason that many presumed that women were hysterical was that they lacked strong psychological constitutions. The idea of women being naturally fearful or lacking courage has been a persistent sexist prejudice. When the concept of hysteria appeared in Egyptian medical discourse in 1900 B.C.E it articulated that there was a unique mental disorder that only effected women. The Greeks took their biological sexism further by suggesting the uterus produced toxic fumes, which produced this condition. The only cure in their mind was marriage. Hysteria persisted in terms of psychology. The reason was to present women as hyper emotional and unstable. Mental illness or disorders can effect both men and women. Sexist stereotypes continue to have a larger negative impact on women’s health rather than anatomical terminology. Trying to deny sexual dimorphism or sex difference in the name of a notion of equality seems drastic.
The terminology and language can change. However, this would mean that other organ systems may also be subject to change. The nervous system may have to change, because it represents an oppressive hierarchy. The roots of words or terms do have sexist or implied misogynistic overtones. Vagina originates from the Latin language meaning sheath. The sheath is a cover for swords and knifes, which implies phallic action. Clitoris has its etymology based on the ancient Greek kleitorís. kleíein can be defined as to shut away.
The attempt to make everything gender neutral could pose problems when biological examination displays difference. Each individual is unique in terms of height, somatotype, skin color, facial features, hair, and physiological fitness capacity. This does not mean some people are biologically superior; it means humanity has a vast genetic diversity and variation. Which ever term used for women’s anatomical structures does not change the fact both men and women are the same species. When scholars and the general public discuss women, their health, or anatomy they speak as if they are another type of animal. A problem like this needs to be addressed immediately. Changing hymen to vaginal corona is not going to alter the condition of women or women in the medical profession. More women need to be involved in research, professional projects, and writing medical literature and textbooks. Only then can such issues be addressed. Men must also change their attitudes about women’s bodies. There is a tendency to sexualize the female body, which makes objectification acceptable. Then there is also another extreme of fear of women’s bodies. Male medical professionals may have difficulty studying such topics about women’s bodies because of dated social or cultural taboos surrounding functions related to the female body. The subjects of pregnancy, copulation, and the menstrual cycle were not given as much attention in the medical professions. The rise of gynecology, sexology, and a new focus on women’s health have reversed and challenged the myths as well as old wives tales. Merely making a change to language will not stop discrimination, prejudice, racism, class conflict, homophobia, religious persecution , or sexism. Oppressed groups must size power and ensure more opportunities. Relevant to women, they should conduct their own research on the female body, while simultaneously educating the general public. Women were a part of the anatomical and medical sciences; they continue to be contributors to the present day. Women’s involvement in the biomedical fields would also contribute to combating scientific illiteracy. The public’s knowledge of anatomy, biology, physiology, and biomedical science is limited. Having basic knowledge can improve health outcomes for the world population. Changing the names of women’s body parts appears to be an empty jester to a field that has a larger problem of institutional sexism.