Distinguished Speaker Series Begins Oct. 10csudhbulletin September 26, 2018 0 COMMENTS
By Joseph Baroud
The author of a critically acclaimed book on the dark legacy behind the so-called father of modern gynecology will speak on campus Oct. 10 at Claudia Hampton Hall.
Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, currently an associate professor of history at Queens College in New York, will talk about her 2017 book, “Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of Modern Gynecology.” The book examines the life and legacy of Dr. Marion Sims and the gynecology experiments he conducted on black women during and after slavery.
Sims’ experiments included “withholding medications and procedures that would ease the pain,” said Dr. Donna Nicol, the chair of the Department of African Studies, which invited Cooper to speak as part of the Distinguished Lecture series. “Basically, not sterilizing equipment to see what black women’s bodies would do, withholding certain types of treatments or putting them under great stress and pain to see how much women’s bodies could tolerate.”
Nicol said that the premise Sims began his work with is that since black people had been enslaved they would have a higher tolerance for pain.
“And, so, he wanted to push that threshold as far as he possibly could,” Nicol said. “[His] predisposition [was] that if they endured slavery, they could endure this type of pain.”
But Owens’ book isn’t just concerned with the past. As Sandra Gilchrist wrote in a review of the book in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, “working at the intersection of race, class, gender, and health, Owens presents a crucial platform for future researchers and deems it an intensive and sometimes uncomfortable read.”
Dr. Nicol hopes that women who hear Dr. Deirdre speak will begin to learn the importance of taking responsibility for their bodies. She said although medical practitioners are specialized to treat women’s physical issues, Dr. Nicol said that women’s bodies, though anatomically the same, “are constructed in a genetically unique structure with each individual being their own consultant.”
“Instead of depending on the doctor to tell you everything,” Dr. Nicol said. “It’s incumbent on you to do your research, get a second opinion, that sort of thing.”
Dr. Deirdre’s lecture will be part of the Distinguished Lecture Series, a series of various discussions held twice a year in the fall and spring semesters. This semester’s lecture focuses on medical technologies dealing with women’s health and gynecology
Following Dr. Deirdre’s lecture, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” will be shown. This documentary is about a black woman who had cervical cancer in 1951. Unlike anything doctors had ever seen, Lacks’ body naturally fought and destroyed the cancerous cells. Ultimately, during an unrelated procedure, her body’s cells, which beat the cancerous ones, were extracted from her without her knowledge or consent.
After the screening, the audience will get the chance to ask questions and discuss the film with Dr. Deirdre.
The lecture is on Wednesday, Oct. 10 from 6 – 8 p.m. in room WH-165.