Archives for posts with tag: hermaphrodite

One would expect that hermaphrodism during the time period in which Dreger writes would cause major societal rifts and would be even more controversial than it is now. However, if the subject is thought about clearly for any amount of time, it would seem as if society has made no substantial progress in the acceptance of this anomaly. Of course, we have made many technological and biological advancements that help people better understand how and why this condition can occur, but it is still very much a taboo subject. Today, it is my understanding that most children born with both sets of genitalia almost always undergo corrective surgery if it is financially and physically possible, but why? It is because contemporary society has yet to accept this specific bodily phenomena as it has others. This is most likely due to the extreme emphasis we put on issues of sex and gender. Sexual topics, such as gay marriage and gay rights, are huge points of political controversy because they challenge the deeply ingrained heterosexual norm. Therefore, an instance in which an individual physically displays characteristics of both sexes is in direct opposition to every existing perception of what we consider a man and a woman.

It is true that stories of hermaphodism or pseudo-hermaphrodism are rarely talked about in the news or other media outlets. The few cases that I have learned about have been in my medical sciences and biology classes and have involved individuals in far-off countries. Surely there have been more cases of hermaphrodism than those I have learned about, so why hasn’t anyone ever heard of them? Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling estimated that the total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance was 1 in every 1,000 births ( This estimation is probably considerably higher than what most of us estimated, and it is doubtful that there is a precise number because of the frequency of unreported cases. However, if we take that number as being true, genital variation and hermaphrodism is way more common than society lets on. Therefore, we must ask ourselves the question as to why this is still such a controversial subject in our society, even after all of the progress we have made regarding other topics of sex and gender.

-Meredith Light

Throughout the past week our class has discussed hermaphrodites, or what are now known as intersexed people their origins and growth within the social understanding of sex. In one of our discussion, the issue of the medicalization of birth was addressed.

In the 1900’s 50% of babies were still being delivered by midwives. Though the middle and upper-class had accepted that the intervention of a physician was necessary, the lower half of society didn’t have that luxury. They relied on midwives to help with birth, or ran the risk of loosing their if there were complications. Midwives were prepared to live with a mother from the onset of labor until the mother was fully recovered, and  some stayed until the mother and child were situated into their new life within a family. Usually there was one midwife for every village or small town that assisted with every birth possible. Doctors saw midwives as “hopelessly dirty, ignorant, and incompetent, relics of a barbaric past” (78). The funny this is, if midwives had not been around at the time, the infant mortality rate would have been much greater. There were not enough doctors at the time to help deliver children being born across the country. (From Exorcising The Midwives, Ehrenreich and English)

Currently, 35 of the 50 states allow non-nurse midwives while the other 15 prohibit them. “Today, the likelihood that midwife-assisted home-births can occur without surgical intervention, with low infant mortality rate and at much lower coast is as good or better as in hospitals. $13 billion to $20 billion can be saved every year in health care costs by developing midwifery care, making childbirth less of a medical procedure. (From Efforts Continue to Legalize Midwifery Nationwide).

Presently though midwives are still apparent, doulas have become a much more popular mode of assistance for pregnant mothers of the 21st century.

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.”
Dr. John H. Kennell

This quote comes from a wonderful website called A Blissful Transition. Doulas have become the present day midwife. They are there not only to assist in emotional support for a mother while she is in labor, but also with things like breast feeding and a less likely chance of postpartum depression. My girlfriend’s older sister had a doula for both of her births. Rachel chose to have a doula because she wanted to have a home birth initially. Her first child was an emergency c-section so that was not possible. Rachel wanted it to be as natural as possible, she wanted it to be personal; no drugs, no people that don’t know her. She wanted to make it through what most people called a nasty ugly process as calmly as possible. Rachel’s best friend Laura was her doula for all three births. Laura was there more for emotional support and helping for adjustment into the family than help with the actual births. Rachel’s second birth also had to be in the hospital because it was a v-bac. Rachel went to Le Leche League, a national breast feeding and support group organization to be more oriented as a mother in addition to having her doula. If you are looking to have childbirth be as natural as possible, having a doula is the best way to go. There is more support than you would ever receive from a doctor or hospital nurse.

For those that have never considered a home birth, or a less medicalized childbirth a doula can be a wonderful alternative. Here is the link for A Blissful Transition ( if people are interested in more information.

-Sarah Klapperich