Jan 23rd Discussion


  • Terri Kapsalis, “Mastering the Female Pelvis”
  • Sander Gilman, “The Hottentot and the Prostitute”
  • Anne Fausto Sterling, “Gender, Race, and Nation”
  • Film clips from “The Life and Times of Sara Baartman, the Hottentot Venus” 


  1. ** What if Sims’ experiments were not conducted on slave women? Can we be sure the field of gynecology would still arise, would medical technologies stemming from the experiments later be developed? How much longer would it have taken for the emergence and progress of the field?
  2. ** Modern medicine is still largely “theatrical.” In teaching hospitals, there are typically 3-4 individuals in the operating room, who are not essential to the process. Compare this to the “operating theatre” and the spectacle of viewers who watched the slave women’s un-anesthetized vaginal surgeries, under a guise of curiosity and learning. Is the modern version somehow more acceptable?
  3. ** When Sims’ methods were brought into question, many well-known physicians defended his surgeries. Sims was considered an extreme pioneer. This brings us to the modern-day question: how much are we willing to sacrifice for the advancement of science and medicine? Compare Sims’ experiments to controversies such as stem-cell research and animal experiments. Are certain types of research/ research subjects/ circumstances more justifiable?
  4. How did Sims’ female patients actually survive the procedures? Sims used unsterilized equipment, with minimal supervision and no concern for germ spread. One woman was described to have undergone thirty surgeries in the span of 4 years. (One operation every seven weeks). Hypothesize how these women survived the procedures and the possibility of disease and infection thereafter.
  5. Is Norplant a fitting comparison to the work of Dr. Sims? (refer to “Mastering the Female Pelvis)
  6. From the video: Though the slave-master denounced, in court, his claim to Sara Baartman, she appeared to be psychologically manipulated by aforementioned slave-master. Did Baartman attend “showings” and exhibitions by her own free will? Did she experience psychological manipulation? Explain the potentials of warped psychology resulting from captivity and limited exposure to alternate perspectives. Relate the prolonged captivity to the kidnappings/ abuse reported in recent years/ weeks (Ariel Castro’s victims, Turpin family, etc).

Who would be more offended in this situation: Kim Kardashian or Sara Baartman?          https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/theater/venus-review.html