Women's History and Ancient History

By Sarah B. Pomeroy | Go to book overview

her "otherness" allowed her body to be defined more by its own parameters. However, because they thought a woman was so different, these parameters sometimes spread a little too widely (as in the case of spongy flesh and the wandering womb).

Whether Greek scientists focused their construct of the female body on assimilation to the male or on divergence, however hard they tried to take the empirical evidence into account and to bring rational argument to bear on the "facts," the culture's unwavering belief in female inferiority constrained their theories.


Notes

A few frequently cited texts from the Hippocratic Corpus are abbreviated as follows: On Generation (Gen.); Diseases of Women (DW); On the Nature of the Child (NC); Nature of Women (NW). Parallel references with Hippocratic citations are to Œuvres complètes d'Hippocrate, ed. Emile Littré, 10 vols. ( Paris, 1839-61; reprinted Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1961-62). Unless otherwise noted, other abbreviations conform to those used in L'année philologique and the second edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

1.
During the nineteenth century many people still believed intelligence to be an exclusively male attribute. In 1879 the French scholar Le Bon (whose work on crowd psychology is still widely respected) stated, "Without doubt there exist some distinguished women, very superior to the average man, but they are as exceptional as the birth of any monstrosity, as, for example, of a gorilla with two heads." He believed that recent work in craniometry, demonstrating that the average woman had a smaller head and therefore a smaller brain than the average man, proved scientifically that she was also less intelligent. He failed to take into account the fact that the average woman is smaller than the average man overall, and that large men with large heads were not always more intelligent than smaller representatives of the male sex. See Stephen Jay Gould, "Women's Brains," in The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1982), 152-59.
2.
Hence the misinterpretation of the data on XYY males which led to the supposed discovery of a gene for aggression on the Y chromosome; see Stephen Jay Gould , The Mismeasure of Man ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), 143-45; Anne Fausto-Sterling , Myths of Gender ( New York: Basic Books, 1985), 150-53. I do not wish to argue that it has been scientifically proven that all supposed male and female behavioral patterns are socially rather than biologically conditioned, or that there can be no biologically determined differences between men and women

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