"Health educator, performer, and scholar Terri Kapsalis gives us a series of brilliantly performed readings of gynecology's complex private and public lives in medical texts, history books, clinics, popular film, and performance art. More than just cultural critique, Public Privates is a feminist guide to locating our own agency as active performers in the multilayered practices and discourses devoted to women's sexual and reproductive health." Lisa Cartwright, author of Screening the BodyVom Verlag:
In "Public Privates", a book about looking and being looked at, about speculums, spectacles, and spectators, about display, illumination, and reflection, Terri Kapsalis makes visible the practices and representations of gynaecology. The quintessential examination of women, gynaecology is not simply the study of women's bodies, but also serves to define and constitute them. Any critical analysis of gynaecology is therefore, as Kapsalis affirms, an investigation of what it means to be female. In this respect she considers the public exposure of female 'privates' in the performance of the pelvic examination.From J. Marion Sims' surgical experiments on un-anesthetised slave women in the mid-nineteenth century, to the use of cadavers and prostitutes to teach medical students gynaecological techniques, Kapsalis focuses on the ways in which women and their bodies have been treated by the medical establishment. Removing gynaecology from its private cover within clinic walls and medical textbook pages, she decodes the gynaecological examination, seizing on its performative dimension.She considers traditional medical practices and the dynamics of 'proper' patient performance; non-traditional practices such as the cervical self-examination; and, incarnations of the pelvic examination outside the bounds of medicine, including its appearance in David Cronenberg's film "Dead Ringers" and Annie Sprinkle' performance piece "Public Cervix Announcement". Confounding the boundaries that separate medicine, art, and pornography, revealing the potent cultural attitudes and anxieties about women, female bodies, and female sexuality that permeate the practice of gynaecology, "Public Privates" concludes by locating a venue from which challenging, alternative performances may be staged. Provocative and daring, this book will be important to readers engaged in women's studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, and to those concerned with issues of women's health.
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