par Mariarosa Dalla Costa et Selma James
Archives de Tag: Mariarosa Dalla Costa
Obstetrics, however, still lay outside their expertise and, despite a wealthy clientele, remained an exclusively female field for another three centuries. Obstetrics later came to face an alliance of the intent of the state, the church and the (male) medical profession, which advocated that this field also be given to the “regular” medical profession, controlled bu the state and the church, at the price of the exterminating of the “witches” – mostly midwives and healers who came from and worked among the poor. But this persecution formed part of a complex of social macro-operations that took place in various periods, some already early in the fourteenth century, and the most famous of which was the expropriation/enclosure of common lands. If the latter was used to create the misery necessary for the beginnings of the capitalist mode of production, by making available massive numbers for the workforce, the witch-hunt was used instead to expropriate from women their own bodies. This was accomplished first of all by depriving women of the knowledge and the power to decide with regards to their reproductive powers, because the reproduction of individuals – from now on, the reproduction of the workforce, as far as it concerned the expropriated and impoverished people – had to be under state control by means of the medical profession. […] Federici (1984) in particular observes how the witch hunt spread in Europe between the fourteenth and the seventeenth century, reaching an apex between 1550 and 1650, when it is estimated 100,000 women were burned alive, often after vicious torture. The victims were, as I have said, mostly country midwives guilty of knowing not only about childbirth, but also about abortion and contraceptives, as well as healers and women of ill repute. But it was much easier for women to be accused when they were alone, unmarried, old, and above all leaders of urban and peasant rebellions caused by rising prices, by the repeated levying of new taxes, and particularly by the expropriation of land. However, virgins and pregnant women were normally not sent to the stake. This (the greatest sexocide that history has ever recorded – and which represents a fundamental turning point in the history of the struggle between the classes and between the sexes, erased, even if never completely, along with the women who were executed, popular medicine, and especially the gynecological and obstetric knowledge that had been in their hands alone. This knowledge was replaced with an official medicine, controlled by the state and the church, that would need centuries before it was able to replace the void left by the extermination of healers and midwives with something authentically therapeutic. It is worth knowing that while there were witches who had acquired profound knowledge of bones and muscles, of herbs and drugs, the physicians of the time still made their prognoses using astrology.
Mariarosa Dalla Costa “Hysterectomy : A Woman’s view of its Medical Facets, Historical Development and Ethical and Legal Questions” in Hysterectomy, Capitalist Patriarchy and the Medical Abuse of Women, p. 35-36
the formation of a multinational working class has its origins in the history of women as a section of the class. Women began, particularly since the war, to take their own direction in an increasingly homogeneous and diffuse way. Hence, the emergence of a new quality of political power, as expressed by this class, has to be attributed to, and defined in terms of the new processes of autonomy opened up within the class by its various sections and particularly by woman.
Above all by women’s refusal to procreate.
During the second half of the Sixties, all European coun- tries registered a dramatic fall in the birth rate8 that cannot be wholly attributed to the increased availability of contraceptives.9 The birth rate fell particularly steeply among those sectors that formerly had proved to be less successful in controlling their fertility10
Women were better able to reject State controls over procreation the more they resisted pressure from within the family, from the elderly, from husbands, from other children.
This rejection and resistance can be found to a greater or lesser degree in all countries irrespective of whether the number of women in waged work is high or low, whether the country is one of immigration or emigration and whether the women are “native” or immigrants themselves.
Thus the family, the centre of unpaid work and personal dependence, has emerged as the primary terrain on which women have managed to resist and to organize themselves at a mass level.
The more women succeed in freeing themselves from the constraints of the family the more they will be able to succeed in emancipating themselves from conditions that limit their ability to improve their lives.
Mariarosa DALLA COSTA, “reproduction and emigration”