History, Department of


Date of this Version

October 1992


Published in Social Science & Medicine 35:7 (1992), pp. 925–934. Copyright © 1992 Pergamon Press Ltd. Used by permission.


Much recent work on gender has emphasized how ideas of male and female differences underlie cultural assumptions about appropriate social relations, behavior, institutions and knowledge. This study focuses on the specific ways that anatomy texts for medical students in the United States have presented male and female anatomy between 1890 and 1989, using both numerical data and analysis of textual examples from 31 texts. Despite public debates about gender representation, anatomy texts have generally remained consistent in how “the” human body has been depicted in this century. In illustrations, vocabulary and syntax, these texts primarily depict male anatomy as the norm or standard against which female structures are compared. Modern texts thus continue long-standing historical conventions in which male anatomy provides the basic model for “the” human body.

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