What makes a woman a woman?
Am I Still a Woman?
Hysterectomy and Gender Identity
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Recent scientific findings regarding the potential dangers associated with hormone replacement therapies bring renewed attention to the relationship between women's bodies and gender identity. In Am I Still A Woman? Jean Elson offers the testimony of women who have thought deeply about this issue as a result of gynecological surgery.
For the women in this book, gynecological surgery for benign conditions proved to be a crisis that prompted questions about the meanings of sexual and reproductive organs in relation to being female and feminine. Is a woman who no longer menstruates still a woman? What about a woman who can no longer bear children? Elson looks closely at the differences in responses to understand the impact of surgery and lost fertility on sexuality and partnerships as well as the steps some women take to deal with a sense of a stigmatized identity. Whether they reconceptualized their old notions of what it means to be a woman or put a new focus on making themselves attractive, they made conscious efforts to reclaim their female identity and femininity. This book provides a wealth of insight into the choices women make regarding gynecological surgery and maintaining their sense of themselves as women.
"Am I Still a Woman engages absolutely fundamental questions about body, gender, and identity. The subject matter is certainly important since about half a million women a year have one or another version of an hysterectomy. Lots of women will find this work interesting because it so thoroughly touches on their lives. Others will want to read the book simply because it speaks to how women think about being a woman. Elson has wonderful insight and provides an honest rendering of diverse experiences, interpretations and feelings."
"[A] must read for anyone considering a hysterectomy, as well as for sexuality professionals who are interested in women's health issues."
"...very useful for undergraduates or scholars new to this area of medical social history."
"Elson's excellent book provides a strong and needed contribution to our understanding of the body in social life."
"[A] highly readable book, important to women's health and to the sociology of the body…. [it] is a lively, compelling book."
"This is a beautifully written, thoughtful and deeply moving book….powerful, lucid and fascinating."
"[Elson has opened] intriguing new windows for viewing both hysterectomies and the construction of womanhood in our society."
"Elson's project engages questions at the heart of the relationship between biology and gender... Her book demonstrates that gender identity emerges from a complex relationship between biological markers and cultural expectations of women."