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Marvels of MedicineLiterature and Scientific Enquiry in Early Colonial Spanish America$
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Yarí Pérez Marín

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789622508

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789622508.001.0001

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Weakening the sex

Weakening the sex

The medicalisation of female gender identity in New Spain

(p.89) Chapter 3 Weakening the sex
Marvels of Medicine

Yarí Pérez Marín

Liverpool University Press

Chapter 3 addresses the link between colonial ideas on femininity and period understandings of gendered physiology. Similar to their European counterparts in that they deemed women to have a weaker constitution compared to men, medical authors in New Spain, however, began linking arguments on the female body to American environments specifically. Descriptions of physiological processes favoured stricter controls of women’s diets and behaviour under the guise of ensuring their good health. The rising numbers of European women in Mexico are reflected in the fact that the two locally printed medical books that went into second editions in the sixteenth century—Alonso López de Hinojosos’s Svmma (1578, 1592) and Agustín Farfán’s Tractado breve (1579, 1592)—both revised and abridged their first versions in order to make way for sections focused on the treatment of women and children. My analysis traces notions on gender, particularly in the case of ‘exceptional’ gestational processes resulting in 'manly women' and 'effeminate men', showing how authors in the New World brought together under a colonial prism older medical traditions that had taken divergent paths in Europe.

Keywords:   Agustin Farfan, colonial Mexico, women, gender, reproductive medicine, intersex, foetal development, Damian Carbon, pregnancy, menopause

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