Racial Sadist or Father of American Gynecology

Can we not live with paradox? My research of Dr. Marion J. Sims, discoverer of the first successful method of vesico-vaginal fistula repair and, at least in this point in my research, a doctor who experiments on women without the legal right to consent suggests torturer, finds an either/or dichotomy. “Father of American Gynecology/Racial Sadist.”

Why not both?

I desire to understand my historical responsibilities as a white american who has benefitd from Sims research. Countless women, including Ethiopian women at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, continue to benefit from the results of his medical experiments (torture) in the 21st century. White people in America have a tendency to partake of our history ala carte. I refuse to let us off the hook.

If our Constitution, Revolutionary War and (pick your historical event) make us white Americans, then so does slavery and Reconstruction Jim Crow and segregation. Our founding fathers, after all, encoded slavery into our constitution. With karma at work, we don’t get away with anything.

But back to why not both? If not, Why not?

I can condemn his actions but the consequences of his actions are far more difficult for me. His actions inflicted suffering on women unable to consent to his experiments. In the case of Anarcha, she survived, and he did heal her vesico-vaginal fistula.

If I discount the consequences, I feel I deny Anarcha and the other woman who suffered, as well as the healing women have found through the results of his experiments.

Thinking through this history causes me to struggle.

cover for Moxie, Vol. 1 by Jay SennettMy essay collection, Moxie, Vol. 1, will be released January 15, 2018. Preorder your copy today at Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple Books.