by Jessie Bernard, 614 pp, $19.95, New York, Free Press, 1981.
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This large and closely written book calls to mind another, half the size but also weighty: Elizabeth Janeway's Powers of the Weak. Both are full of information, and yet unsatisfactory. They are like smorgasbords from which we may sample many tidbits, but leave without the feeling of having eaten a good solid meal, perhaps suffering indigestion at the same time.
The lack of consistent development of a central theme is the problem, even though the title cogently offers one. Bernard's premise is certainly correct: that we all live in a "singlesex world,"—men in their world, women in theirs, these worlds interconnecting—and that most of what we know historically and socially deals with the male world. This is certainly applicable to medicine, although there were some notable women healers in the past. Unfortunately, Bernard does not attempt to include this information. Her effort to describe the "group structure" of the female
Shainess N. The Female World. JAMA. 1981;246(22):2635. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320220079039