“The Colonel’s’s Lady and Judy O’Grady…

The title of this post comes from a Kipling poem that ends with

The Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
     Are sisters under their skins!

The poem reflects the easy racism and sexism of a powerful imperial country, as Great Britain once was.  It would, however, be a mistake to think that we’ve moved beyond the deep expectation that European women form the model for women around the world.  According to very recent research reported in the NYTimes, women are not all the same under the skin; the idea that they are may be a source of some harm in, e.g., medically assistedd childdbirth.

Look up the term “pelvic canal” in the typical anatomy or obstetric textbook, and you likely will find a description such as this: “Well-built healthy women, who had a good diet during their childhood growth period, usually have a broad pelvis.”

Such a pelvis, the text continues, enables “the least difficulty during childbirth.”

But such characterizations have long been based on anatomical studies of people of European descent. In reality, the structure of the pelvic canal, the bony structure through which most of us enter the world, varies tremendously between populations, according to a new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The findings have implications for how obstetricians treat patients of color, the authors say. In the United States, racial disparities in maternal health care are prevalent. Compounding factors like interpersonal and institutional racism, poverty, poor health care access and environmental burdens disproportionately harm black mothers. These contribute to the risk of pregnancy-related deaths being three to four times higher for black women than for white women.

One thought on ““The Colonel’s’s Lady and Judy O’Grady…

  1. Please read the comments that follow the NYT article that you reference. Unlike the author of the article, who is an anthropologist, the commenters are health care professionals who assist at childbirths. As they point out, the anatomical differences between women of different races have long been known, and are taken into account by those who assist laboring women (physicians, midwives, etc) on all continents.

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