By Sherry Sayed Gadelrab
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol.66:1 (2011)
Abstract: This study explores how medical authorities in medieval Islamic society understood and analyzed Greek authorities on the differences between men and women and their mutual contributions to the process of reproduction. As this research illustrates, such thinkers’ interpretations of sex differences did not form a consistent corpus, and were in fact complex and divergent, reflecting, and contributing to, the social and cultural constructs of gender taken up by European authors in the Middle Ages. While some scholars have argued for a “one sex” view of human beings in the medieval period, a close reading of Islamic medical authors shows that the plurality and complexity of ideas about sex differences and the acceptance of the flexibility of barriers between the sexes make it difficult to assume that the biological knowledge about sex differences formed a unitary ideological foundation for a system of gender hierarchy. It is clear, however, that whatever their differences, medieval Islamic discussions of sex differences implicitly or explicitly emphasized the inferiority of the female body.