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Frankfort Describes 'Vaginal Politics'


The author of a new and controversial book, Vaginal Politics, said yesterday that "a woman's body is controlled by doctors, druggists, and the advertising media."

Ellen Frankfort, whose book combines health issues with feminist politics, came to WGBH yesterday to tape a radio program for "The Woman's Show." Frankfort writes a health column for The Village Voice and is a former medical student.

"I'm not anti-doctor-that would only help setback attitudes on modern medical technology. Women instead have to demystify doctors by learning more about their own bodies, and can then ask questions about gynecological examinations which have never been discussed thoroughly by doctors and their patients," Frankfort said.

In her book, Frankfort notes that "in a survey of 1466 New York obstetricians and gynecologists, a little fewer than one-third said they would take into account the individual woman when recommending a form of contraception."

Frankfort asserts that through self-help clinics and self-examination with a speculum and mirror, women can begin to regain one kind of control of their bodies.

In her interview yesterday, Frankfort discussed contraceptive devices, radical mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast), menstrual period extaction devices (which can be used to end a period as soon as it begins, or terminate pregnancy) and "impersonal" and "rushed service" by doctors.

"The surgeon doesn't tell his patient what she has or how serious it is before he operates. Decisions are made about her while she's sleeping, and only when she wakes up can she find out how much they've cut away," she said.

"I've focused on the vagina because it is an area that is only a woman's and it is the one area of health care is which women have been able to do something to change things."

Frankfort emphasized her belief that women are made to feel they are imposing on a doctor's time if they ask a lot of questions. "And how many women know what a doctor sees when he makes a pelvic examinations, or what he hears when he palpates your chest?" She asked.

"Patients aren't even allowed to see their medical charts and they don't feel that their own X-rays even belong to them."

Frankfort also said that "the medical profession is disease-oriented, act prevention of disease oriented. It is run like a big business in fact, second to the defense program, it is the largest business in the United States.

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