Female urinary incontinence and the construction of nineteenth-century stigmatized womanhood

Tunc T. E.

UROLOGY, vol.71, no.5, pp.767-770, 2008 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Volume: 71 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.urology.2007.11.053
  • Journal Name: UROLOGY
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.767-770
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Before the 20th century, female urinary incontinence was a problematic disease because it presented a medical challenge (it was difficult to treat before the advent of surgical techniques) and prevented women from fulfilling their roles as spouses and caretakers. The latter was particularly troublesome during the 19th century when Western women (ie, white, middle/upper class, Protestant women) were expected to follow rigid, socially constructed gender roles, especially within the private microcosm of the family unit. Incontinent women of childbearing age had no place in the hierarchy of Euro-American society and were thus constructed as impure, polluted, and sexually undesirable. This stigmatization of the incontinent body not only marginalized the medical needs of the suffering woman but also characterized her as an unfeminine, contaminated, and repulsive object to be ostracized and excluded from the social rituals that defined selfhood.