21

I'm currently reading this book I spotted mentioned in a comments section I read. I bought it on Kindle for £3.49 on Amazon UK but hard copies are available too.

I'm only part way into it but there are a lot of parallels to be drawn with the gender medical industry and experimental treatments on children.

I think a lot of people here would find it both interesting and disturbing that the medical industry clearly haven't learned any lessons.

The authors are Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove and it was published in 2009. Below is the brief synopsis;

A report on the decades during which the medical community responded to parental fears about their children's heights reveals the non-FDA-approved, largely experimental treatments to which children were questionably subjected to make them taller or shorter, often with significant consequences.

I'm currently reading this book I spotted mentioned in a comments section I read. I bought it on Kindle for £3.49 on Amazon UK but hard copies are available too. I'm only part way into it but there are a lot of parallels to be drawn with the gender medical industry and experimental treatments on children. I think a lot of people here would find it both interesting and disturbing that the medical industry clearly haven't learned any lessons. The authors are Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove and it was published in 2009. Below is the brief synopsis; *A report on the decades during which the medical community responded to parental fears about their children's heights reveals the non-FDA-approved, largely experimental treatments to which children were questionably subjected to make them taller or shorter, often with significant consequences.*

15 comments

Is it bad that I instinctively only had sympathy for the girls when reading this? Like "oh no god forbid a girl take up too much space let's stunt her and make her small!" It's almost like handicapping someone, and you know it's solely because males don't like girls that look down on them.

Quite a bit of the first part of the book covers how unacceptable it was for a girl to be too tall. Loads of parents worried their daughters would never marry, be ballerinas or air stewardesses. It's yet another example of society being wrong not healthy girls and women.

It's not really covered short boys yet, perhaps it gets to that later in the book.

"be ballerinas" ffs hardly anyone in the world, statistically, can be a ballerina. It's not a highly paid career, it has little longevity or stability, you're going to have shitty injuries all the time. It's more of a vocation than a job and the competition is fiercer than ever. And these days you can be quite tall, just not 6ft and over tall, in the right company, if you're good enough.

What normal parent would WANT their daughter to be a ballerina? I mean seriously. And who thinks making your daughter prone to bone problems is a good idea if she wants to be a professional dancer?

This was back in the 50's and 60's when these girls were first treated. According to the book having the chance of being a ballerina was quite a thing in Australia!

That's really terrible. Funny how this would never fly today but pumping your daughter full of testosterone because she likes remote control cars is perfectly fine

I only ever have sympathy for women (and never men) in any circumstances anymore, so don't feel too bad about it

Yea like it sucks for the boys but at least they're being given a physical advantage

And, wasn't it what we now call puberty blockers which were used in this regard? Also, that same class of drug was pushed to "cure" autistic children not so long ago and it's now come full-circle in that it's being prescribed to autistic kids who are identifying as trans.

This is an excerpt from one of the chapters about the early drug development.

The small-town pharmacist who reluctantly filled Laura’s prescription had reason to be concerned. Although the drug had been on the market for about thirty years, even the British scientist who had developed the compound worried about its safety. The history of the development of DES began in the late nineteenth century with doctors and researche in Germany, Britain, and America eager to unlock the secrets of mysterious “internal secretions,” later called “hormones”: how they worked in the female body, how they regulated menstrual periods and pregnancy and then ultimately failed, leading to menopause. They knew that understanding these processes would yield powerful knowledge about human growth and reproduction. By the early 1900s, after dissecting the ovaries of rats, rabbits, whales, and monkeys, and distilling the urine of pregnant animals and women, researchers believed they’d found the “female principle.” They named it “estrogen” for its importance in the estrous, or menstrual, cycle. But collecting and distilling urine to eke out tiny amounts of estrogen was time-consuming and expensive, and the final product could only be injected. In 1938, Charles Edward Dodds, a British scientist and physician, developed a chemical formula in his London laboratory that was inexpensive to produce and could be delivered in pill form.

He named his compound diethylstilbestrol or DES. It bore little resemblance to the hormone females naturally produce; in fact, its molecular composition was far closer to another blockbuster chemical invented the same year—DDT, the powerful insecticide. Nobody, including Dodds, knew why his drug worked like the estrogen a woman’s body produced, but it did. What was more important at the time was that Dodds had beaten his closest competitor, a German, in synthesizing the drug. Dodds, like other British scientists, had feared that if the Germans succeeded first, they would patent the powerful new compound, keep its formula secret, and capture the market for the large German pharmaceutical companies. British regulations demanded that research funded by the government could not be patented. As a result, Dodds published the formula for diethylstilbestrol in the journal Nature on February 15, 1938—enabling anybody to copy the compound and produce it. Dodds’s successful chemical synthesis, three times more powerful than estrogens derived from plants or animals, would help set the stage years later for hormone replacement therapy. Yet Dodds had reason to be cautious about the drug’s potential to cause harm. The original stilboestrol, as it was called in Britain, was a light powder that drifted about the laboratory during the manufacturing process. The British workmen who made it unintentionally inhaled the powder. Some developed breasts. “They had problems putting their braces [suspenders] on,” reported one of Dodds’s collaborators. Researchers quickly discovered that mice exposed to the drug developed cancer of the mammary glands. So did rats. When given to pregnant mice, the reproductive organs of their offspring were malformed. But Dodds’s early fears about the drug’s potency got lost in the excitement of discovery and commercial possibilities. DES, as it came to be known, could be manufactured cheaply and sold at a healthy profit by any drug company.

Thanks for the recommendation, you've piqued my interest as a tall woman. Being within the parameters of what is acceptably tall for a woman (I'm 5'11/180cm), and being thin and relatively feminine, I've generally only had positive experiences with my height. Usually, I'm perceived as being more mature and competent (sadly at the expense of my shorter counterparts). There seems to be a fine line between a tall woman who is seen as having a trustworthy, commanding presence and one who is just taking up too much space or is lacking in the patriarchal reflection of femininity by virtue of her size.

It saddens me to think that parents look at their tall daughters and wish to stunt their growth, and restrict her to a size deemed acceptable by men. I've seen tall teenage girls on TikTok wanting to get some knee surgery that supposedly knocks a few inches off their height because boys have made fun of them. Much like DES, I imagine that comes with some nasty side effects. Keen to read the book!

Thanks for the reply. I would be interested to hear your thoughts when you've read it. Alongside the medicalisation aspect of height in children it was interesting to read about the cultural aspects and the ways they shifted over time. As you say there's still a societal fine line even today but it seems the 70s second wave feminism marked a significant turning point in attitudes.

Sad to hear even now teenage girls are conscious of their height and looking for ways to be 'fixed'. I would also worry that such girls are in danger of buying into gender ideology as a solution and speaking of gender ideology the chapter I reached last night had a cross over appearance from Dr John Money who of course sparked it all off with his dangerous and unethical experimentation on the Reimer twins.

But very few doctors followed up these patients. Girls like Laura were treated for a few years and then left home, got jobs, or went to college. Few mothers were as diligent as Shirley, who stayed in touch with Gertrud Reyersbach for five or six years after Laura’s treatment ended. Few, if any, physicians attempted to track down patients years later to ask about their health, let alone suggest they have endometrial biopsies or liver function evaluations. Doctors likely to see these girls in the future—gynecologists or internists—were in most cases unaware of the childhood hormone treatment.

Sounds suspiciously like the GIDS service who have very little data and did no follow up studies, losing track of where patients ended up or their outcomes.

I'm just getting into the chapters about the eventual fall out of this drug. Gallstones (26 found in one teenage girl!), vaginal cancers, miscarriage, low weight babies. Even the regular side effects were terrible - weight gain and depression which led to eating disorders in many girls, nausea, heavy bleeding and pain.

Of course I now know how fucked up it is, but I used to really wish my parents had done this to me when I was younger... I'm 170-171cm tall, I know I'm not huge in world wide standards, but I'm considered pretty tall in my country, and I was a particularly tall child basically since birth. Only now at 26 am I finally coming to terms with my height, and of course, it has to do with wanting to be small and cute in order to be loved.