Alice Dreger

Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Chicago, IL, United States

About Alice

Bio

Alice Dreger is an historian of anatomy and Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She describes her vocation and profession as "social justice work in medicine and science" through research, writing, speaking and advocacy. She says: "The question that has motivated many of my projects is this: Why not change minds instead of bodies?"

Dr. Dreger has written and edited several books that study experiences of and reactions to norm-challenging bodies, including One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, and Intersex in the Age of Ethics. She also has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, and she is a featured blogger for Psychology Today. She has appeared as an expert on anatomy and identity on dozens of broadcast programs, including CNN, NPR, CBC, the BBC, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She is currently finishing a book on scientific controversies in the Internet age, a work she refers to as "a memoir of other people's lives."

Areas of Expertise

History and Philosophy of Anatomy, patient advocacy, Medical Ethics, History of Science, Sex and Gender Studies

I'm passionate about

using history to create a more just now.

People don't know I'm good at

designing fabulous academic offices, braising, weeding, quilting, hitting a baseball, enjoying everything NASA, being calm, and hospice care for pet rats.

Comments & conversations

117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
Hmm. You have me stumped. I was going to say that "role" implies some degree of conscious play acting, but obviously a lot of the way we perform the gender roles assigned to us by our cultures is subconscious. I guess I think of the animals as having "sex roles" and us as having "gender roles" because we have such a heavy overlay of learned culture on top of sex.
117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
I wish some of my colleagues from the biological sciences were here to talk with you more about this. We know that some non-human primates develop cultural systems that they teach. The classic example is of teaching skills for food gathering. This would seem to suggest that yes, non-human primates (and other species) could end up passing on genders (cultures based on sex).
117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
"Gender" in languages is not the same as gender roles for humans. And it seems like languages are meant to serve us (though we also end up serving them), so they should evolve. I just don't see us giving up gender. It's tied to sex on average, and it's pretty darned pleasurable a lot of the time.
117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
Thanks, Bonnita. I think it would help if we encouraged more people to be out as feminists. I especially appreciate it when men who really are feminist self-identify as such. It seems to make a big difference in terms of challenging the "feminazi" stereotype.
117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
Hey Nacho Car, you're right -- we don't have to accept something just because someone was "born this way" or reject it just because it's chosen. And there's lots of evidence that sexual orientations of unusual sorts (like pedophilia) probably get cemented early in development. I think we have to ask about "content of character, not color of skin" -- so think about things like consent.
117564
Alice Dreger
Posted about 3 years ago
LIVE TED Conversation: Join TED Speaker Alice Dreger
It's hard not to notice that a lot of women who have risen in power have been childless, unmarried women who have been assumed to be lesbian. So I think you're onto something. On the other hand, not having a kid, spouse, and formal household also makes it a lot easier to work harder and therefore to rise! I often say to my husband I wish I had a wife.