Another important part of the changing role of women in the 19th Century was that medical theories were developed to critique and attempt to diminish the validity of the New Woman. The biological nature of women was fully dependent of their availability to reproduce, anything that effected her reproductive system was considered a threat to her as a woman. A while ago I read an essay by Margaret A. Lindauer, Frida of the Blood-Covered Paint Brush, which explores the paintings by Frida Kahlo in which she depicts herself as sickly. Her analysis explained the medical theories applied to women of the time such as neurasthenia and hysteria were common diagnosis for women who refused typical womanhood roles. Considered a weaker sex, made them prone to illness and any behaviour towards masculinity categorised her as “ill”. Frida, was often confined to these medical theories and until the 1980’s art historians had not considered that she was aware of this and critiqued these theories through her work. In the 1944 painting, Broken Column, it’s exemplified:
At first glance, we can see that she is suffering. There are tears and the nails in her body capture her as a “Christ” a martyr, who suffers. Most critiques would say that her womanly nature allows her to cry and show women suffering. In the essay, Lindauer argues that Frida is confronting the gazes of pity, and ideas of women as suffering objects. Her gaze is steady and she is showing that she is suffering because she is a “broken column” not only a sickly woman. She is naked and her hair is flowing, showing her sexuality and seductive nature . In the end Lindauer, concludes that for Frida being sick didn’t define her femininity.