Tag Archives: gender

Beyond the Reproductive Body

Book coverI’ve been working on a project about healthcare communication after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, and it looks like I’ll be focusing on the relationships between economy and healthcare rhetorics. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Marjorie Levine-Clark’s Beyond the Reproductive Body: The Politics of Women’s Health and Work in Early Victorian England; while I wasn’t surprised to find thought-provoking material there, I have been excited and intrigued by how very relevant many of her findings are to my work on Deepwater.

Specifically, I’ve been interested that most of the health-related materials I’ve found related to my research have to do with children or pregnant women. It’s not surprising, then, that Levine-Clark argues that in Early Victorian English, the able body was male and the reproductive body was female; “these models of embodiment did battle in the discussions about what to do to reform the English social body” and, she says, “they also collided in working women’s perceptions of their own bodies” (p. 5). That is, working women contested the notion that their sex meant they were inherently not able-bodied.

Official narratives ran counter to these working women’s understandings of themselves. Continue reading

The Genderbread Person

Some friends just told me about this, and I think it’s a wonderful way to get people to think just a bit harder about what gender means. I’m borrowing the image below from this page to provide a preview, and I myself am going to need to buy this author’s book (The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender) very, very soon. More coming when I do.

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Girl Rising

Girl Rising is an important new activist movement to empower girls. Read more at their website, or view the trailer for the upcoming film below.

Repost: #CritMH review

I’m a bit late to this (the end of one’s first semester as an assistant professor is difficult, as it turns out), but despite the delay was thrilled to read Abi McNiven’s thoughtful and smart review of the Critical Medical Humanities Symposium. Perhaps my favorite lines are these: The goal of the symposium was “to think beyond the primal diagnosis scene underpinning the ‘re-humanising medicine’ mantra familiar within the medical humanities. The invitation was set to unabashedly direct attention to—for example—issues of gender, race, disability, health policy, and material-economic underpinnings.” Read the whole review here: http://medicalhumanities.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/critical-medical-humanities-symposium-review-by-abi-mcniven/

“Little Man”

Here’s a little feminist apparency for today. This is one of those things that’s been percolating in my brain for a while, and this morning it just clicked into place.

Many people I know will often refer to a boy-child as “little man.” This drives me absolutely crazy, but I could never figure out why. And it’s something that happens immediately when a boy arrives in the world. I remember people (who shall remain unnamed) referring to my nephew as “little man” before he even came home from the hospital. I thought it was bizarre at the time–he’s nothing like a man, not even a tiny little one–but I couldn’t put my finger on just what was at issue.

Part of it is the placing of an adult term onto an infant, as though the expectations of this poor kid  are already looking toward adulthood when he’s just a few hours old. I also resist the insistence on putting the poor kid into a box based on sex; using the term “little man” seems more direct and purposeful than the obligatory piles of color-coded blankets and onesies. I mean, after all, calling him “little man” is a pretty clear implication of the type of person he is expected to be in terms of gender and sex. (Who says he ever has to be a “man” at all?) But that wasn’t quite all of it …

Now I’ve got it. Stick with me through this (alarmingly simple) thought process.

Have you ever heard anyone refer to an infant girl as “little woman”? Yeah, me neither. And that’s because everyone within earshot would recognize that as creepy. The reason people would think it’s creepy is because it would be understood as sexualizing a little girl. So herein lies the problem: Folks who use the term “little man” (and not “little woman”) are playing into common perceptions of the term “woman” as sexualized and the term “man” as normal. Which is, of course, awfully sexist.

Shoot, that was simple. In fact, “little man” is a construction that is so very simple, so common, and likely so unintentional that it’s  a challenge to make the problems with that term apparent.