Bringing in Linguistics

I’ve just begun Spring courses (I love this time of the semester; it’s so optimistic!) and one of my new ones is a required doctoral seminar in linguistics. Although I don’t come from the linguistics side of English, the two linguistics classes I’ve had have been really wonderful experiences. This one is shaping up the same way, and that’s the reason for this post: I’m writing a paper I need to think through and/or get feedback on.

The paper (a draft of which is due this week) is supposed to be on my area of interest with a linguistic twist (which I’ll get help adding later if I can’t do it now). My basic idea is to look at some women’s health websites and do a linguistic analysis of the rhetoric I find there.

So far, the sites I’m thinking of using are giving me some interesting perspectives on the intersection of culture and technology as they pertain to the linguistic representation of women’s health. I started by simply doing a Google search of “women’s health.” My first result was the popular magazine, which I bypassed since I want to look at web-based texts. Of the four I ended up choosing from that first page of results, two are government operated sites. (The others are WebMD and an indie-looking site run by something called the Glam Publisher Network.)

So what I’m thinking about now is this: Why does the government have such an interest in women’s health?

Some reasons are obvious. Some not so much. Some are altruistic. Others are sinister.

The government would have a vested interest in women’s health as it pertains to reproductive health because managing reproductive health is like managing the makeup of the next generation. When thinking in class- and race-based contexts, that’s kind of scary.

But the government also (presumably) has a responsibility to provide access to healthcare for less fortunate women. Because women account for higher numbers of the impoverished than men, this benevolent function could account for some of the emphasis on women’s health.

And there are a myriad of other reasons that I’m still teasing out as to why there is so much government interest in women’s health. (Feel free to comment.) But I can’t help thinking of Mary Daly’s contention that gynecology is a male construction to oppress women …


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