Tag Archives: bodies

Women’s health ≠ reproductive health

The 1997 text Women’s Health Research: A Medical and Policy Primerheralds women’s health research as a “new discipline” (p. 7), which I find both frightening and fascinating. Some diseases (osteoporosis, various thyroid conditions, affective disorders, just for a few examples) affect women in greater numbers than men, but studies do not reflect this. This is largely because women’s health has historically been conflated with reproductive health—as though the only part of a woman that is different from a man or important at all is her reproductive system. This conflation is both maddening and difficult to advocate against (for fear of diminishing the real importance of women’s reproductive health).

However, Paula Johnson does a decent job:

Click here to view this talk on TED’s page: http://www.ted.com/talks/paula_johnson_his_and_hers_healthcare

Further food for thought: Johnson and Fee (contributors to Women’s Health Research) point out that “Women have been excluded from health research for decades” despite policy statements that attempt to remedy this (p. 3). One reason women have been left out of research studies because of “researchers’ desire for homogeneous study populations … Women’s cyclical hormonal changes were thought to confound research results” (p. 14).

Haseltine, Florence, Lynne Beauregard, & Beverly Jacobson. (1997). Women’s Health Research: A Medical and Policy Primer. Washington, DC: Health International.

 

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Silent Invaders

book coverI’ve been doing some research into women’s healthcare lately, and some of my best finds have been from old-school shopping the stacks at the library. Here are some (lightly organized) notes on the edited collection Silent Invaders: Pesticides, Livelihoods and Women’s Health. This text gives a nuanced history of conversations about pesticides and health, with a special focus on women’s health and much attention to a variety of contexts throughout the world. Many chapters reference the 1998 Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which are good places to start in understanding the regulation of pesticide use.

Marion Moses says the book’s focus is largely on toxicology and epidemiology, (as well as endocrine disruptors). She gives a useful history of the use of pesticides, with significant discussion of the process of resistance and secondary outbreaks. She references Carson’s Silent Spring as the first time the pesticide industry faced any significant criticsm. Further, she argues that “A ‘risk assessment’ ritual language emerged with predictable and stereotypical views” pointing to beliefs in objective science (p. 4). Contextual information like whether workers could afford protective clothing were largely ignored.

Continue reading

Digital Activism & Social Justice

From the Guest Editors of a recent special issue of Harlot:

“As Angela Haas has argued, the concept of digital refers as much to the work of the human hand as it does binary code. Even when digital tools enable activists to collaborate across great distances, the body remains a powerful force in the activist scene. After all, we must remember that the web is not and has not ever been a democratic, egalitarian space; power inequalities of sexuality, race, class, gender, ability, and nation persist—and are often reinforced—in online spaces.”

“[T]he body is one of the most important activist media that we have.”

Read the guest editors’ introduction to the special issue.

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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The legal status of abortion in 2014

Several articles on abortion laws have come out in the past few days, most of which point out that significant amounts of legislation have been passed on this matter in the last 3-4 years. One of the best of these pieces appears in the New York Times. (Go here to read it.) I have appreciated Erik Eckholm’s reporting for some time, and this piece is no exception. This is a well-researched and carefully written article that is about as nuanced as an article of this length can be. Some highlights in this article include:

  • Attention to exigency: A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday on a case stemming from the debacle in Texas this summer. (Run a search on Wendy Davis if this is news to you.)
  • A series of quotes from Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life: “I’m very encouraged . . I think it is more difficult to get an abortion in the country today.” This mindset is a huge problem. I wish NRL would be encouraged by and advocating for a decrease in the need for abortions, rather than just being smug about limiting access.
  • Comprehensive understanding of the ways current laws on abortion interact–or don’t. Eckholm reports bans on 20-week abortions are en effect in nine states, in direct violation of the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. Thus, this article makes clear that action is imminent. Further,  Ekcholm refers to a “legal patchwork,” which demonstrates how very dependent “rights” are on where one lives, one’s ability to be mobile, and one’s ability to access and understand regulatory rhetorics.
  • Several phrases that point out how insurance coverage (and laws that effect it) have a major impact on abortion practices. This points to a need to be aware of how the changing climate of healthcare in the US will affect access to abortions.

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/