Several chapters in Man-Made Medicine: Women’s Health, Public Policy, and Reform highlight the importance of how both sex and gender affect medical research and understandings of embodiedness. This book takes on the longstanding conflation of women’s health with reproductive health—a frustrating and longstanding truth I mentioned in my last post. The following is perhaps my very favorite quote from this text: “Traditionally women as a group are defined by this reproductive potential. Usually ignored are the many ways that gender as a social reality gets into the body and transforms our biology” (p. 23). We have a lot more thinking to do about how social reality “gets into the body.”
This book also offers histories of medicine in the U.S. from a variety of perspectives, and it argues persuasively that we need to focus not only on the differences between women’s and men’s health, but also on the differences in health among these groups. Women are different from each other. Krieger and Fee argue persuasively for recognizing diversity in women: “[W]e are a mixed lot our gender roles and options shaped by history, culture, and deep divisions across class and color lines” (p. 23). This text also talks about how women’s occupational health was largely ignored for years–and remains understudied.
Moss, Kary L. (1996). Man-made Medicine: Women’s Health, Public Policy, and Reform. Durham: Duke UP.
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.
I’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
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/