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.
A re-post of an article with some thought-provoking statements about the recent misogynist killing spree that I think resonate beyond this single situation … read the whole thing here. Selected quotes are below:
“To dismiss him as crazy is to ignore the obvious: he chose to attack women.”
“[T]he only way I have a right to approach women is the same way I approach men: as people and as individuals who like what they like and want what they want.”
“I’m saying the culture sucks and we need to change it.”
“Our hypermasculine culture sets unrealistic expectations and encourages men to see women as potential sex partners instead of as neighbors, co-workers, and friends. All too often it is deadly for women and it’s no friend of the vast majority of men.”
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 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.
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
A re-post: This fascinating NYT article, “Technology’s Man Problem,” discusses the systemic discrimination faced by women who enter the tech sector.
“Women who enter fields dominated by men often feel this way. They love the work and want to fit in. But then something happens — a slight or a major offense — and they suddenly feel like outsiders. The question for newcomers to a field has always been when to play along and when to push back.
A male-dominated subculture, I’d argue, isn’t necessarily an urgent problem. (At least no more than a female-dominated one is; both such cultures could certainly benefit from a greater diversity of perspective.) But a misogynist-dominated culture of any sort–that’s a terribly urgent problem. And that’s exactly what’s described in this article.
“‘It’s a thousand tiny paper cuts,’ is how Ashe Dryden, a programmer who now consults on increasing diversity in technology, described working in tech. ‘I’ve been a programmer for 13 years, and I’ve always been one of the only women and queer people in the room. I’ve been harassed, I’ve had people make suggestive comments to me, I’ve had people basically dismiss my expertise. I’ve gotten rape and death threats just for speaking out about this stuff.’”
I, for one, am thrilled that Dryden continues the courageous project of speaking out.
A re-post, because I know I’ll want to read this piece a few more times.
“[R]ecognizing the humanity of others has never before come at a cost to an entire class of people.” We need our legislators to stay out of such situations, or at least to think harder about the confluence of technology and humanity.
Full story here: http://www.thenation.com/blog/177873/no-longer-human#