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Lecture 10

WGST 1F90 Lecture 10: Politicizing-the-Personal

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Brock University
Women's and Gender Studies
Jenny Janke

Politicizing The Personal and Personalizing the Political Key Terms: • Politics of the body • Personal is political • Bio Medical Model and Population Health Model. • Hierarchies. • Double standards in health. • Social capital • Gender and sex. • Pathologization. • Marginalization. • Victim Blaming. WHO: Girls, Women and Health: • On average, women live six to eight years longer than men. • Worldwide, in 2007, 55% of adults aged 60 years and over were women, a proportion that rises to 58% at age 70 and above. • In 2007, women's life expectancy at birth was more than 80 years in 35 countries, but only 54 years in the WHO African Region. • Nearly all (99%) of the half a million maternal deaths every year occur in the global south. • Girls are far more likely to suffer sexual abuse. • Road traffic injuries are among the top ten leading cause of death among adolescent girls in high- and middle-income countries. • According to WHO in the South-East Asia Region, burns are a leading cause of death among women aged 15–44. • Women suffer significantly more fire-related injuries and deaths than men. • Globally, cardiovascular disease, often thought to be a "man’s" problem, is the leading killer of women. • Even though early marriage is on the decline, an estimated 100 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday over the next 10 years. • This is 1/3 of the adolescent girls in developing countries (excluding China). Young married girls often lack knowledge about sex and the risks of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Introduction: • Issues of health care reflect two key feminist axioms: the personal is political and the politics of the body. • The Personal is Political: personal problems are political problems, which basically means that many of the personal problems women experience in their lives are not their fault, but are the result of systematic oppression. • Being transgendered or cisgendered, heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual has a significant impact on health, as a result of both biological and gender-related differences. • The politics of the body: practices and policies through which powers of society regulate the human body & the struggle over the degree of individual and social control of the body • Four examples of the politics of the body: o Institutional power expressed in government and laws. o Disciplinary power exacted in economic production. o Discretionary power exercised in consumption. o Personal Power negotiated in intimate relationships. • Women are, according to Gustafson (2010), the majority of the users of the health care system in Canada. • Women also constitute those who do the unpaid health care work and the vast majority of the paid health care workers (PSW, RNs, RPNs, medical secretaries, technicians, etc.) • In the last 40 years, more women have become physicians; women still tend to dominate in areas such as pediatrics, gynecology/obstetrics, and psychiatry. • The medical institution tends to be one that is hierarchical; power rests at the top of the hierarchy with doctors, specialists, etc., making important decisions that affect us. Ideological Barriers: Historical Exclusion: • Bio-medical model has dominated medicine since 1600s; more careful observation of disease and treatment took hold. • North America: Flexner Report of 1910—Flexner visited over 150 medical schools in Canada and US. (Commercial schools—open often to women and African Americans) • Found that most doctors lacked full training/complete education. Many lacked university educations. • Flexner recommended closing down a number of medical schools and suggested higher prerequisites and stricter licensing. Resulted in: elitism, exclusivity, and higher medical costs. • Flexner Report did call for community based social goals and health promotion; not emphasized in reality. • Instead: focus was on hospital-based care, specialized medical knowledge, treating, managing and curing disease. • Not on: broad determinants of health, or healthy communities, etc. • Historical exclusion of women from medicine (formal) and a denial of women’s practical experiences with health. Bio Medical Model: • Model that has over evaluated certain aspects of health while undervaluing others. • Focus is on being disease free; elimination of disease is central. • Health is defined as: free of disease. • Cure: often pharmaceutically based. • Focus is not on prevention or the health of a community. Population Health Model: • Emerged in the 1970s as a response to Bio-medical. • Focus not on the health of an individual but health as a valuable resource; allows us to engage in productive lives. • Focus on evaluating a broad range of factors related to health. • Focus on “upstream” interventions that affect the conditions that shape our chances of being healthy. • See inequitable access to various resources (healthy food, safe housing, etc.), as necessary. Limitations of Both Models: • Both focus heavily on disease model; goal of research is to produce evidence for making decisions about curing or treating disease, not disease prevention. • Heavily based in traditional positivist, scientific methods of research. Research that has not told us a great deal of insightful information about women. • Money is put into high tech treatments instead of prevention. • Not as much attention given to race, class, and ability. Social hierarchies are not well attended. Systemic Barriers: • Socio-cultural factors that prevent women and girls benefiting from quality health services/attaining the best level of health: o Unequal power relationships between men and women. o Social norms that decrease education and paid employment opportunities. o An exclusive focus on women’s reproductive roles. o Potential or actual experience of physical, sexual, and emotional violence. o Poverty tends to yield a higher burden on women and girls’ health due to, for example, feeding practices (malnutrition). Discussion Points: • What does health mean to you? o Absence of disease as well as stable mental health, regulated body, feeling healthy (not groggy, etc.), eating healthy, living an active lifestyle. • Has your definition shifted in the past year? Five years? Ten years? Why? o Used to be strictly absence of disease/sickness o Now also focus on mental health o Focus more on feelings of being healthy, not just numerical measurements of health. • Is a ‘healthy’ body a ‘beautiful’ body? o No, “beautiful” bodies can often be unhealthy whereas “ugly” bodies can very well be healthy. o Self-confidence plays a role in health also – better mental health. Women as Objects of Medical Research: • Health research has been plagued by three main forms of bias in research, delivery of health programs and access: o Maintenance of existing hierarchies. o Failing to examine differences. o Use of double standards for women’s health. Existing Hierarchies: • Hierarchies: systems of ranking and power; sexism and racism are premised upon hierarchies. • Hierarchies based upon race, class, an
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