Politicizing The Personal and Personalizing the Political
• Politics of the body
• Personal is political
• Bio Medical Model and Population Health Model.
• Double standards in health.
• Social capital
• Gender and sex.
• 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
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• Flexner recommended closing down a number of medical schools and suggested higher
prerequisites and stricter licensing. Resulted in: elitism, exclusivity, and higher medical
• 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
• See inequitable access to various resources (healthy food, safe housing, etc.), as
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
• 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).
• 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
• 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.
• Hierarchies: systems of ranking and power; sexism and racism are premised upon
• Hierarchies based upon race, class, an