• Women’s bodies have been associated with feminine but have been racialized and
classed; as irrational physicality has extended to working class people and to people
• Bodies of people of color and poor people were seen as embodying suspect and thus
the ability of transcendence (mind over body) was gendered marked as an attribute of
white, heterosexual, healthy men.
• Schiebinger (1999) states that scientific racism depended on the ‘chain of being
thesis’ >> that a hierarchy of species was natural and absolute. Whereas scientific
sexism depended on radical biological divergence. Therefore, men and women were
opposites and thus are relegated to different social spheres.
• Body is defined differently based on the different historical time periods.
• However somatophobia in association with feminine is a recurring phenomenon but it
varied in paradigms based on the time.
• The platonic thought was focused on the concern about the state of the
• The medieval times, there was a concentration on the physical aspects of
the body such as pain, death and decay.
• The enlightenment, focused on the transcendence of the mind over body.
• The present day, focused on the biological body, the genetic makeup of
the body and with prolonging life.
• The rise of medical science in the 19th century contributed to the medicalization of
• The key assumption of early medical science was that men’s and women’s bodies
differed biologically and that men’s bodies were standard by which women’s bodies
should be compared.
• Another assumption of medicalization is biological determinism which is people’s
abilities and roles in society are linked to be attributable to their biology.
• Freud’s dictum “anatomy is destiny” as been used to relegate women to gendered
specific roles like mothers, wives etc.
• This lead to women’s health focused narrowly on obvious physiological differences
from men like menstruation, the ability to give birth, lactation and menopause.
• Prior to medicalization, women were the primarily responsible for the health of
themselves and their families BUT medicalization overlooked women’s knowledge.
• Feminism has moved from the transcendence of the body, issues related to sexuality
and reproduction to the affirmation of the body and recognition of body politics.
• The influence of feminism has lead to focus on the relationship between embodiment,
power and knowledge.
Women’s health movement in Canada
• Women’s health movement was parallel and part of the women’s movement as a
• The driving force for the health movement was the way women’s bodies have been
understood historically in western intellectual tradition and the identification of
women’s subordinate social status.