Feminism and Women’s Health Professions in Ontario
Gender was used as a criteria to exclude women from professions, earlier. In this paper, we
examine the impact and the role of feminism and feminist ideologies upon female professional
projects through an examination of the dental hygiene, midwifery and nursing professions in
1. Motivated and shaped the nature of the professional projects pursued by women‟s professions.
2. It has helped to create a social context in which the state has become more willing to grant
professional privileges to these professions.
3. It has provided an ideology of opposition that enables leaders in professions to battle against
professional inequalities by laying bare the gender inequalities that underlie them.
Nonetheless, there exists a tension between ideals of feminism–such as equality and
collaboration–and certain components of professionalism– notably, authority, privilege and
inequality. This tension has the potential to undermine these professional projects.
Gender, Professions and Feminism
In accordance with 19 century ideals, Male professionals have demonstrated their rationality,
authority and expertise, in part, through the employment of women to perform the associated
emotional and caring labor.
Leaders in female-dominated professions have also sought to establish a unique market for their
services. They have entered into jurisdictional disputes with allied male-dominated professions,
and sought to defend the sphere of competence they claim as their own.
While the medical profession has long drawn on medical science to lobby against midwifery,
advocates of midwifery and natural childbirth have similarly and successfully drawn on science
to refute medical claims that natural childbirth is unsafe, and to lobby its benefits.
Know the important distinction between liberal feminism (which votes for equality) and cultural
feminism (which emphasizes the traditional traits of women).
The subordinate position of nursing reflects the subordinate position of women in society, and so
improving status requires improving the status of women and altering traditional roles and
Increasingly, nurses claims to broader professional autonomy and knowledge are premised on
both a traditional professional emphasis on science and expertise and a cultural feminist emphasis
on the unique abilities of nurses as women.
Dental Hygiene While nursing was an occupation largely created by women, that became subordinated to the
male-dominated medical profession, dental hygiene was a subordinate occupation explicitly
created for women by male dentists.
Ontario government‟s decision to move the education of allied health professions into the
community college system in the 1970s, had the effect of reducing dentists‟ control over dental
However, dental hygienists were regulated by dentists until the passing of the Regulated Health