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Chapter 13

Chapter 13 - detailed txtbook notes

Health Studies
Course Code
Michelle Silver

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Chapter 13
Through the Medical Eyes: The Medicalization of Women’s Bodies and Women’s Lives
-Medicalization refers to the process whereby an activity or a condition becomes
defined by society at large as an illness (either physical or psychological) and is
thereby moved into the sphere of control of the medical profession. E.g. habitual
gambling has been regarded by some as a sin, but now it has been described a
psychological illness- compulsive gambling
-Professionalism occurs when an occupational group attains a monopoly over a
certain area of expertise. First the emerging profession must lay claim to an area
of knowledge, and then create a clientele or market for its services. The new
profession must also maintain its power, and also the power of the medical
profession was aided by medicines’ crucially important alliance with science.
- Whatever the case, the medical profession continues to struggle today to maintain
its dominant position by warding off competitors (e.g. midwives, practitioners of
alternative medicine) and by expanding its services into ever-new markets – most
recently, sexuality. Once again, women’s bodies offer a lucrative new territory for
- The issue of who gets to define women’s needs and problems is an important
aspect of power, for that group also gets to determine the solutions.
- When we recognize that the universal male body has been taken by researchers as
the standard for what is normal and healthy, then it is not surprising that women’s
bodies have been medicalized around those aspects that most strikingly
differentiate them from the so-called normal male, thus it is the female
reproductive body, and its various related bodily processes, that have been the site
of disproportionate medical labeling and attention from a masculine medical
- The menstrual cycle is one aspect of the reproductive body that has been
increasingly medicalized over the course of the 20th century. Women , supposedly
weakened by their menstruating bodies ,were to limit activities to the less stressful
private sphere and leave the rigors of public life to their non- menstruating male
- Realistic or not , this contemporary image of successful womanhood involves
juggling multiple roles and responsibilities such as mother, professional, wife,
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