Chapter 1: Our Bodies Our Selves in Context
Women and the Body
Throughout western history beliefs about the body – particularly the difference between men
and women’s bodies have greatly influenced the development of contemporary western
Women’s roles as nurturers and caretakers, and their own messy bodies which menstruate,
lactate and give birth, give way to gendered association of women with the body and men with
The term “Somatophobia” or fear of the body, was heightened in discussions about women’s
Men’s bodies were believed to be ordered and self contained and the standard of the norm that
women’s bodies should be compared to.
Biological determinism; that is, that people’s abilities and roles on society were assured to be
attributable their biology.
The move in feminism has been the affirmation of the woman’s body.
Impetus for women’s Health movement in Canada
Key defining features of the women’s health movement is defined by and shaped in, social,
psychological and economic environments and relationships. Health is a social issue and social
Feminist focused primary on gaining access to formal political system.
They stated that bodies should not prevent women from being able to participate in the
Feminist focused on critiquing the ways in which women had been characterized as less
than fully human by male philosophers and thinkers because of their bodies.
The second wave was a period of social upheaval in North America and European
society, which spawned a host of social movements.
The second wave is characterized as the period of activism dominated by the concerns
of white, middle class, able-bodied, heterosexual women.
The key issues during the second wave are reproductive health issues, violence against
women, sexuality, and issues related to women’s roles in healthcare sector.
The third wave
Many of the issues in the first and second wave remain concerns in the third wave.
Contemporary feminists have become active players in both the development of
women’s specialized health programs and in the development of health policy in
Activism in the third wave is characterized by increased involvement of women in
bureaucratic and institutional structures.
Feminist agendas were reactive to government and institutional agendas.
Challenges for the Future Women’s health advocates still find themselves up against a medical system that is biomedical
in focus and treats women as a set of parts to be fixed by practitioners who alone know what’s
best for women.
More than age and Biology: Overhauling Lifespan Approaches to women’s health
Life course/span perspective arose during 1960’s and different types of scientist use it.
Life course/span perspectives looks into a series of roles and experiences that an individual
progresses through as s/he proceeds from birth to death. Looks into different phases instead of
focusing in a single phases in isolation.
Lifespan approach to women’s health aims to inform and better structure policies that address
the specific circumstance and problems women face at various stages of their lives, as well as
issues that are universal amongst women.
Compared to men, women do have different lifespan and patters of illness.
Evolution of the Lifespan Approach in Women’s Health
There are different definitions of lifespan and different ways of applying depending on the
In the US: the health of women, girls is affected by developmental, physiological, and
In Canada: three life stages. 1) Childhood and adolescence. 2) Early to mid-adulthood. 3) later