Chapter 5 Women’s Health in Context: Gender Issues
Relations of ruling – Dorothy Smith used this term to emphasize how social processes are structured by
the powerful in easy that shape our consciousness and our practices.
Dichotomies – refers to distinctions made between two parts that are understood to be distinct and quite
Nature and Nurture
There have long been debates in the social sciences about what is biologically determined and what is
socially constructed, argument often characterized as nature versus nurture.
In briefly reviewing the issues in the debates, this section seeks to make three basic points.
o First, there is no simple dichotomies between the physical and the social or even between women
o Second, namely, that all health issues are women’s issues while recognizing that there is
significant differences among women and no clear boundaries among genders.
o Third, bodies still matter and there are broad similarities among women related to their bodies
that must be taken into account even while acknowledging that there are a host of other factors
that shape bodies in variable easy.
Traditionally in the social sciences, sex is used to refer to bodies.
Based on review of the term’s usage, Johnson et al. conclude that, sex ‘is a multidimensional biological
construct that encompasses anatomy, physiology, genes, and hormones, which together affect how we
are labeled and treated in the world.’
Gender, on the other hand is ‘a multidimensional social construct that is culturally based and historically
specific, and thus constantly changing.’
This notion of sex has helped us explore differences between women and men that go well beyond those
linked to reproduction.
In short, there is no simple dichotomy between sex and gender, between bodies and their social and
Simple dichotomies also limit our notions of sexuality and the binary division implied by
Contexts and the Factors the Shape Health
There is a broad consensus that all determinant of health influence health, although not all government
include gender in their lists vary somewhat among governments.
There are three interrelated problems, though, with these factors are often understood.
o First, these determinants are frequently seen as independent variables rather than as
o A second and related problem has to do with the profound inequalities in power, not only among
individuals but also among groups, that set the context for these factors
o Finally, all of these factors are profoundly gendered.
Healthy Child Development
According to the website for the Public Health Agency of Canada, ‘new evidence on the effects of early
experiences on brain development, school readiness and health in later life has sparked a growing
consensus about early child development as a powerful determinant of health in its own right.’ Supports for pregnant mothers have also improved, perhaps most importantly, women have won the
right to paid maternity leave.
Once pregnant, maternal health is obviously a critical concern for future child health as well as for the
women: ‘By international standers, Canada ranks among the best in the world in maternal and child
One reason is our public health system, which provides services without charge and of high quality
making them broadly accessible.
However, both poor women and Aboriginal women have disturbing rate of maternal and infant
Nevertheless, almost all women get public care even if it may be distance from the relatives and friends
who can provide care.
Although maternity-care services are important, they are not only factor in maternal and child health.
Exposure to environmental contaminants in our food, water, air, household, and paid workplaces can
have negative consequences for a mother and the fetus she carries.
Men also contribute to the health of the mother and the fetus, although much less attention is paid to the
The health of the sperm matters, bit we have only limited research on the factors that may make male
The kind of suppo