the keyword search

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Gender

by Jason Lee

 

Keywords: gender-based health, gender binary, biological determinism, social reductionism, neoliberalism, health disparities, masculinity, femininity, structural inequalities

ABSTRACT

Over the past several decades, gender-based health has gained more attention among academics concerned with how dominant medical discourses have excluded women as well as gender/sexual minorities. Women’s health, in particular, emerged as a field to examine how biological, sex-based differences have contributed to health disparities that women experience. More recently, a growing body of clinical research has also gone beyond reproductive health and breast health to analyze how women and men have differential health outcomes even for “gender-neutral” parts of the body (Annandale and Hammarström 2011).

 

Expanding the scope of gender-based health, scholars also have focused on how men could also be subject to health disadvantages. Specifically, research in men’s health has underscored how gender-based health differences are not just biologically derived but also socially embedded in terms of masculinity. This shift aligns with how gender theory in Western countries has evolved to examine the social and relational dimensions of gender (Bottorff et al. 2011).

 

Although the integration of sex and gender into medical research is important in addressing how health inequities have risen due to gender-based inequalities, conflating sex and gender as well as focusing strictly on the gender binary reinforces biological determinism. Additionally, while recognizing the effects of masculinity and femininity on health-related behaviors is important in characterizing gender as a “social determinant of health,” assumptions made about such behaviors could also be a form of social reductionism (Annandale and Hammarström 2011).

 

In light of these shortcomings, this paper aims to critique neoliberal ideas that have centered on individualistic and deterministic views of gender and health while obscuring the effects of structural inequalities. Although recent studies have moved away from the gender binary to explore a wider range of gender and sexual identities (Restar et al. 2021, Reczek and Umberson 2012), there is also a need to also look beyond Euro-American discourses of gendered differences (Patil, 2013). Using a transnational framework, this paper will highlight how recognizing and understanding non-Western theorizations of gender and sexuality is key to further elucidate the relationship between gender and health from a decolonial perspective. 

 

References

 

Annandale, Ellen, and Anne Hammarström. 2011. “Constructing the ‘Gender-Specific Body’: A 

Critical Discourse Analysis of Publications in the Field of Gender-Specific Medicine.” Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 15 (6): 571–87. 

 

Bottorff, Joan L., John L. Oliffe, Carole A. Robinson, and Joanne Carey. 2011. “Gender 

Relations and Health Research: A Review of Current Practices.” InternationalJournal for Equity in Health 10 (1): 1–8. 

 

Connell, Raewyn. 2012. “Gender, Health and Theory: Conceptualizing the Issue, in Local and 

World Perspective.” Social Science & Medicine 74 (11): 1675–83.

 

Dutta, Aniruddha, and Raina Roy. 2014. “Decolonizing Transgender in India: Some Reflections.” 

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly 1 (3): 320–37.

 

Hammarström, Anne, Klara Johansson, Ellen Annandale, Christina Ahlgren, Lena Aléx, Monica 

Christianson, Sofia Elwér, et al. 2014. “Central Gender Theoretical Concepts in Health Research: The State of the Art.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 68 (2): 185–90. 

 

Patil, Vrushali. 2013. “From Patriarchy to Intersectionality: A Transnational Feminist Assessment 

of How Far We've Really Come” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 38 (4): 847–67.

 

Read, Jen’nan Ghazal, and Bridget K. Gorman. 2010. “Gender and Health Inequality.” Annual 

Review of Sociology 36 (1): 371–86. 

 

Restar, Arjee Javellana, Jennifer Sherwood, Alberto Edeza, Candice Collins, and Don Operario. 

2021. “Expanding Gender-Based Health Equity Framework for Transgender Populations.” Transgender Health 6 (1): 1–4. 

 

Reczek, Corinne, and Debra Umberson. 2012. “Gender, Health Behavior, and Intimate 

Relationships: Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Contexts.” Social Science & Medicine 74 (11): 1783–90.

 

Verbrugge, Lois. 1985. “Gender and Health: An Update on Hypotheses and Evidence.” Journal 

of Health and Social Behavior 26 (3): 156–82.

Jason Lee

Rice University '21

MRD | Research Lead & Project Manager