Who's Worse Off? Quandaries in the Study of Gender and Health.
from 05:30 PM to 06:30 PM
Professor Ellen Annandale
Department of Sociology
The question ‘who is worse off, men or women’, encapsulates the dominant approach to gender and health research in the medical and social sciences and within health policy and practice today. In this lecture I will explore why research is framed in this way and the negative consequences it has had for the kind of research questions that are asked, the research findings that have been generated, and the approach that has been taken to the healthcare of women and men.
The traditional way of thinking about gender as binary difference within the social sciences, and the increasingly competitive nature of ‘women’s health’ and ‘men’s health’ advocacy within the policy sphere, coalesce to pit the health of men and women against each other in a bid to ascertain who is ‘worse off’ in terms of life expectancy, in the state of their health in the course of their lives, and in terms of their access to healthcare and the kind of care that they receive. This way of thinking also nurtures the rapidly growing ethos of ‘gender-specific medicine’ in its dogged search for biological differences between men and women .I will argue that the supposition of binary gender difference is misguided and that ‘who’s worse off?’ is now the wrong question to ask when studying gender and health. I will explore a different approach which starts from the premise that the lives of many women and men today are not only highly complex but laced with contradictions whereby binary gender difference has not so much been supplanted as combined with diversity as men and women are multiply positioned as subjects in the present market economy, with significant implications for ‘health lifestyles’, health status and healthcare.