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Feminism is a view that examines the world from the point of view from women, coupled with the
belief that women are disadvantaged and undervalued in society. Feminists believe that the majority
of societies and institutions are patriarchal and male dominated. Feminists believe society is
characterised by gender conflict as men seek to protect their dominance and women strive for equal
rights and opportunities.
Feminist approaches to health
The medicalization of child birth
Ann Oakley examined the experiences of women during childbirth in her research and book `from
here to maternity'. Oakley found that up until the 1980s pregnancy and childbirth were seen as
natural processes and consequently there was less intervention from doctors. However Oakley
notes that since then doctors have increasingly medicalised childbirth and pregnancy and taken
control from midwives. Doctors now treat pregnant women as `patients' in need of medical
The body as a social construct
Feminists have long argued that in modern societies the patriarchal media has pressured women to
possess a certain identity and to be thin which can endanger their health by causing diseases such as
eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder.
Chesler says labelling is done by a male dominated profession who are more susceptible to mental
illnesses. If men are emotional they are advised to rest as they obviously have been working too
hard and are mentally exhausted. However if is emotional she is likely to be accused of being hysteric
and on the verge of a mental breakdown and advised to take treatment such as taking drugs such as
Prozac and fluoxatine or go to a mental hospital for therapy.
Gender inequalities in health
Feminists believe that patriarchy in institutions can affect the health of females. The feminist Bernard
found that married women were less healthy than single women. Full time housewives were less
healthy than women who work full time. However married men were healthier than single men.
Bernard says giving up and becoming a full time mother and housewife can lead to depression,
insomnia and nervous anxiety. However her measure of female health was measured by visits to the
doctor which is problematic due to the clinical iceberg.
Oakley says that society expects women to take primary responsibility for childcare and domestic
labour, which can have negative effects on women's health as housework is boring, repetitive,
unrewarding and isolating which can lead to depression.
Duncombe and Marsden say many women suffer a triple burden of being; low paid workers, the
ones responsible for childcare and housework and managing their family's emotions. They get even
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Women's health is more at risk from clinical iatrogenesis they have increased risk of cancer or heart
conditions associated with the contraceptive pill. In Britain doctors recommended the contraceptive
Depo-Provera but this was found to have damaging side effects on women. Women increased use of
mental health services may mean that iatrogenesis is also caused by addiction to anti-depressants
and sleeping pills.…read more