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Women's Health

Diane S. Shinberg


Women's health encompasses physical, emotional, and social health and well-being associated with female reproductive and sexual development over the life cycle, or any medical condition more common among women. The sociology of women's health includes the study of gendered politics within medicine, medical training, doctor–patient interactions, self-care, illness behavior, and health care utilization. Women's health can be more broadly construed to include the relationships between gender inequality (gender as a social institution) and health, even among men. The pervasiveness of biological essentialism, the ideological emphasis on biology as the explanation for apparent differences between men and women, is one reason women's health is such a broad and dynamic area of sociological study. Gender inequality – the social constraint, devaluation, and oppression of women – historically has been justified on the basis that the female sex status is frail with respect to anatomy, physiology, hormones, development, sex, procreation, and, most recently, genes. The use of biomedical authority in theories regarding the fundamental differences between the sexes supports the pervasive belief in women's biologic vulnerability as “the weaker sex.” Such ideology has had social consequences, for example, as manifest in barring women from pursuing higher education because intellectual activities ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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