Women's Health: Minds and Bodies in Socio-Temporal Spaces


The west prides itself on the progress that has been made regarding women's rights over the past 50 years, and rightly so. Compared to other societies women are living the dream - it's hard to complain about many gender inequality issues in Australia after watching both the child bride and child sex worker videos.
This being said, it was interesting to see that we may not be as liberated from gender stereotypes as we sometimes perceive in the 'forward thinking west'.

Our own perception of different genders can immediately influence how we recognise babies to behave as demonstrated by the experiments from the book Pink Brain Blue Brain. The group of mothers judging how steep a slope their child could crawl down - guessing correct to one degree for their sons and underestimating their daughters abilities by 9 degrees- perfectly complemented a piece of wisdom presented a few slides later:

Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge– Andrea Dworkin

As an Australian I can see how women are slowly freeing themselves from this idea. As a woman of Middle Eastern descent however, I can still see elements of this philosophy blatantly inherent in my ethnic culture. Personally, I have always been encouraged whether it is through my education or family life to follow my dreams, travel, seek knowledge, and peruse independence and all those other things that will make someone a well-rounded woman. This being said I still have a 12.00am curfew at age 19 - go figure.

Women's Amazing Bodies


I’ve always been very closed minded about the idea of female athletes performing as well as men athletes. While I do believe a female can be better than a male at a given sport, it was my assumption that the best female will never be as good as the best male given our physiological make up. While this statement could be held as truth in some contexts I now realise that the matter is much more complicated than I ever comprehended.

Whenever a female athlete’s sex was questioned in the Olympics I never really gave it much attention, maybe even thought there was validity in the query – as it was unfair to other participants who worked hard but ultimately would not be able to compete with physiological elements of the athlete in question.



images.jpeg


While there is some point in this train of thought, I now realise the error in my ways. After reading the article ‘are you female enough?’ for the Olympics I realised the dreadfulness of undermining a fellow woman’s ‘femaleness’ just because she performed as well as a male in an athletic event or has elevated levels of testosterone. I cannot imagine the public humiliation as well as hurt these women would have to endure as a result of their unprecedented success – who would have though. They should be celebrating, not defending themselves! They should be celebrated, not attacked!

I’ve never given much thought to the sex v gender argument but now I realise there is a very important distinction: after all ‘One is not born a woman, but one becomes one’... – Simon de Beauvoir


Women's Bodies in Social Spaces and Gender Inequalities Globally

Adam and Eve – A Christian Perspective.

During the lecture we briefly touched on women in Christianity. While there are so many angles I could take with this I will concentrate on the creation of man and woman as equals (or unequals as many believe).

While I understand why someone may interpret woman in a subordinate position to man from the story of Adam and Eve, as a Christian I do not feel this way nor do I believe that women were created as lesser in the eyes of Christianity or God

As in the lecture sides, eve was named ‘Woman’ ie wo-man meaning from man. However, just because she came second doesn’t make her lesser:

1 Corinthians 11:11-12
In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Furthermore, I was always taught the Eve was taken from Adam’s rib (mans side) to show she is on level with her husband –not above and not below.

While the bible does say that Eve will be Adam’s helper this does not necessarily put her in a subordinate position to him. I mean think about it, don’t you like helping out your loved ones? That doesn’t make you second to them; it makes you a loving/caring person. Instead oft thinking of it as a subordinate position, Eve’s creation can be seen as the creation of man and woman to complement and benefit one another. In a way this can be compared to equality and equity. Just because something isn’t the EXACT same (equality) doesn’t mean it isn’t fair (equity).

Unfortunately the way humanity interprets and applies biblical teachings does not always lend to such ideals. Thus creating the decline of women, which I would argue is not the intention of Christianity or Religion, however it can’t be denied that some influence does exist.

The Fashion Industry and Body Image - Impact on Women's Health


Fashion Industry and body image. What is the first thing that comes to mind? The first that comes to mind is Kate Moss and her famous motto:
katemoss.jpeg


‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’
These words have been immortalised in thinspo/pro-ana history.
Just google it - see what comes up. Page after page of ‘thinspo’ blogs. Here are just a few:

http://prettythin.tumblr.com/

http://i-wanna-see-my-bones.tumblr.com/

http://gonnabeperfectt.tumblr.com/

Clearly her words have only further fuelled the behaviours of naïve young girls on their quest to be ‘stick thin’, at any cost.

While I have known about this saying for quite some time I was not aware that she followed this motto with the statement that “You try and remember, but it never works.” While she says it never works as you cant remember it (so she says), it seems that a community of weight loss seeking adolescents have capitalised on her ‘wisdom’ and have dedicated the saying to their weight loss aspirations - they seem to be able to remember it just fine.



The 'Right' Time to Have a Child: Fertility Patterns and Reproductive Health

I never realised how damaging teen pregnancy could be to a child. The long list of disadvantages posed to the children of adolescents as stated in the lecture is quite worrying. But in a world where it seems like girls are growing up faster than ever before it was promising to see that teen pregnancy was on the decline not rise in Australia.

It’s interesting to see that USA, a developed country like Australia, has more than triple the number of teen pregnancies. I must admit I was quite shocked at the difference. I was reminded of a clip in an American movie:











It never occurred to me that Americans may actually, not just humorously, take this approach to sex education but after googling the topic I realised it was a common form of sex ed in the US. Whole most people are pro a proper balanced sex education the government only funds three projects which take a strict abstinence approach to birth control.

In an effort to highlight the issue such programs as 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom were broadcast, however this only seemed to glamorise teen pregnancy. See for yourself:













Gender and Work: How does it work?


Gone are the days when men were the breadwinners while women stayed at home to raise the children. The only true value of a woman being her beauty or domestic prowess. Instead we now work, look after the children and the housework!

Fortunately most men have stepped up and started to lend a hand given that breadwinning is now shared.

There is even a TV series about it, House Husbands, and it's an addictive one at that!


686509-house-husbands.jpeg



With the changing face of the work force, I as lucky enough to have a hard working mother that has been an inspiration to me. My family falls under scenario 2 (both my parents work) of the traditional gender-based roles in families as they relate to the current construction of the labour market

Since I can remember my mother has been working her butt off – balancing both family and work life, with the help of my father (didn’t have any extended family to help as she migrated from overseas though).

While I can’t imagine myself doing half a good a job as her, I feel blessed that I have a woman who leads by such great example in my life! She taught me that I can have a successful career while also looking after my family so for this I will always be grateful!



Women and Domestic Violence


My mother worked in the DV sector so my exposure to domestic violence began at a young age. She would take me to work with her sometimes if she couldn’t make other arrangements. I would sometimes see the clients but at such a young age didn’t understand what was going on around me.

While age should have provided more clarity, the DV world is still something that I still didn’t completely understand. Why stick around if you are being abused?
While I understood there were economic implications, fear of escalated violence from the spouse that may play a role I could never really grasp the idea of someone sticking around because of helplessness.

Admittedly, as I’m not exposed to it generally I don’t give it much thought but it did come to my attention after the infamous Chris Brown, Rihanna saga.


4415.jpeg


While I think it was gracious of Rihanna to forgive Chris Brown for his mistake I found it hard to understand why she let him back into her life. Below is a link to her interview with Oprah that provides some clarity:









It seems that many women who suffer DV think the same way and are also inclined to stick around because they are in love, much like Rihanna has admitted.


Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Women Across

One day, some time down the track, I hope to be married so it was lovely to see that House keeping Monthly have a publication called Ref: The Good Wife's Guide (May 13, 1955)

Excited to see how I might one day make a man very happy I began to read:


good_wife.jpeg



“Have dinner ready. Prepare yourself. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. Clear away the clutter…run a dust cloth over the tables.

Some Don'ts: Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he is late for dinner. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Listen to him: You may have dozens of things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first. Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or other pleasant entertainments."

Wait, what?! Thank God I was not born in the 50’s. I admire the woman of the 50’s. While they may have not behaved in this exact manner I imagine their lives would have been somewhat similar to this. . Its no surprise women were relying on self medication to calm themselves down! While i don't count myself as a feminist as such, this unit has made me increasingly grateful for the feminist movement. Thanks to the feminist movement, our lives are no longer confounded to the home and pleasing our male counterparts. Instead, we are able to chase our dreams and experience life to the fullest. With all the advances already made on the feminist front, I look hope for day when there will no longer be any gender inequality



The Health and Well Being of Lesbians

Given that homosexuality is often attacked in the public arena I wasn't too surprised to hear that rates of anxiety and depression are higher among lesbians then their heterosexual counterparts. Reasons for this depression and anxiety can be from rejection from family members, abuse and violence, being treated unfairly from the legal system, hiding aspects of ones life and lacking health insurance. Below is a video from beyond blue, a non for profit organisation which is working to address issues associated with depression and anxiety:




How effective was that?! When I initially watched the video I didn't know what Beyond Blue was campaigning for. I was dumfounded that being left handed was something people got bullied for - had I not already known about beyond blue's organisations mission, I may have thought it was a joke. The comparison was excellent - everybody has met a left handed person in their lifetime and we would not think twice about treating them different over something that they cannot change (or 'choose'), so why should it be different for lesbians! Hopefully this add reaches a wider Australian audience and has a positive effect on the treatment of lesbians. It's time society realised that as heterosexual or homosexual (or whatever else someone may identify as) we are all inherently the same - just normal human beings.



The Healthy Ageing of Women


The lecture took are large focus on the healthy ageing of women in regards to lifestyle (diet and exercise), physiology (menopause) and disease. All of these are very important for the healthy ageing of women however through the feminist women I have been introduced to this unit, I discovered another important factor – mental health.

In previous lectures I have seen quotes from Gloria Steinem and chose to look into more of her work. I found an interview on YouTube that highlighted an interesting element to the healthy ageing of women.

Gloria speaks about ageing in a society that values women as potential child bearers and the impending irreverence for ageing women. See below (0.45 to 2.00):











I’m sure such an obsession with youth hood could do lots of damage to an older woman’s self esteem; just think about how beauty marketing has capitalised on the fascination with all of their ‘age defying’ beauty products.

Gloria spoke of women dealing with this socially by becoming more radical as they get older because they lose power (in stark contrast to men who get more conservative because they gain power).

I just thought this was another interesting element in the discussion of women ageing healthily. Also, I do believe that we should learn to better value older women in our society alongside celebrating youth hood.



National and International Perspectives on Women's Health

I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to get to do an assignment on FGM through a different subject. Here is a heart breaking real life story regarding the practice or FGM:

Zainab (22) was infibulated at the age of 8:
"My two sisters, myself and our mother went to visit our family back home. I assumed we were going for a holiday. A bit later they told us that we were going to be infibulated. The day before our operation was due to take place, another girl was infibulated and she died because of the operation. We were so scared and didn't want to suffer the same fate. But our parents told us it was an obligation, so we went. We fought back; we really thought we were going to die because of the pain. You have one woman holding your mouth so you won't scream, two holding your chest and the other two holding your legs. After we were infibulated, we had rope tied across our legs so it was like we had to learn to walk again. We had to try to go to the toilet, if you couldn't pass water in the next 10 days something was wrong. We were lucky, I suppose, we gradually recovered and didn't die like the other girl. But the memory and the pain never really goes". (WHO, 2012)


9a99b1940cfe11e28e5722000a1e8abd_6.jpeg



FGM is usually attributed to cultural or religious practice however the issue is much deeper than this and the practice can be seen as an encourager to the continued oppression of women. It's comforting to know that there are global health promotion initiatives aimed at combatting this problem Not only for the benefit of these women but as a protest to the oppression of women in general.