Feminism and the complexities of gender and health

By Helen Keane


Feminist research and activism have made a distinctive contribution to social studies of health and have also had a significant impact on public health policy. Gender is widely recognised as a key driver in the social determination of health and is a well-established category of analysis in fields such as the sociology of health. As a response to Broom, this article focuses on two ways in which feminist social science has complicated the understandings of gender and health which underlie much health policy and research. The first is the framework of intersectionality, which emphasises the interactions between different aspects of social identity and reveals the limitations of a singular or primary focus on gender in analysing experiences of health and ill-health. The second is the critical analysis of health as a regulatory ideal, prompted by the rise of the ‘new public health’ and its emphasis on individual responsibility for risk reduction. Together these critical insights reveal some of the tensions embedded in feminist goals such as improving women's well-being.

Citation: Keane, H. (2014). Feminism and the complexities of gender and health. Australian Feminist Studies, 29(80), 180-188.

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