Feminist theory and health psychology: Tools for an egalitarian, woman-centered approach to women's health
Psychology and the social health sciences are central to and must be at the very core of a woman-centered women's health movement. Particularly if one is interested in a feminist (in the sense of woman-centered) approach to women's health, an egalitarian relationship between disciplines seeking to advance the field is critical. Women in medicine hold a high status degree and powerful social role, but this is a mixed blessing. It comes at the price of considerable extra baggage. I explore two negative aspects of medicine's extra baggage: (1) an implicit theory, biological primacy, is central to much of our training (at least at elite, research-oriented institutions) but is antithetical to feminism, and (2) the ways we cope with trauma, our privileged social role, and structural aspects of many of the institutions in which we train and practice all tend to interfere with our ability to deliver humane, compassionate care and to join in egalitarian efforts on behalf of women's health. Cognitive, emotional, and structural barriers to health care reform within medicine must be addressed if physicians are to join in egalitarian efforts to advance women's health. Finally, I argue that feminist scholarship and the social health sciences provide critically needed tools for conceptualizing and implementing humanistic change in women's health care research and practice. As in earlier reform movements, women leaders of the new (women's health) movement-coming from diverse health-related fields-will improve health care for all people, male and female.
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