Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Feminist Analysis of Contemporary Women’s Health: Bringing Marginalized Women to the Center

What does it mean for women’s health to be a national priority, particularly for socioeconomically disadvantaged women and women of color for whom state intervention has historically taken the form of oppression, regulation, and punishment, and who often suffer disproportionately worse health outcomes than their more privileged peers? As this question suggests, contemporary women’s health is fraught with contradictions. Drawing attention to marginalized women’s health issues is at once risky and necessary. This work attempts to answer this question and navigate these contradictions by employing two central insights drawn from feminist bioethicists, feminist health activists, and sociologists of medicine. First, that health cannot be understood simply as a good in need of more equitable distribution. Health is a contested concept whose meaning has been profoundly shaped by social realities. As a result, health and medicine have been sites of troubling normalization and regulation. Second, that poor women and women of color have seen their health issues obscured, even within the feminist women’s health movement, and continue to suffer worse health outcomes than their more privileged peers. Attention to these two contradictory insights is essential to any effort to address marginalized women’s health needs without incurring the kinds of problems long associated with institutional intervention in the lives of poor women and women of color. This work outlines the principles of a feminist analysis of women’s health. A feminist analysis considers the roles played by 1) the social construction of health, 2) new paradigms of health, 3) structural variables, and 4) political power in determining how and for whom contemporary women’s health works. Applying these factors, it analyzes several issues: drug use during pregnancy, food stamp soda bans, the occupational health of domestic workers, and postpartum depression. In analyzing these issues, it considers the possibilities for an empowering and inclusive understanding of women’s health.