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Amber Chrischilles

Dr. Perez

GWS 220W Section 1

7 February 2017

Reflection #1: Social and Historical Constructs of Gender

How little do we really know about the social and historical constructs of gender and

their impacts on our daily lives? Taking this class has already started to open my eyes up to the

reality of these constructs. I am beginning to try to understand the effect of biases and privileges

imposed on people by relating class reading to answer newly formed questions.

The first question deals with the understanding that these biases can be subtly imposed

upon others through scientific work. How does the language of science inform definitions of

gender? The articles, The Egg and the Sperm and The Ethics of Genetic Research on Sexual

Orientation begin to help answer that question.

One of the main things I realized while reading the article by Emily Martin, The Egg and

the Sperm, was how much of an impact language used in school textbooks can have on creating

biases and definitions of gender for students. Martin pointed out how the language used in these

books created a negative view and degraded the importance of a female’s part in reproduction.

Martin states, “One clear feminist challenge is to wake up sleeping metaphors in science,

particularly those involved in descriptions of the egg and the sperm” (p. 13). As students are

learning about scientific processes, biases and stereotypes are integrated into these concepts

which can affect and shape their attitudes and beliefs towards gender in all aspects of life,

furthermore hindering the view of women.


It became really clear to me how difficult it is to produce unbiased scientific work,

especially in researching gender in the article, The Ethics of Genetic Research on Sexual

Orientation. Everyone has their own biases which affect everything they do, whether they intend

it or not. This article stated, “It is unlikely that the sexual orientation research of any scientist

(even one who is homosexual) will escape some taint of homophobia” (Schuklenk et al, p. 47). It

had never occurred to me that scientific findings in this age could still be tainted with biases and

affect their findings. People often accept science because it seems solid and undeniable, but it is

important that we scrutinize scientific findings to make sure they do not define gender in a biased

way.

Lastly, the articles Women and Medicine and CDC, NIH, ACS, FDA- Alphabet City, help

to answer a question about the dominance men have even in medicine. How has biases toward

males affected female’s health and medicine across the globe? This is a question that has

influenced women since medicine began to develop, and its impacts are still felt today.

It is apparent that men have dominated many spheres in society including health and

medicine. David Arnold stated in his article, Women and Medicine, “In an essentially male-

oriented and male-operated system of medicine, women appeared only as adjuncts and

appendages to the health of men” (p. 80). This article then went on to explain how in countries

such as India, it is uncommon for women to seek medical help from hospitals, even when

delivering their children. Western medicine and ideas are trying to change these standards and

offer medical help towards women, but in some cultures, the dominance of men still affects

women’s privileges and access to needed medicine. This not only inflicts their human rights but

affects their life span and quality of a healthy life.


Even in medicine, our society’s focus has always been on males, ignoring the health and

importance of female’s lives. In the article, CDC, NIH, ACS, FDA- Alphabet City, Andrea

Densham stated that, “Until 1994, nearly all medical research and diagnostic categories were

based on male subjects (not unlike nearly all other medical research, including cancer research)”

(p. 136). When I read that statement, I was dumbfounded because it was insane to me that

scientists would overlook female subjects because our bodies are obviously different and may

require different treatments. This bias negatively impacted and continues to impact women’s

health because we are lacking progress or advancement that could have been made.

In the beginning stages of studying the effects of the social constructs of gender, I have

already learned how scientific language can form gender stereotypes and how dominance of men

in medicine has negatively influenced women’s health. Before reading this material and

participating in class discussions, I had not realized the connection between the continual bias

throughout history of women and the struggles that women are still faced with today. The

changes of medicine and science throughout history have often showed us that we cannot accept

all information as absolute. Yet in society, we still have the tendency to blindly accept such

information which can negatively impact such things as the constructs of gender.

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