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Critical Feminist Studies Paper #3: Feminism and Healthcare

kscire's picture

Katie Scire 

Intro Critical Feminist Paper # 3 


                                              Feminism and Health Care 


Healthcare is a system in the United States that could be redesigned to fit feminist ideals. The feminist ideals that we have discussed in class such as equality, independence, and value can bring men and women together on healthcare issues. If healthcare was based on more feminist ideals then the population would benefit. Everyone would be entitled to a certain level of coverage (in that way everyone is equal), the consumers are encouraged to make educated decisions about their well being, and no one would be treated differently because of individuals’ varying ability to provide care for themselves. Current healthcare does not run with these feminist ideals in mind; instead healthcare is partial to certain individuals, fosters complete dependence on care providers, limits information available to the public, and instills a view that the health of certain groups of people, like white working males, is more valuable than the health of other groups, like stay-at-home moms of all backgrounds. In order to have an overhaul in American healthcare, to have the system represent feminist ideals and make it more women and user-friendly, services should “be of high technical quality, be accessible, be affordable, be culturally acceptable, satisfy users’ needs, support and motivate providers” (ICH). 

Related to our class, all women are of value, are equal in importance to men, and have what it takes to be independent thinkers. As healthcare often isolates women from each other based on race or socioeconomic level; all women are put at a disadvantage. By destroying the women’s sense of community healthcare devalues them. Without commonality in healthcare women are easily taken advantage of, are under and misrepresented. Individually, women are devalued because they are told that they are of less importance because of the paycheck the bring home and because of the color of their skin. Women’s lack of equality in healthcare goes with their devaluation. Their career choices are devalued along with their paycheck. Because their career choices are not respected, ex. being a stay-at home mom, they do not have adequate healthcare coverage. Twice as many women, as compared to men, have access to healthcare only as dependents. Women are dependent on their spouses and workplaces to obtain adequate healthcare for them. They  have a much harder time paying medical expenses because of this dependence. More often than not, women are covered through their husband’s health insurance (their husbands are the primary policy holders and these women do not have their names on the policy), or they have no insurance at all because being a stay-at-home mom (or being out of work due to other familial obligations, like caring for an elder) does not allow them access to affordable insurance. Ethnic, low-income, and immigrant women find it even more challenging to get access to regular healthcare. (Feministing)

The large political debates about healthcare are really just coverups for the feminist issue of health care. Health care is a women’s issue because women are much more likely than men to go without the needed care.

The healthcare system in America can be redesigned so that it fits the needs of the people now but so that it also represents how we, specifically women of the U.S., would like it to be. The new system would exemplify feminist ideals; women’s equality, independence and value would be inherent to it. The new and improved, women-friendly, healthcare system is of high technical quality, accessible,affordable, culturally acceptable,  will satisfy users’ needs, and will support and motivate providers. “We have a vision of a world where all women freely make their own decisions regarding their bodies, reproduction, and sexuality-a world were women can fulfill their own unique potential and live healthy whole lives.(FWHC) ” As far as technical quality is concerned, the majority of healthcare provider’s should be able to give the patient access to the most current and advanced medical care. It’s important for women to be able to go to the healthcare provider nearest to them and to be able to access the most advanced tools, technique, and procedure. For example, no woman should go to their physician for mental care and be subjected to trephening (drilling a hole in someone’s skull) or a beating, all in order to exorcise demons out of them. Both of these are examples of outdated techniques and procedures-Individuals will have access to adequate care. Affordability will also be central to the new and improved system of care. Even if a person cannot get health insurance they are still entitled to reasonably priced services. All providers will have to price necessary procedures and care, like annual exams vs. cosmetic concerns, at the lowest possible price. Women won’t be isolated from one another and the community at large just because they receive healthcare because everyone will be receiving it. When the new healthcare system is in place there will be a culture of wellness in which prevention is of high importance. Healthcare will be a way of life for people; so that medicine (care) is culturally/socially acceptable. 

As diverse as each individual so are the care options available to them. A patient should be able to chose whether they prefer more traditional care in a clinic or more progressive care offered in a large hospital practice. When healthcare is of high technical quality, accessible,affordable,socially acceptable, and helpful to patients the care providers will also be rewarded. The providers know that they are providing top-notch care and making a significant contribution to their area. 

Now that everyone has equal coverage healthcare providers have no reason to discriminate between patients ( the providers don’t have to worry about not getting paid) and as a result will provide better care.  Individuals will recognize that everyone’s health is of the same value and they will look out for themselves and advocate for their own care. Better care from providers will give patients a more substantial foundation so they can judge health information for themselves.  Better care will snowball into better health of the population- people will live “healthy whole lives” and have more time to reach their unique personal fulfillment. 









Works Cited

Ann. "Health care is a feminist issue." Feministing. 16 Sept. 2008. 6 Dec. 2008 <>.

MacKeith, Nancy. How to Make Maternal Health Services More Women-friendly. 2001.

"Welcome to the Feminist Women's Health Center." FHWC. FWHC. 6 Dec. 2008 <>.

Paper 3.rtf7.85 KB


Anne Dalke's picture

Re-visioning Health Care


You chose a topic here that we haven't touched in class--offering quite an important extension to our discussions. I learned some things I didn't know (such as that twice as many women as men have access to healthcare only as dependents). And I found myself puzzling over other claims--such as that women are more likely to go without care than men are--which run counter to what I thought I knew. What is your source for that assertion? The 2004 National Healthcre Quality and Disparities Report claims, for instance, that

  • Women receive better care than men for 18 percent of measures, worse care for 22 percent, and comparable care for 59 percent.
  • Women tend to receive better preventive care for cancer and cardiovascular disease than men, while men tend to receive better treatment for end stage renal disease and heart disease.

Along with such specific queries,  I have two more major questions in response to what you argue in this paper. I don't disagree @ all with your vision of universal, equitable health care--it sounds like a dream! But it has the quality of a dream, too: a story that has never been realized. Why is that? Why has the system you envision not happened already? What has prevented it? How could it happen? Most importantly: how pay for it?

My second question has to do with why you see this as a particularly feminist--rather than a more generally humanist--initiative. Your discussion of the "healthy whole lives" that the entire population could enjoy under your re-envisioned system, and the "unique personal fulfillment" it would enable for all doesn't sound woman- or gender-specific. How/why then do you call it feminist?