Gender and sexuality Males and females are classed differently from the moment they are pronounced boy or girl. Gender determines the differences in power and control in which men and women have over the socioeconomic determinants of their health, lives and status in their community. Our society moulds how men and women should and should not behave and can be observed in all parts of our society. As a result of these Gender stereotypes men and women have issues which affect their health which are unique to each gender.
Males for example are perceived to be greater risk takers as a whole in our society than that of females. We represent risk taking behavior with masculinity and violence, high speed driving and contact sport with the male gender. (Doyle 1985) From the time a male first starts to walk many parents will give him toys which promote violence, they will sign their young boys up for rugby league and buy them the computer games which are based on violent behavior. This perception that the male gender needs to exuberate this type of conduct is a large part due to the society we live in and how males are perceived. Women however due to their lighter frames and child bearing needs are deemed to be more delicate and sensitive then that of the male gender and are suited to more subtle and less aggressive games and often play with dolls as children, are not taught to stand up for themselves and are enrolled in sports such as netball and dancing. Traditionally we have lived in a patriarchal society, in which males were assumed to be the breadwinners of the family to hold down a job and support the household.
Women have been characterized as the housewife whom takes care of the family and looks after her husband. This is known as the division of labor, males were seen as the dominant sex purely because they contributed to the family's material well being of the family more than that of the female. (Brett all & Sargent 2005) Only in recent times has this theory started to change with many women now in the workforce. Males still however dominate the participation rates in the workforce as well as occupying the majority of highly placed positions. In 1996 women in the workforce was calculated at 54% whilst males were 74% still a twenty percent difference but a big change from the 48 percent difference in a 1966 poll. (Zadoroznyj, M) This change in the workforce with now many women taking up full time and part-time work has not changed the female's role in the household, in many cases women who go to fulltime work brunt most of the housework and looking after of the children after working hours.
Women in the last thirty years or so have fought for equality among the sexes in all forms. The Women's movement have fought hard to change this socially constructed view of our society. Due to this double burden placed on working mothers there is a far greater demand on their bodies and an increasingly likelihood of illness in many forms as well as psychological trauma such as depression and anxiety due to the constant workload. Females in the past were argued as having a less likelihood of illness because they were not as abundant in the workforce thus giving them more relaxation time. When males retire around the age group of 55 to 65 many of them pass away early due to the dramatic change in lifestyle. They go from five days a week working nine or ten hour days to completely nothing and because they have become so adapted to the working week they change their habits, their lifestyle differs and they develop sickness and health problems.
As health is seen as a holistic concept we also have to focus on the psychological side of health. Mental illnesses affect around one in every three people and an individual's gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness. Women are much more likely to develop mental health problems then males do. The most predominant of these disorders are depression, anxiety and somatic complaints.
According to the World Health Organization women are more likely to be affected buy these illnesses due to gender specific roles in our society such as low income single mothers, gender based violence and a subservient rank behind males in many families. Females are also more likely to suffer from sexual violence then that of males and their ability to bear children is one significant difference which accords for many mental health problems, due to the psychological problems women have whilst carrying and after giving birth to children. (WHO) A problem which has become more and more of a dilemma in recent times has been eating disorders amongst young women. This is a prime example of how our society depicts what we should and should not look like and decides our perspective of health and what a healthy body should be.
This infatuation with body image in our society stems from gender roles in which females were believed to look attractive for their husbands. Still females are viewed as more delicate and attractive beings and the constant advertisement of young attractive models promoting products is a major reason as to why many young girls in Australia and all over the world are experiencing problems illnesses with obesity, bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Bulimia is where someone throws up the food in which they have already digested for rapid weight loss, anorexia is similar except in this disease the individual has an intense fear of gaining weight and in many occasions refuse to eat and have a false impression of their appearance. Many young girls become life-threateningly thin yet still believe they are overweight.
(Burck 2005) The difference in age of death for males and females in our country is a significant point of discussion. Why do women live on average five years longer than that of males? In 2002 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics males on average live up to 77. 4 years of age and females live to 82. 6 years of age. Some theories spoken about earlier such as males in the workforce and die ing soon after retirement due to a change in lifestyle can be taken into account. However health differences which are predominant in males over females due to gender roles is also important to take into account.
The stereotype that males are more aggressive then females is a well established gender differentiation. As a child progresses through life he or she is assigned a gender identity dependent on whether they are a boy or a girl. There is a gender role in our society for either a boy or a girl which is a set of expectations considered appropriate of that gender. (Garret 1992) It is a fact that gender is not completely biologically based. Males and females are different biologically yet these differences do not define how an individual behaves or perceives different circumstances. Our society behaves apparent to social norms, males and females will both observe others behaviors and then imitate them.
Because males are seen in more masculine endeavors such as a computer game hero's, adventurous as depicted in the satirical sitcom the Simpson's and also violent in their sporting endeavors younger males believe this behavior to be the norm and act upon it. Thousands of young males die each year in because of these risk taking endeavors, high speed and drink driving are gender specific health issues in our society. According to the Australian Bureau of statistics in 1996 under causes of death accidents in the age brackets from 15 to 44 males are five times more likely to die due to accidents. This aggressive and violent behavior in which our society pushes towards males is also their downfall in especially these age groups.
(Zadoroznyj 1999) Other patterns in society would be the increased likelihood that males will take less medication then females, they also consume significantly more alcohol and are more likely to smoke and be overweight. These lifestyle habits which are becoming increasingly more common for the male gender are causing critical health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and obesity to be more prevalent. Men are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease if they have diabetes whereas women are 4 to 6 times as likely. Females also have problems with these lifestyle behaviors yet the percentage is much lower studies however have recorded that young teenage girls in the 15 to 24 year old bracket are smoking more than their male counterparts. (Zadoroznyj 1999) Both genders have their own unique health problems due to the differences in the both the male and female bodies. The most common health problems which occur to each gender would be breast cancer for females and prostate cancer for males.
In recent years breast cancer has been a major talking point in the health of women and has become a major health crisis which has been heavily promoted. Prostate cancer which is also a major cancer for males has not got the same amount of exposure and many males in our society don't have a full understanding of the disease, how it can be contracted and what damage it can do. Prostate cancer claims almost as many lives as breast cancer does for women and is extremely dangerous yet very under promoted and advertised in our society. (Doyle 1985) There are many other health issues which are unique to males and females but are far less publicized and in some cases controversial. The problems involving menstruation and vaginal diseases are health illnesses which are not often discussed in our society. These females' health issues are not as prevalent as some other major illnesses and many women feel uncomfortable discussing these parts of the body.
Males also have chronic illnesses such as testicular cancer and cancer of the penis. Males are less likely to discuss these types of diseases therefore cancers such as these are not very well known, not even by many males and an early detection is vital in a full recovery. An example of health problem relating to males which are not often spoken about would be testicular cancer. Testicular cancer is a rare disease which is caused by an abnormal growth of cells in the testicle. This cancer is not overly common in our society, only accounting for one percent of all cancer deaths. The causes of the disease are not known yet it is more common to have the cancer if you have a brother with the disease, if you have fertility problems or if a male is born with an un descended testicle which is usually located in the abdominal region rather than in the scrotum.
(Kessler & McKenna 1978) Females also have many diseases which are not often spoken about and more controversial. One of these is known as Vulvo vaginal which is commonly known as "thrush." It is an inflammatory condition around the area of the Vagina which involves vaginal discharge, burning and soreness. Two thirds of women will have this disease at some stage throughout their lives. This disease is not often spoken about because of the sensitive issues in which it entails. (Beck 1975) Biologically males and females differ but it is through the perception in which societies values have given us which defines both genders. Whether an individual is born a male or a female their lives will be altered due to the way society constructs the meaning of gender and how a male or a female should or should not behave.
Because of these gender stereotypes there are many differences in health problems in our society for males and females. Many problems are biologically based yet there are many health issues which are due to the social construction of gender in our society. References: Burck and Speed. (1995) Gender, Power and relationships.
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