This week’s materials were interesting for me, because I’ve never really taken time to consider the culture of biomedicine before. As was discussed in the lectures, we don’t really see biomedicine as having a culture, because we view at is the scientific truth. We sometimes see it as both universal and objective, but it really is a reflection of our culture as a society. Part of the culture of biomedicine is its history. As stated in the lecture materials, it is a healthcare system that is culturally constructed and amended over time, as with the implementation of germ theory. Additionally, it holds beliefs about dichotomies, uses rituals and symbols, and involves rites of passage on a regular basis. A recent trend in the culture of biomedicine is biomedicalization, where medical intervention is used to enhance the body and behavior. I think it’s important to have an understanding of the culture of biomedicine because it helps put our medical system into perspective when compared to other medical systems.
I think dichotomies are an important concept in biomedicine. They could have arisen over time out of a need to compare and contrast in the medical field. For example, it’s hard to classify something as “healthy” if there is no opposite term like “ill”. Dichotomies help us describe and explain these concepts. However, although they appear black and white at first glance, I feel that dichotomies always have a gray area that is not always taken into account. It’s hard and usually inaccurate to classify something as mutually exclusive of the other.
The dichotomy of male/female is interesting to me because it seems so socially and culturally constructed. As discussed in the lecture materials, some cultures do not draw such distinct lines between male and female, and some don’t recognize any line at all. In my opinion, the male/female dichotomy can be described in terms of sex and gender. Sex is the chromosomes we are born with (although there is some gray area here too, as some individuals are not just XY or XX). Our gender is male or female depending on how we feel and act within a certain culture and society; however, our gender is often assigned to us based on the nature of genitalia. I think there is a lot of room for gray area here too, as gender roles and the male/female dichotomy don’t really allow for hermaphrodites, inter-sexed individuals, etc. This dichotomy is accepted as logical and easy to interpret by some because it’s easy to only looks at a person’s biological appearance and genetic make-up and label them as either male or female.