The “culture of biomedicine” explains health in terms of biology. As we learned in lecture, it emphasizes the importance of body structure (anatomy) and body systems (physiology) in order to maintain health and treat diseases. It is also made up of a system of dichotomies such as nature/culture, life/death, etc. Biology alone does not explain illness.  Biomedicine is a culturally constructed system meaning that it can also take into account non-biological factors (politicis, economy etc.) and is influenced by society. This means that the culture of biomedicine is culturally accepted and changes with time. For example the mass production of antibiotics and germ theory are both influenced by cultural aspects. As stated in lecture, it is one of the most influential cultural institutions in western society.

From what I understand and was taught (from previous sociology and anthropology classes), a dichotomy is a distinct separation between two things/objects and you’re either one or the other, there is no in-between. As defined by the dictionary, a dichotomy is a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities (Merriam Webster). I wouldn’t say that dichotomies are non-existent but there are a lot of things that have been made dichotomies that aren’t. For example sex (biologically determined); you are either male or female and whichever you identify with comes along with responsibilities and expectations based on societies standards with that sex (gender roles). However, gender isn’t seen as a dichotomy in some societies because we have transgendered people and people who have abnormal genitalia that are born with both, how are you supposed to classify them in this so called dichotomy? These people would fall in the middle of being both and in dichotomies there is no such thing as an in-between. I think dichotomies were put into place to create hierarchies and to give organization (including gender roles). I think my views on dichotomies came from my experiences growing up in American society in general. When you’re little you’re taught you are girl (or a boy) and because of this you should play with girly toys (or boy toys if you’re a boy), you should wear a lot of girly colors like pinks and purples etc, you should be a lady and cross your legs when you’re sitting, and the list goes on. From the time you are born you conform to societies standards of how a boy/girl should act when they wrap you up in a pink or blue blanket based on your sex. It is something that is ingrained in our heads from the time we take our first breath.

I think the male/female dichotomy is accepted logically/naturally/ and true in American society is because we have gender roles, which are constructed by, our culture based off of the male or female sex. There are obvious physical distinctions between males and females but as I stated earlier there are transgender and people who are born with abnormal genitalia and have both. There are females that have high testosterone levels, from a hormonal imbalance making them have manly features and males that have high estrogen levels, from a hormonal imbalance, making them have girly features. So there are problems with this dichotomy because some people are not distinctly one or the other. These sorts of people usually chose gender roles based off of the sex they identify with. However, for the most part people identify as one or the other socially and culturally regardless of their physical characteristics determined by biology. It is astonishing how important the male/female dichotomy is in American society. As I stated earlier from the time we are born, we conform to societies standards of how a boy/girl should act when they wrap you up in a pink or blue blanket based on your sex. These sorts of gender roles that come along with a person’s sex carry on throughout life in American society. Men typically work tough, hard working; greasy, etc jobs and women typically work the not so strenuous jobs, for example a desk job. This also poses a problem to the male/female dichotomy because there are exceptions to the gender role concept that is associated with sex. Some men work less strenuous jobs and some women work the hard working jobs. As I stated earlier I think this dichotomy is accepted because we have gender roles associated with it and it gives organization/categorizes people. As we learned in lecture Sex is by no means a straightforward biomedical category (explaining the issues with this dichotomy) and non-biological factors (culture, society, politics etc.) influences how people are treated based on their sex and gender.



Merriam-Webster. “dichotomy.” Merriam-Webster. Accessed July 28, 2014.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Hannah Porter says:

    I agree with your post that there are many gender roles in todays and that this dichotomy can be evaluated in many different ways. It is important (now more than ever before) for a clinician to understand this dichotomy because people are no longer referring to themselves as just strictly male or strictly female. There are many different ways in which an individual can characterize their sex and gender, and if the doctor takes this dichotomy as truth it could not only cause extreme embarrassment for both the patient and medical professional but could affect the patients treatment. For example even though someone physically appears to be male they could identify themselves as more female and possibly have elevated levels of estrogen, which could potentially affect certain treatment methods. The same could be said in reverse with a female who identifies herself as more masculine. Also medical professionals want their patients to be comfortable and trust them to treat their illnesses and having a doctor who understands the male/female dichotomy can better provide this level of comfort and trust with their patients. If patients feel respected and comfortable with their doctors it will allow them to be more willing to seek treatment right away and not delay and let feelings of apprehension/embarrassment prevent them from promptly taking care of their health concerns.

Leave a Reply