When we discuss the “culture of biomedicine” we are explaining health in many terms of biology and emphasizing the importance of learning about body structures and systems in order to treat diseases and maintain health through institutional history, language, and rituals (Lecture 5.1). This is an important concept because it draws on how things came to be, how these facts change, how we view our social values and ideologies, and also allows us to investigate the daily lives of patients and medical professionals during their rituals and customs in the clinics (Lecture 5.1). All this allows anthropologists to better understand humans and how medical intervention, cultural, and ideas change things.

I have not had a lot of experience with dichotomy before this lecture except when discussing a little of it in my ISS class. The definition that comes to mind is something split into two whole parts that do not overlap. I like to think of them as opposites of each other such as good/bad, right/wrong, on/off, Et cetera. These views have come from my family, my educational institutions, and also from the westernized culture I live in. They have taught me these things as a part of growing up and learning new things. I do believe the views and that dichotomy separates information and parties into different entities.

The dichotomy I chose was male/female. This is accepted as logical and true in the Westernized society. The way we categorize males and females is mostly by physical characteristics such as genitalia, but also by the social roles they play in their society. These days, roles are changing and individuals are even creating gray areas in certain dichotomies. Transgender is an example of this. People are changing from male to female and female to male through surgeries and hormonal supplements. As time progresses, new boundaries will have to be made or they will have to dispose of this dichotomy all together.


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  1. Haley Macko says:

    I think it is important for clinicians to understand that the male/female dichotomy isn’t as straightforward as it appears. Biological sex has been constructed as binary opposites, as two opposing, non-overlapping and distinct categories. Society then assigns people as male or female at birth based on their reproductive functioning or sex which has a profound impact on gender roles. Mistakenly, our society is inclined to teach the gender role that is stereotypical of the individual’s anatomy. Males are associated with masculinity and females with femininity. Moreover, medical doctors understanding and treatment of intersex patients are informed by this gender ideology that society needs a clear distinction between males and females. Reasons include for the family, for intersex individuals to be accepted as members of society, and to prevent cultural anxiety. But I think it is critical that clinicians recognize that gender roles should be expressed as desired by the child, and not the family or medical doctors because this process of developing gender identity impacts the psychosocial development of the child. And until recently intersexed genitalia, or having biological qualities of each sex, was seen as a medical problem and a common fix was to correct a baby’s gender through surgery. However, a consequence of clinicians determining the gender and then rectifying it surgically is that people may reject their assigned gender. And this may result in isolation from peers, desire to live as person of the opposite sex and depression. Therefore it is important for clinicians to recognize that this male/female dichotomy only creates a barrier between those that belong to a category and those that don’t. Furthermore, gender can be expressed along a continuum from feminine to masculine. Some cultures even have 3 or 4 genders. For example, India recognizes a third gender, hijras, defining them as neither men nor women.

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