Male/Female

When we examine the “culture of biomedicine”, we examine all the factors that play a role in the development of biomedicine. For instance, in lecture we learn that the culture examined in biomedicine is outlined using the institutionalization of biomedicine, the language of biomedicine, and the rituals of biomedicine. It’s important to consider culture when examining biomedicine because despite biomedicine being focused on biology and scientific-based fact and experiments, culture outlines why we base our medical system on biomedicine, how social ideals influence treatment of patients and prevalence of biomedical symbols, such as the hospital, how ideologies in western culture outline the way we perceive medicine should be, who should be the key-holders of biomedicine (doctors, etc.), and proper ways to manage one’s body.

Dichotomies are one of the cultural concepts present in western biomedicine. Basically, dichotomy is the social separation of two groups because they are seen as opposite. It’s hard to explain why dichotomies exist, because in our culture they appear as just basic logic information. If you’re breathing, you’re alive, if you’re not, you’re dead. If you’re prescribing medication or examining someone, you’re the doctor, if you’re receiving the treatment, you’re a patient. I feel like the creation of dichotomies in our culture reflects on the reliance of scientific fact that biomedicine relies on. Basically, it’s saying if you’re not one, you have to be the other. One of the most culture-based dichotomies is the difference between male/female. The dichotomy of male/female has been separated in both a biological and cultural sense. For example, sex is based on biology; males have penises while women have vaginas. Culturally though, there are sets of values and social norms that are categorized with each. Men are masculine, women are feminine, and a combination of the two is socially unacceptable. I think biomedicine has to do with why the male/female dichotomy exists, and why we see it as true. As stated previously, our culture believes that biomedicine relies on scientific fact, and males and females are seen as having everything different from biological factors to social factors. Because of American’s reliance on biomedicine, since the male/female dichotomy was created in the realm of biomedicine, we expect that it is true and based on pure scientific fact. For example, if you look at vitamins, most brands have one set of vitamins for men, and one set of vitamins for women. This is implying that the nutritional needs of women and men are opposite. Another example is shampoo. Certain shampoos are directed at men, while some are at women. Hair removal lotion is promoted to women, hair growth remedies are promoted to men. The clear separation is endless in every aspect of our society.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Breanna Ramsay says:

    I think you bring up a good point in talking about biomedicines role in why the male/female dichotomy probably exists and why we see it as true. Dichotomies themselves are present quite a bit in biomedicine. Such as life/death, mind/body, etc. I think this heavy reliance on biomedicines definitions of male/female, which usually is based on sex, is why there is confusion often as to what gender means. I have learned in one of my epidemiology courses while discussing questions on surveys that often times people have the idea that sex and gender are the same thing when they are not. Our strong reliance on the biomedical system and the way the male/female dichotomy it is presented to us by doctors and people working closely with the biomedical system reflects our beliefs on its meaning and implications for how we use it when describing our sex or gender. I think it is very important for doctors to distinguish the difference between sex and gender as well as how the male/female dichotomy fits into these constructs. In other cultures there isn’t such a clear cut dichotomy of male/female and in the categories of sex and gender there are often many ways to describe variations of male and female.
    When the dichotomy of male/female is taken as fact and that there can be no variation in it, it opens the door to misunderstanding and cultural incompetence. People born not fitting exactly into the male or the female category have the chance of being stigmatized or facing other problems of not feeling like they fit in in the future. As for the cultural incompetence, if the belief that a person must be male or female with no variation of either, than that gives little room to accept other cultures beliefs that there are variations that describe a person who, for example, is born with male and female body parts.

  2. Carrie Blackwell says:

    Your view on dichotomies was very enlightening. Your point of how you either have to be in one category or another is a very good way of representing or talking about dichotomies. The male/ female dichotomy is an interesting yet very straightforward dichotomy to analyze. First off, most everyone can easily recognize the difference between the two. In more cases than none, there is a clear line whether someone is male or female. Your point on how male/female dichotomy on how they differ by not only a biological senses but also a social and cultural sense represents the clear differences in the dichotomy. Just like you stated, a biological part of being a man is having a penis and a biological part of being a women is having a vagina. The difficult part about identifying either side to the male/female dichotomy is if a biological defect is present. For example, there are some cases where a male looks and feels as if she is truly female. The difference is that her chromosomal make-up is that which represents a male’s chromosomes. This is called Swyer syndrome.
    It is important for clinicians to understand this dichotomy because under normal circumstances the biological and cultural differences affect the health of patients. There are higher risks for some diseases if one is a male or if one is a female. Clinicians also need to cater towards the psychological needs of each side of the male/female dichotomy.

  3. charet22 says:

    I find it very interesting that as scientifically and socially “advanced” we are as human beings as a species that we even have hot topics such as this up for discussion. One would think that the line would have been clearly drawn in the sand with regards to life / death, sick / healthy, male versus female. However it is due to our advances as a social species that has led to ambiguous definitions that still leave scientists and the lay community at large scratching their heads.
    It is essential for a medical practitioner to be sensitive to this particular dichotomy and you’ve made several valid points. The concept of sex being what one’s physiology reflects and gender being the social association one identifies with. With this being such a complicated dichotomy, it almost makes treating patients as clear-cut male vs. female almost impossible. Being able to distinguish gender based on outward appearance may be complete incongruent with the gender that individual identifies with. Consider the cases of individuals with trisomy XXY or YYX in which was the outward appearance of a patient may be entirely different from the internal physiology they may have, how does one as a medical practitioner even begin addressing the patient on a social level let alone determine what the proper course of action is to treat the patient, especially if it is a sex-oriented issue?
    With this dichotomy being a social issue in nature, you would think the proper way to deal with this issue as a medical practitioner would be to ask the patient either direct or when they are filling out their forms which gender they associate themselves with. Although the lines can be blurred, it’s easiest to air on the safe side and be as politically correct and sensitive to a patient’s feelings as possible

  4. Meredith Joseph says:

    The dichotomy of male/female is clear cut in our society, as for what makes a male and what makes a female. But what if someone does not fit into these guide lines for a male or female. What if they physically look male, but emotionally feel they are a female. What you said in your blog about society knowing the strict difference between males and females is true, but with such medical advances our society and doctors need to know about those who do not feel they fit into one of these specific dichotomies. It is important for doctors to explain that sex and gender are different because this dichotomy is mixing sex and gender together. Sex is the biological make up of someone while gender is based on social rolls made up by society. Today many gender rolls are being broken, but people still fit into a male or female sex roll most of the time. I think doctors need to be more aware and accepting of those who do not feel they fit their sex and or gender. The dichotomy of male and female should be based on sex, the biological make up of someone for doctors sack. Getting gender rolls mixed in makes things confusing especially when there are culture differences involved.

  5. Ashley Start says:

    I think it is very important for clinicians to understand the dichotomy of male versus female when dealing with patients. Although male and female are thought to be completely separate sexes, there are cases of people being born as both sexes, which do not neatly fall into the male versus female dichotomy. Many people also do not identify as being the gender they were assigned at birth, so it is also very important for doctors to be sensitive towards this topic and respect the patient’s identity but also provide the necessary healthcare for whatever condition the patient is facing. It is also important for the clinician to understand the different conditions that can only be faced by either males or females, such as low testosterone or menopause. Many clinicians are specialized in either male or female care (such as gynecologists and obstetricians) and are understanding of this dichotomy between male and female patients. Many more old fashioned clinicians are not aware of transgender individuals who do not identify as their gender assigned at birth and may be not as sensitive to the issue as people who are more aware of these individuals would be and it is very important that these clinicians understand this dichotomy.

  6. sarah rousakis says:

    Really enjoyed your post. I believe that the dichotomy between male and female is one that is usually seen as very straightforward and easy to distinguish, however, from reading your post, it is evident that there are a lot more factors that determine whether someone is a male or a female. Men are seen as masculine-strong, aggressive, unemotional etc., while women are feminine-sensitive, passive etc., and when a person deviates from these characteristics, they are often seen as being abnormal. Being able to distinguish male vs. female based on appearance alone can be very difficult in people with certain genetic disorders. In the case of Kinefelter syndrome, these people either have an extra X chromosome in males or a Y chromosome in females. This causes them to have distinct physical features of the opposite sex such as in females with XXY, they will have small or almost no breast tissue, be tall and broad, and will be infertile, while still appearing to be female. So it is very important for clinicians to be able to understand this dichotomy because for those who do not fit the predefined mold of male and female, they can be judged and misunderstood. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and not criticized or judged based on what they were born with and how they look on the outside. Understanding the variations within this particular dichotomy will make people better clinicians.

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