Activity 5 – HIV/AIDS and The Feminist Theory – Claire Walker

For my final post, I am going to discuss the spread of HIV/AIDS amoung Ethiopian woman because of gender inequality, lack of available healthcare, and sexual violence against woman and children. 380 thousand woman are living with HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, 170 thousand children have contracted HIV/AIDS through birth and 900 thousand children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. The spread of HIV/AIDS amoung women shows a lot about the extreme gender inequality in Ethiopia and is spreading even faster than tuberculosis and malaria.

HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest problems for women in Ethiopia and this is largely to do with the huge equality gap between men and women. With this in mind, I have chosen to look at this problem through the lens of the Feminist Theory.

The feminist theory goes hand in hand with feminism. Feminism is not the idea that woman are better than men and need more rights, which is sadly what many people believe, the feminist theory looks at how gender effects a situation. One of the major questions associated to the Feminist Theory is whether inequality exists specifically because of gender and whether it is household or statewide inequality. Kathy Davis, in her paper on the feminist theory and intersectionality, stated that one of the biggest goals of the feminist theory is studying how gender affects the availability of healthcare and medical research groups. The feminist theory was built by three major waves of feminism. The first wave was suffrage feminism, followed by the anthropology of women, and lastly the idea that gender and sexuality are not straightforward concepts. The feminist theory does not simply concentrate on the equality of women; it also considers the inequality of gay and transgender people. The feminist theory fights the idea of “normalcy” in medicine and society. Davis also talks about the need to reject the idea of normal in medicine and psychiatry. By setting an idea of normal we are perpetuating prejudice against at least one group of people. The Feminist Theory often teams up with other anthropological theories, especially evolutionary and critical medical theories to allow a wider area of thought.

In pop culture today, one of the most influential voices of feminist theory is the Scottish singer Annie Lenox. Her openness about the feminist theory often reflects the views of feminist anthropologists. Just like every anthropological theory, feminism is not a one size fits all theory. The feminist theory must take into account gender, gender ideals in a specific place, societal standards, sexuality, views of sexuality, and discrimination. The feminist theory cannot be applied to America as it can be in Ethiopia or other parts of Africa. The feminist theory cannot be applied to two diseases the same and has a hundred different factors to take into consideration.

The Feminist Theory is the best theory to analyze the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia because the disease is a product of gender inequality. Sexual violence and intimate partner violence allow the spread of HIV/AIDS and then gender inequality limits a woman’s ability to receive treatment. More woman and children die from AIDS compared to men in Ethiopia because more studies have been done on the effects of HIV/AIDS on men than on woman. There are already organizations with a base of feminism that are working in Ethiopia to provide available and stable medical care for woman in all parts of the country. Ethiopia is very obviously a patriarchy, most of the time women are not allowed to work outside of the home and a woman’s life is decided by her husband. If Ethiopian society can be seen through the lens of the Feminist Theory, many health issues could be solved by social equality reforms.

Davis, Kathy. “Intersectionality as Buzzword: A Sociology of Science Perspective on What Makes a Feminist Theory Successful.” Sage Journals 9, no. 1 (2008): 67-85. doi:10.1177/1464700108086364.

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