For my health issue about the effect of the Zika outbreak in Brazil on women’s health, I chose to focus on Feminist Theory. Feminist theory is a theoretical perspective regarding anthropology that aims to look at how gender impacts anthropological issues. It also aims to look at if and how there is inequality present in anthropological issues that is specifically related to gender.
One of the main questions Feminist theory asks about medicine is if there are gender inequalities in regards to receiving healthcare or information and if there are gender based barriers to care. This is one of the main problems with Brazil’s response to the Zika virus. In Brazil there are inequalities to receiving healthcare for women, because abortion is not legal. Due to this some women try to get abortions using unsafe, black market methods such as getting medications that induce abortions. These methods are incredibly unsafe, and can lead to women being injured or dying. If they are dying, some go to the hospital where they can be jailed if it is found out that they did use an illegal abortion method. This illustrates the inequalities in receiving healthcare, because men can also go to hospitals for wounds that they might have inflicted on themselves, but they would not be jailed. There is also not a lot of information on ways to get a safe abortion if one is necessary, which is another inequality in regards to getting medical information due to gender.
Another question Feminist theory asks about medicine is if one gender has a worse outcome than the other in any areas of medical concern. This is a large issue in dealing with the Zika virus because only women have permanent and long-lasting consequences to getting the Zika virus, because they can pass it on to their fetuses. Men who get the Zika virus do not face these kind of issues and the symptoms for the virus are very low in healthy adults. This is an issue that very strongly disproportionally affects women more than men due to these consequences.
Another issue that Feminist theory highlights is the issue of intersectionality and how it might affect gender inequalities. There is a “focus on identity and difference that has become the merging focus of feminist anthropology… there is a focus on social categories such as age, occupation, religious, status and so on” (Dominguez et al.). One of the main issues with Brazil’s response to the Zika virus was how it “perpetuated and in fact increased gender, social and health disparities” (Harris 2016).The Zika virus epidemic in Brazil highlighted the intersectionality of gender and health disparities. It also exposed the large wealth and income disparities among women in Brazil. In Brazil there is a very large wealth disparity between the higher income and lower income people. During the Zika epidemic, lower income women were less likely to have access to many of the health facilities and procedures that higher income women were able to afford. Procedures such as contraception, abortion, Zika testing and amniocentesis were less accessible by lower income women and therefore showed the intersectionality of gender and socioeconomic status in Brazil.
Dominguez, Johnna, et al. “Feminist Anthropology.” Department of Anthropology, anthropology.ua.edu/cultures/cultures.php?culture=Feminist Anthropology.
Harris, Lisa H., Neil S. Silverman, and Mary Faith Marshall. “The paradigm of the paradox: women, pregnant women, and the unequal burdens of the Zika virus pandemic.” The American Journal of Bioethics 16.5 (2016): 1-4.