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Social constructions of femaleness in writing about cancer

, : Social constructions of femaleness in writing about cancer. Qualitative Health Research 11(4): 464-476

This article uses a qualitative content analysis of writing about cancer since 1900, with numeric summaries from Medline/PubMed searches, to propose that there is an implicit reliance in biomedicine on the idea that femaleness is pathological hence carcinogenic. Numeric summaries of rates of use of search terms for men and women and their sexual attributes are a backdrop for text sources that illustrate a greater tendency to see women in sexual terms and pathologize aspects of femaleness. This even extends into more frequent use of the term estrogen than testosterone in exclusively male cancer sites such as prostate and testicle. The analysis suggests that female focus and pathologization of femaleness come from social sex differentiation, heterosexual bias, and objectification of women as sex objects. This may be detrimental to both women and men because these social constructions may have focused cancer research on social classifications that are not physically relevant.


PMID: 11521605

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