Gender, health and theory: conceptualizing the issue, in local and world perspective

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Jun;74(11):1675-83. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Public policy documents on gender and health mostly rely on categorical understandings of gender that are now inadequate. Poststructuralist thought is an advance, but relational theories of gender, treating gender as a multidimensional structure operating in a complex network of institutions, provide the most promising approach to gendered embodiment and its connection with health issues. Examples are discussed in this article. A crucial problem is how to move the analysis beyond local arenas, especially to understand gender on a world scale. A relational approach to this question is proposed, seeing gendered embodiment as interwoven with the violent history of colonialism, the structural violence of contemporary globalization, and the making of gendered institutions on a world scale, including the corporations, professions and state agencies of the health sector. Gender is seen as the active social process that brings reproductive bodies into history, generating health consequences not as a side-effect but in the making of gender itself.

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia
  • Concept Formation*
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men's Health*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Women's Health*