'Feminist Health' course suggests disease is 'subjective'

Toni Airaksinen
Contributor

  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is offering a course on "Feminist Health Politics" this semester that explores whether health and disease are "subjective states" determined by societal biases.
  • The course will examine how standards of health "vary according to gender, race, sexuality, class, and nationality" and how this affects "the way we value certain bodies and ways of living."
  • The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is offering a feminist-themed health class this semester that aims to debate the social construction of disease.

    Feminist Health Politics is offered by the school’s department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and taught by Svati Shah, who also teaches classes on Feminist Theory, LGBTQ Social Movements, and Gender and Sexuality. 

    "We will examine how health becomes defined, and will question whether health and disease are objectively measured conditions or subjective states."   

    “What is health? What makes health a matter of feminism? And what might a feminist health politics look like? These questions lay at the heart of this course,” the course description explains. 

    [RELATED: MA university brings social justice to health sciences]

    The course explicitly takes the social constructionist approach to health, explaining that students “will examine how health becomes defined, and will question whether health and disease are objectively measured conditions or subjective states.”

    Students will also learn how standards of health can be used to oppress racial minority populations, according to the course description. 

    To this end, the class will focus on “why and how standards and adjudications of health vary according to gender, race, sexuality, class, and nationality; and how definitions of health affect the way we value certain bodies and ways of living.”

    The class will also explore “how knowledge about health is created; how environmental conditions, social location, politics, and economic conditions affect health[…]and how experiences of health and illness have been reported and represented.” 

    [RELATED: NYC health official: ‘We must name racism as a cause of poor health’]

    Though the course is offered by UMass-Amherst, registration was open to all students in the Five College Consortium, which also includes Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and Amherst College. 

    The Consortium offers other feminist-inspired classes, as well, including “Sissies, Studs and Butches,” which aims to “challenge Western, hegemonic and inherent legacies of masculinity,” and a course simply titled “Transgender.”

    Campus Reform reached out to Svati Shah for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    Contributor
    Toni Airaksinen is a New Jersey-based Campus Reform contributor, and previously served as a Senior Campus Correspondent. Her reporting focuses on campus First Amendment, Title IX, Equal Opportunity, and due process issues, and her stories have been profiled by numerous outlets including Fox News, The New York Post, PBS News, and The Washington Examiner.
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