Behind Closed Doors: Gender, Sexuality, and Touch in the Doctor/Patient Relationship

By Angelica Redleaf; Susan A. Baird | Go to book overview

1 Gender

GENDER: the fact or condition of being a male or a female human being, esp. with regard to how this affects or determines a person's self-image, social status, goals, etc.

Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, 1994

Just what is gender and how does it affect us? How does gender affect people in other cultures? What is the impact of gender on the health-care relationship. These are the questions on which this chapter will focus.


GENDER AND CULTURE

Our Gendered World

The first thing a doctor says about a newborn child is "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" The first thing people ask about a young child is its gender. And gender is the first consideration in selecting infants' clothing, much of which is manufactured in gender-specific baby blue or baby pink.

We, in our society, rarely write, speak or think about someone without acknowledging or considering his or her gender. Take heed, the next time you run across a description of someone in an article or a book: One of the first things described, if not the first, will be whether that person is male or female. Notice, the next time someone is being described to you: Is femaleness or maleness among the first attributes listed? And when you describe an individual, is gender one of the most important of the attributes you list?

Gender is often the most important piece of information upon which we base our decisions and assumptions. Yet psychologists say we all have masculine and feminine aspects to our personalities. Some of us, regardless of

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