Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico

Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico

Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico

Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico


Kaja Finkler explores the relationship between patterns of social interaction, cultural expectations, and gender ideologies. In Women in Pain, she examines the nature of sickness and its interaction with issues about gender and gender relations from both a historical and contemporary perspective.


In this book, I write about unknown, ordinary women in Mexico who come from the poorest strata of Mexican society. the book is about their lives and how their lives are intertwined with their experience of sickness and health. Although there are myriad books about women and women’s lives, to my knowledge there are no books on the lives of women within the context of their experience of sickness.

This book emerges out of my extensive research in rural and urban Mexico on diverse anthropological concerns, including peasant economic and political activities, gender roles, sickness, and ways of healing, especially as practiced by Spiritualists and physicians.

During studies spanning twenty years, I lived with various families, participated in their daily lives, trained as a Spiritual healer, and maintained ongoing personal contacts with numerous families from many levels of Mexican society. My continuous friendship and ritual kinship relations gave me the opportunity to observe closely women’s daily lives and social interactions as well as to witness their anguish and pain. I spent countless hours talking with women of all ages in different stages of their lives about issues that concerned them most—namely, how to sustain their households and feed their families. They spoke about their worries concerning their children and their futures, about their relations with mates and parents, and about their health.

During two years of intensive research on Spiritual healing (1977– 1979)—as an observer and apprentice to the healers—I watched women healers at work. Some of these women were also leaders of men and women in their capacity as heads of Spiritualist temples. I noted that the majority of the healers, and a majority of their patients, were women.

Later, when I carried out a two-year intensive study of biomedical practice in one of the largest hospitals in Mexico City (1986–1988), I found that the majority of patients seeking treatment there were women. My findings, showing that the greater proportion of patients were women, do not identify an isolated phenomenon. in fact, in both industrializing and industrially developing nations, morbidity is more common among women . . .

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