Additional Authors Eldridge, Laura. Seaman, Barbara. Notes An unprecedented and definitive collection of rabble-rousing writings on women's health, Voices of the Women's Health Movement explores a range of provocative topics from reproductive rights to sexuality to motherhood. Trail-blazing advocate Barbara Seaman and health activist Laura Eldridge bring the revolutionary ideas of several generations together in this powerful new book celebrating women's bodies, and women's voices.
With Voices of the Women's Health Movement, for the first time, every woman and girl can experience in one place the powerful history of stirring words and strong female perspectives that have inspired countless women to take control of their health and their lives. Women's Health Cognitive Praxis For women to reclaim control of their own health, it became necessary to construct more empowering forms of knowledge.
As Short 16 noted: The Foucauldian perspective concludes that medical knowledge could be constructed in a different way The critical [feminist] perspective, in contrast, argues that health knowledge should be reconstructed in a more democratic way'. The argument here, based on a study of the Women's Health Movement in nine Western countries Hunt , is that the informing ideologies of the Women's Health Movement - feminism, empowerment, and the social model of health - have facilitated and directed the reconstruction of women's health knowledge.
The outcome, as Short suggested it should be, is more democratic and empowering than the women's health knowledge which accompanied the rise of the medical profession. One [Australian women's health worker in Hunt's 58 study described her jmazement at the level of ideological commitment she found when she first began Corking at a women's health centre: When there was serious conflict, the ideology is always what is referred to.
When I first came here I was amazed. One day there was a query. The desk drawer opened and out came the constitution. I thought 'My God!
I have never worked in a place where the constitution is actually a living document that is used' - and it was! It says, no, look here, sorry, it doesn't fit, we won't do it. Dnsequently, some clarification of the concept is warranted for the purposes of this ilysis of women's health workers' cognitive praxis.
Eagleton cites sixteen ssible definitions of ideology, some of which are positive, others negative. Positive pfinitions see ideology as the medium through which people relate to social structure. Beology, in this sense, is an explanatory schema which brings meaning and value to cial life. Negative definitions of ideology Eagleton are concerned with fusion rather than illusion. To avoid the negative implications of the concept of logy, some social scientists prefer to use the term 'discourse'.
In Eagleton's view, though, social analysts have been too quick in abandoning the concept deology because it may be used to distinguish between more significant and less ficant discourses in the multiple narratives of society. As gender is central to iv.
This "? This they have done by drawing on the feminist view that personal experience is important. As a consequence, consciousness-raising has become a preferred feminist method of developing new constructions of knowledge about women's lives. Epistemologically, consciousness-raising differs markedly from the scientific methodology which pervaded the development of medical knowledge for it relies on women's experience as a valid source of knowledge.
As a method, consciousness-raising is almost identical to Friere's process of 'conscientisation' which begins with personal experience and leads to a critical understanding of inequalities in the social context. The emphasis on personal experience quickly led the second-wave feminists of the s to an analysis of that most intimate of experiences - consciousness of the body. As the Boston Women's Health Book Collective 3 noted, without first addressing the embodiment of women it is impossible to tackle the wider feminist agenda for social change because: 'body education is core education.
Our bodies are the physical bases from which we move out into the world; ignorance, uncertainty - even, at worst, shame - about our physical selves creates in us an alienation from ourselves that keeps us from being the whole people that we could be'. This new view of women's bodies viewed biology not as a limitation but as a personal resource.
A good example of the promotion of positive images of women's bodies is the ongoing work of the Boston Women's Health Collective which has published successive editions of the original Our Bodies Our Selves in many languages, dedicating part of the profits to women's health causes. Features of the production of women's health knowledge reflect the informing ideologies of the Women's Health Movement Hunt Feminist principles are revealed in the collective manner in which much women's health knowledge is generated. A key strategy is to create woman-space or what VanderPlaat 25 calls 'communicative space Similarly, the acceptance of self-help and complimentary healing knowledge in, for example, the realth pamphlets of the Leichardt Women's Health Centre in Sydney, Australia, empowers to the extent that alternative knowledge provides opportunities for choice.
Ihe processes used in women's cognitive praxis give voice to women's own health issues rather than professionally defined health concerns. This raises questions about Definitions of health knowledge and their purpose. Most women's health knowledge is Iterated in response to immediate concerns. Reflecting an action research Lcproach, the information is modified in the process of production to suit local circumstances and the nuances of women's diverse needs.
Such knowledge, therefore, challenges traditional exceptions of scientific methodology.
I look at it So it is much more And I don't see them as being weaker or more neurotic than men which a lot of health professionals do. It is readily apparent that this worker has developed for herself a process similar to Friere's 'conscientisation'. As the health worker observed Hunt 77 , the process is very empowering: The relief that you can see when women realise 'it is not me that is bad' This is a result of what has happened to me, and this happens to lots of other women.
They have the same result. It is like suddenly - from being the only person who feels so lousy you are suddenly connected to these other women. It is a huge connection. You are not alone anymore. And the feelings that you have, that you just assume are you, once you name them to that woman, it is like suddenly It is incredibly empowering.
What emerges is, that part of the day-to-day work of women's health workers involves using new knowledge about old issues to empower women with new perspectives: It is like turning the light on and showing her what it is that she already has. So, for instance, if you've been in a relationship with an alcoholic for fifteen years, that woman thinks of herself as useless and can't do anything, and she is unable to turn it around and look at the fact of how strong she must have been to stay in that situation for fifteen years.
Hunt 77 Like Friere's 'conscientisation', the ultimate aim of linking individual problems to social causes is to make the personal political, and to open up the possibility of social change.
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As one Australian health worker put it: 'We can give them skills so that they can evaluate whether or not the treatment they are getting elsewhere is OK, and be more assertive about if Hunt Without the possibility of changing the system, at least by educating individual women and hoping that, like a snowball, the ideas will get bigger as they roll through society, the task of women's health workers would lack purpose.
This was perceived by an Australian women's health worker: 'I wouldn't work here if I just saw it as being directly for the women that we saw. Apparent here is the political nature and intent of women's health workers' role in the reconstruction and use of new forms of knowledge about women's health and well-being. The outcome of cognitive praxis in the Women's Health Movement has been political as well as academic because, as Foucault 59 observed, power is woven discursively into the fabric of our daily lives: 'Power is not possessed, it acts in the very body and over the whole surface of the social field'.
Thus, power is not exterior to Knowledge: it is a condition of its existence. If knowledge can be used to sustain power over relationships it can also be used to create power for particular groups. The construction of new ways of thinking about women's health, and resistance to the disempowering features of medical discourse become political acts, of a kind noted by Foucault , who observed that, 'We have to promote new forms of subjectivity'.
Conclusions This paper has sketched the role of the Women's Health Movement in the reconstruction of health knowledge. As a consequence, feminist cognitive praxis in the Women's Health Movement must be described as feminist reconstructions plural of health rather than a singular notion of the construction of women's health.
Kellogg Foundation, is a place-based approach to reducing infant mortality. BBZ uses the concept of small neighborhood zones to engage residents and local community organizations in identifying opportunities for collaborative action that will improve neighborhood conditions so everyone can thrive. The BBZ serves as a catalyst and convener to bring together resources with community vision to create neighborhood-led initiatives that link health services, early care and education, economic development, and community systems [ 2 ].
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The BBZ model does not focus on doing work to a community but rather on working in partnership with the community on projects that are resident-designed and led. A collective impact effort to improve reproductive health could be achieved by marshalling the expertise, resources, and networks of other public health sectors, including chronic disease, infectious diseases, tobacco prevention and control, community clinics, health equity policy, planning, environmental health, violence prevention, and early childhood education. Life course theory creates a space for public health leaders to work across sectors to better engage diverse partners in this effort, while maintaining a sharp focus on the importance of preconception health and reproductive planning as a shared endeavor.
Intermediate steps can be taken to expand the MCH imperative into the purview of these sectors, beginning with cross-informing and strategically using existing resources to model incremental, multi-sector programmatic change. As Petersen [ 10 ] commented. Leadership is about creating and communicating a shared vision for a changing future and while one of the bulwark features of MCH is its endurance… it is the vision that endures while the means and the methods of achieving that vision evolve over time, populations and circumstances p.
Significant movements focused on social determinants of health would benefit from engaging with MCH professionals and consumers. The MCH field can engage in this important work by describing the clear connections these efforts have with preconception health, life course, and reproductive health equity.
To make a meaningful contribution, the MCH workforce must commit to learning about these issues, especially in terms of state and local efforts and policy. In addition, MCH professionals would benefit from training in adaptive leadership, which mobilizes people to tackle difficult root causes of a problem. Challenging and innovative work is required if we are to capitalize on our current moment in time.
For example, we can begin immediately by focusing on protecting the political voting power of women, students, and people of color. As part of our MCH work, we must ensure, in a nonpartisan manner, that all of our clients are registered to vote and are encouraged to exercise that right in local, state, and national elections. Clients should be reminded that every vote counts and that they should engage with and vote for candidates who represent their political, economic, and social interests.
Our responsibility is to help clients understand that civic engagement is one way they can improve health, gain economic power, and achieve reproductive justice in America. We can find ways to promote voter registration and share nonpartisan information about the issues. We can ask candidates to share their opinions on key reproductive health and MCH issues during bipartisan debates and discussion forums. What else can we do? We can foster community dialogue by screening thought-provoking documentaries such as The Raising of America www.
MCH professionals can document the effects of lack of access to health care, lack of affordable childcare, and lack of sick leave on health outcomes. We can identify topics receiving attention in our community based on current events and policy challenges, and make a commitment to developing a depth of knowledge about at least one new topic area.
Voices of the Women's Health Movement
In our personal time, we can engage other sectors in our lives e. Using our skills in building partnerships, we can align with the efforts of other groups such as Moms Rising www. Such joint efforts might include creating learning communities at work that meet over lunch to share information and perspectives on various issues. Further, as MCH professionals build new partnerships, we will collectively increase our leverage locally, statewide, and nationally to win transformational policy, program, and system changes.
Although it remains imperative that public health professionals respect the boundaries of their employers regarding speaking out at work, we might be restraining our voices more than necessary. Without crossing these boundaries, we can still raise topics in meetings; educate public officials about our issues; and demonstrate to county commissioners the positive or negative impact of local business practices, zoning laws, and public budgets on the health of women and children.
We can use the Health in All Policies approach that forces leaders to evaluate if new policies and program initiatives move toward health equity or sustain inequality, whether inadvertently or intentionally [ 12 ].
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