The Functionalist Parsons argues that if a person is ill they have 2 rights: don’t have to go to work or do domestic duties and needs to be cared for, while not being blamed for their illness. The ill person also has 2 obligations: to get better as soon as possible and not prolong illness to avoid work/ school, as well as taking medicine and treatments. His idea of health means that the process of being sick can be managed successfully by society and stigmatisation is seen as vital to ensure people take as little time off as possible to maintain a healthy society.
One criticism of this viewpoint though is that not everyone who becomes ill adopts a sick role and some may not go to the doctor. This is linked with gender, as men are less likely to go to the doctor. Marxist feminists would also argue that the process of curing the sick person supports capitalism, especially for women who provide their husbands with the sexual and emotional fulfilment, so they keep working. They also argue maintaining women’s health ensures they give birth to the next generation of workers.
In addition, capitalism can be viewed as exploiting women, as a huge profit can be made from weight loss programmes, anti ageing products and cosmetic surgery. As the media influences women to look a certain way, this also causes women to feel the need to conform and spend money on appearance. This is also linked with emotional well being, as due to this pressure, some women may have low self esteem or even depression if they don’t look the ‘right’ way. Feminists in general state that as contraception is aimed at women, this can be unfair, as it has potential harmful side effects.
Also they argue that the majority of nurses and midwives are women, but that they have lower pay and status than doctors and surgeons who are mostly male. Furthermore, the medicalisation of childbirth has meant pregnancy and childbirth are seen as medical problems rather than a natural process. They believe male doctors see these as medical procedures to be controlled and regulated, which is demonstrated by an emphasis on hospital rather than home births. Therefore from their perspective, health is seen as unfair to women. In conclusion, the study of gender and health is wide and debateable.
For example, Feminists argue that women’s health is influenced by patriarchal society. They believe that women have too much responsibility and as men do not share the responsibility, women can have emotional issues and physical problems. However, the Functionalists viewpoint of health does not address gender differences and therefore suggests that there is no gender bias. However, Marxist feminists’ belief that capitalism is the reason for the disadvantages of women’s health also is another idea to consider, as it claims that the bourgeois make money from their health through diet programmes for instance.
However, it could be argued that men also have pressure to diet and stay looking younger. The feminist viewpoint overall can be undermined, as women tend to live longer than men. For example, men having more dangerous jobs could be seen as unfair, as women may be protected from hazardous jobs in the army or navy for example. Simultaneously though, women may feel they are capable of these careers and that lack of these job opportunities is unfair. Furthermore, as women tend to look after children and may suffer from the triple shift, they may have emotional health problems.
This again Reverts back to the definition of health, as some might argue that health is just a lack of disease. However, overall women visiting the doctor more often than men is an important aspect of gender and health. This is because socialisation for instance has meant women may feel more able to discuss medical problems openly and therefore get treatment for a medical condition, while men may be too embarassed. Also as women usually have more time to visit the doctors, they may become cured quicker.