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My mother was a nurse, always called on when the neighbor’s child fell out of a high chair, woke up with spots or red eyes or had a fever. But, like others with whom I’ve talked whose parents offer health care services, I learned to feel that sickness was a weakness. I grew to feel ashamed of being sick; to have to rationalize and justify my own indisposition or to ignore or hide it. Through this, I learned that sickness and health were not biological events only but were constructed out of a web of social relations and meanings. And I developed an interest in the social-psychological aspects of health and illness. Later, I was swept away with feminist awareness and concerns and asked myself in what ways women and men and health and illness intersected. From these experiences and my academic education came thoughts such as those explored in this paper.


This article was originally published in Humanity and Society, 8(4): 422-431. © 1984 Association for Humanist Sociology. Reproduced with permission.

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