Health, Private and Public: Renegotiating Gendered Subjectivities and Citizenships
Vitality and health are often mentioned as the ultimate grounds for differentiating productive citizens from non-productive ones. Particularly females and working classes have been the objects of this kind of assessment by socially powerful actors. Today’s mass media is full of materials concerning medicine, health and wellness. In this study, I am exploring one major question: How does health communication contribute to the construction of gender, identity and subjectivity? Taking into account that subjectivity is in part socially determined I also want to discuss the following themes: How does the gender of health communication relate to power and citizenship? What is the role of health communication and health citizenship in renegotiating the societal gender contract today? My interest in health-related mass communication emanates from the standpoint(s) of feminist media studies and gender studies. In this study, both health and gender are understood as dynamic categories that are constantly under construction, and not as something essentialist. The mass media play a key role, as the dividing lines between health and illness, public and private, or masculinity and femininity, are discursively redefined within the mass media. Health and gender are political notions to be revealed, explored and watched. My research focuses on the deconstruction of the complex genealogy between health, communication and gender. My theoretical framework is a mix of social constructionist, performative and some psychoanalytical theories, based on the idea that social reality is to a high degree made and experienced in language. Thus, I stress the Foucauldian interconnectedness between knowledge and power, and the Butlerian theory of gender as an open system performing itself over and over again. Gender is being made in media texts both by cultural stereotypes and also in different or abrupt ways, in ‘other’ performances. Hence, the objective of this study is to shed light on the ways in which the fluctuating, affective and gendered subject of health communication can act as a political agent or citizen.