Men are People, Women are Women

7 01 2010

After a conversation we’d had earlier about being overweight, my mother and I watched a short segment on the nightly news about being “fat and fit.” (Shocking conclusion: You can be both simultaneously!) While not discounting the  FA aspects of the story, and how important it is for people to hear this message, I had one major beef with the story: it was presented as a “Women’s Health” issue. This message- that skinny people get cardiovascular disease, too- is, as far as I know, not gendered. It might even be MORE important for men, as I am under the (possibly incorrect) assumption that they are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, and should probably be alerted to the fact that their personal chances of developing it could be higher. The two people shown as examples in the segment were both women, but none of the commentary struck me as being exclusive to women. Towards the end, the narrator talked about waist size as a “better” measure of health- didn’t sound very convincing to me, but that’s another post- and offered measurements for men and women.

So why “Women’s Health?” Why classify a story about being fat (which affects both men and women) and risk of cardiovascular disease (which affects men more) as being solely about women? I raised this point with my mother, and her answer floored me: “Because they’re talking about women.”

Because a story about health in general cannot possibly ever focus on two women. Because in order to talk about people in general, one MUST include at least one man, but one is not obligated to include any women at all. Because ‘male’ is the default gender, just as ‘white’ is the default race. Because “woman” is not, can never be, a synonym for “person.” Because we live in a sexist, patriarchal world.  

This is not news, but it pisses me off. And it pisses me off that my mother thinks this way. And it pisses me off that, even while addressing a vitally important concern, the media can still manage to fuck up.

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