Racism: A threat to women’s health

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Publication Date: 
Thu, 2013-03-21

Khiara M. Bridges. (2011). Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization. University of California Press.

Reproducing Race, an ethnography of pregnancy and birth at a large New York City public hospital, explores the role of race in the medical setting. Bridges investigates how race—commonly seen as biological in the medical world—is socially constructed among women dependent on the public healthcare system for prenatal care and childbirth. She argues that race carries powerful material consequences for these women even when it is not explicitly named, showing how they are marginalized by the practices and assumptions of the clinic staff. Weaving ethnographic evidence into broader discussions of Medicaid and racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality, Bridges shines new light on the politics of healthcare for the poor, demonstrating how the medicalization of social problems reproduces racial stereotypes and governs the bodies of poor women of color.

For more information, see the University of California Press website.

France Winddance Twine. (2011). Outsourcing the Womb: Race, Class and Gestational Surrogacy in a Global Market. Routledge.

There has been an international ‘surrogate baby boom’ as well-off individuals and couples hire third parties to assist them to conceive a child with whom they share a genetic tie. A critical introduction to the global surrogacy market, this is a comparative analysis of the assisted reproductive technology and surrogacy industry in Egypt, Israel, India and the United States.  A short guide intended as a readable, teachable "thinking frame,” the book disentangles the intersecting roles of race, religion, class inequality, religious law, and global capitalism. It questions what role the state should play in providing individuals and families with access to reproductive technologies. Chapters include: “The Industrial Womb: Pregnancy in a Capitalist Market,” “Race, Class and Surrogate Labor: Ethical Dilemmas,” “Google Babies: Race, Class & Consumption in the Procreative Supermarket,” and “Reproductive Liberty and Reproductive Justice.”

For more information, see the Routledge website.

Aanna Marie Vigen. (2011). Women, Ethics, and Inequality in U.S. Healthcare: “To Count among the Living.” Palgrave Macmillan.

Exploring healthcare inequalities in the U.S. by listening closely to Black and Latina women with breast cancer, this book is of special interest to those interested in ethical and theological understandings of the effects of racism on women’s health. Vigen, a professor of Christian Ethics, issues a wake-up call, and a call to solidarity and action as she contends that ethicists, healthcare providers, and scholars arrive at an adequate understanding of human dignity and personhood only when they take seriously the experiences and needs of those most vulnerable due to systemic inequalities. The book has been praised for showing how subtle or overt assumptions of white supremacy infect even the most well-intentioned care providers and bioethicists. This new edition of a 2006 book has been updated to address U.S. healthcare realities since the 2010 Obama government healthcare reform legislation.

For more information, see Palgrave Macmillan website.

Keith Wailoo. (2011). How Cancer Crossed the Color Line. Oxford University Press.

Examining a century of twists and turns in anti-cancer campaigns, this path-breaking study shows how American cancer awareness, prevention, treatment, and survival have been refracted through the lens of race. Drawing on film and fiction, on medical and epidemiological evidence, and on patients' accounts, Wailoo tracks cancer's transformation from a “white woman’s plague” to a fearsome threat in communities of color. He shows how theories of risk evolved with changes in women's roles and African-American and new immigrant migration trends, and with diagnostic advances, racial protest, and contemporary health activism. He argues that the "war on cancer" continues to be waged along the color line. Nancy Krieger praises the book as an “eye-opening account” of how “the answer to the question of who is at risk of cancer and why—and the epidemiologic data that underpins it—are together shaped as much if not more by the racial, class, gender and broader political ideologies and conflicts of the times as by the actual occurrence--detected or not--of cancer itself.”

For more information, see the Oxford University Press website