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inequality in Canada, one of the most interesting, and depressing, factors is the way in which seemingly unrelated demographic factors work together to present difficulties above and beyond those faced by any single group, while simultaneously demonstrating how these seemingly unrelated factors all stem from the same underlying problems. This is particularly true when it comes to women's healthcare, an issue which has already received inadequate attention and support even before one factors in other elements that make access to that healthcare more difficult. When reading the articles discussing this subject, " Redefining Home Care for Women with Disabilities: A Call for Citizenship," Affirming Immigrant Women's Health: Building Inclusive Health Policy," and " Becoming "The Fat Girl": Acquisition of an Unfit Identity," I was especially struck by how the specific difficulties faced by disabled women, immigrant women, and overweight women are ultimately based on their status as women and the assumptions and stereotypes which focus on that. It is easy to imagine that social problems do not really stem from something as simple as gender (especially because I, probably like most people, would really like to imagine that this is the case), but when considering the results of these three articles one cannot help but recognize that for how advanced society might be, and for how much we might like to imagine that problems continue to exist simply because they are so complex and difficult to confront, many of the issues facing at least half of the population really do stem from something as simple as women not getting the same support and consideration as men.
In " Redefining Home Care for Women with Disabilities: A Call for Citizenship," Kari Krogh discusses the particular difficulties faced by women with disabilities when it comes to securing home care, and she argues that these difficulties are so severe so clearly the result of a systematic inequality in the distribution of support that women with disabilities are essentially denied their rights as citizens. The facts regarding this inequality are clear, because it is obvious that women are not given the same level of support as men; for example, women not only receive less home care support than men, but they are actually more likely than men to suffer from the kinds of chronic disabilities that require home care, such as arthritis. While the facts regarding the disparity between men and women when it comes to home care were surprising simply because I did not imagine that this gender gap would be so obvious at this point in human history (and that it would go unrectified after this gap had been so clearly demonstrated) what made Krogh's are so remarkable was the connection it drew between this gap and citizenship. It is fairly easy to imagine people's medical problems as unfortunate but unrelated to their place within society in general, but Krogh destroys this comfortable assumption by highlighting the fact that insufficient home care support for women with disabilities ends up affecting areas of their lives that would otherwise be protected through their rights as citizens, such as access to education and employment. In this way, Krogh demonstrates that healthcare and disability is as much a civil rights issue as anything based on gender or race.
If inadequate access to home care constitutes an infringement on the rights of women as citizens, then the experience of immigrant women in attempting to secure effective healthcare is fraught with even more difficulty, because they have to contend with language and cultural barriers as well. Marian MacKinnon and Laura Lee Howard's article on the subject was particularly illuminating because it highlighted how women in general seem to be treated as individuals without the same kind of agency and self-motivation as men when it comes to healthcare, and this fact is only exacerbated in the case of immigrant women, because they have to try that much harder to be heard and appreciated. The study interviewed a number of immigrant women about their experiences attempting to secure healthcare, and one of the most common and striking things they mentioned was a feeling that healthcare providers did not listen to them or take their concerns seriously, but rather would do cursory examinations and then suggest obvious but often unrelated advice, such as taking over the counter pain medication. These observations coincide with the issues described in Krogh's essay, because both demonstrate the extent to which women's healthcare problems are simply not taken as seriously as men's.
The third essay, "Becoming "the fat girl": Acquisition of an unfit identity," was especially interesting when read alongside the other two, because it demonstrated the end result of the phenomenon described in the other essay. Essentially, women's experiences with notions of fatness and fitness as it relates to their bodies and identities reveals that these notions serve to effectively strip women of their gender, thus placing them further outside the segments of society deemed worthy of protection and support. If the first two articles reveal a practice of implicitly denying women's health issues the same attention granted to men's, Carla Rice's article demonstrates a complete denial of overweight women as women, which removes them even from the gender dichotomy, which, while inequitable, at least recognizes women as a class of human beings with their own particular needs. The perpetuation of "the fat girl" thus serves to further disenfranchise and dismiss women in a way that notions of male fatness and fitness do not.
Taken together, these three essays demonstrate the ongoing segregation of women in society and culture, a segregation that is stunning considering the ostensible developments made in the recognition of human rights and gender equality. Although the three articles discuss different problems faced by women in Canada, the most striking part of all three is the way in which these problems all derive from the fact that women are still denied the same kind of recognition and agency granted to men.
Capitalism has always produced and reinforced inequalities, both in terms of the amount of money different people have and the particular gender and ethnic differences between those people, but over the last twenty years this process has taken on a global character due to the globalization of trade and in the case of Canada, the establishment of a free trade due to the North American Free Trade Agreement. While one might assume that this would simply cause an expansion of the inequality inherent in capitalism at the same rate as it has always proceeded, albeit on a larger scale, or even that the globalization of trade might actually reduce inequality by allowing people in different countries greater access to potential customers and jobs, the inequality which has developed as a result of this globalization upsets these assumptions, because it is inequality on a scale previously unimaginable, or at least unimaginable by me until I considered the discussion of women's experiences in a globalized Canada presented in four important articles.
Roberta Hamilton's article " Global Restructuring, Canadian Connections, and Feminist Resistance" offers a good overview of the issues discussed in more detail in the other three articles, but the truly interesting revelations of the problems created by globalization ultimately appear in the other articles, because Hamilton is somewhat more concerned with a theoretical approach to this issue than in directly relating the experiences of individuals. For example, in Sedef Arat-Koc's article "Whose Social Reproduction? Transnational Motherhood and Challenges to Feminist Political Economy," reveals that while globalization may have resulted in jobs for migrant workers, the intersection of ethnicity, traditional culture, and politics has meant that these migrant workers suffer from severe physical and psychological problems as a result of their nebulous status, both culturally and geographically. This is particularly true of mothers, because they are expected to maintain the traditional role of nurturer even as they are forced to move thousands of miles away in the search for work. This represents a kind of inequality previously unforeseen under traditionally national capitalism, because the oppressive forces of traditional ideologies and the political consideration of immigrants' host countries serve to increase inequality exponentially, essentially multiplying the difficulties instead of merely adding them (although even that would be undesirable). Arat-Koc's essay demonstrates how globalization, far from freeing women from the preexisting limitations they face in regards to managing the conflicting pressures to enter the workforce and raise, actually magnifies these pressures by removing possible support systems; women are away from their families and countries of citizenship so they cannot rely on them for support or the protection of rights, and as non-citizens of the countries in which they work, they have very little access to any state or official support either in terms of supporting their children left behind or protecting their labor rights while working.
These latter problems are revealed in Roxanna Ng's article "Garment Production in Canada: Social and Political Implications" when she discusses the state of the garment industry in Canada following globalization. Garment production has historically been…[continue]
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