There are several elements, which constitute the classification of an individual as either male or female. Determination of one’s gender is influenced by interplay of social, biological and psychological factors. Expression of a patient’s gender identity is crucial in a clinical examination of a patient. Genetic gender is vital in determining whether an individual is male or female since males and females have distinct sexual organs. However, gender is also psychological and involves the awareness of an individual and their reaction to biological sex. Sexual orientation is they key here, as well as the gender roles and gender identity. People express their gender identity through gender roles.
Culture has an immense influence on gender roles that are practiced from an early age. For example, at a young age girls play teaching and house roles while boys play “war” roles. This is likely to influence the choice of career/occupation later in life. As a result, women are expected to be secretaries, housewives and nurses. Traditionally, women are expected to be emotional, patient and dependent. On the other hand, men are expected to be powerful, independent and straightforward. Most cultures portray the use of alcohol and drugs as a “men thing” and consider it inappropriate behavior for females (Conrad, 2007). Men are expected to spend their leisure time playing games, while women are expected to be at home taking care of the children. Some cultures even go ahead to dictate how men and women dress. For example, in some parts of Africa, women are not supposed to wear trousers.
Some cultural aspects are pathogenic in the sense that they encourage individuals of a particular gender to overindulge. Men and women are socialized differently which has implication on their health. For example, men are expected to take a risk which explains their overindulgence in behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and fast driving (Conrad and Leiter, 2003). Women are expected to be emotional and thus they are thought to be more liable to stress and depression conditions. There are some cultural gender aspects that protect the individuals’ health within that group. This is especially with regards to sexual health and behavior. For example, most cultures prohibit recklessness and promiscuousness which reduces cases of venereal diseases.
Gender culture has an influence on the patient’s presentation and prognosis of ill health. Some cultural groups do no express some medical conditions. For example, some cultures hide their family member with mental disorder. People from different cultures often handle mental disorder, as well as other clinical symptoms differently. As a result, diagnosis and presentation of symptoms is culturally motivated. Some cultures over exaggerate some symptoms while other cultures tend to suppress some symptoms.
Expression and practice of sexual behavior is dependent on one’s gender. Depending on the environment, an individual may exhibit homosexual or heterosexual behavior. However, expression, suppression and practice of homosexual depends on one’s culture. For example, homosexual behaviors are more prevalent in liberal and tolerant cultures. In most cases, male and females tend to be heterosexual but this is not always the case.
Different cultures have different rules regarding sexual behavior. Some societies prohibit contraception, abortion and unwanted pregnancies among teenagers. This is regulated by strong morals aimed at curbing all of the above as well as preventing the spread of venereal diseases. In some cultures, occurrence of diseases such as AIDS is associated with promiscuity hence it is regarded as “a disease of the reckless” in some societies. Other cultures consider it a taboo to engage in homosexuality. Gay and lesbian relationships in such cultures are, therefore, likely to be suppressed. Some cultures consider pornography to be a taboo and thus it is banned in such societies since sex is considered to be sacred.
In most cultural groups gender is defined by the biological criteria more than through the use of sexual behavior. Genetic and somatic gender is likely to be used to determine one’s gender. If someone is born with male sex organs, then they are considered to be men. This is socially nurtured and with time patients are able to associate their sexuality with that particular gender. This is prevalent in many societies irregardless of an individual’s sexual behaviour.
Some aspects of a patient’s life can be medicalized while others cannot. Medicalization involves treatment of clinical conditions. Such medical conditions have to be studied in order to come up with the right diagnosis. It is, therefore, possible to change social attitudes, as well as economic situations through medicalization (Conrad, 2007). Some conditions like menopause, menstruation and childbirth can, therefore, be medicalized.
Conrad, P. (2007). The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions Into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore, MA: JHU Press.
Conrad, P., & Leiter, V. (2003). Health and healthcare as social issues . Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.
Ettorre, E., & Riska, E. (1995). Gendered Moods: Psychotropics and Society. London : Routledge .
Helman, C. (2007). Culture, Health, and Illness. London : Hodder Arnold.