chapter  4
17 Pages

The body and the environment

It is through our bodies that we most directly confront our environment. Carolyn Merchant has even obliterated the distinction between self and environment, calling the body the 'primary environment' (Merchant, 1996: 223). Before examining how, in this 'primary environment' we are affected by the secondary environment depending on our maleness or femaleness, it is important first to examine what exactly is meant by the body and how its male and femaleness is constructed. After this construction has been explored, the chapter will look at the medicalisation of gender and the gendering of medicine, particularly 'female problems'. At the most basic level, even survival is affected by sex and the differences in male/female mortality and well-being will be considered. The health of our bodies is also dependent on a chemically safe environment. Where pollution levels are unsafely exceeded we may suffer discomfort, disease and even death. Different kinds of pollutants have various effects on different bodies: male and female, child and adult, as the examples of oestrogen pollution which affects sex and fertility and the leakage of methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, shown later in this chapter will graphically illustrate.