After viewing, Kimberlé Crenshaw’s presentation on “The urgency of Intersectionality,” it was abundantly clear that actualizing the added layers of our identity is needed in order to thoroughly address systems of inequality. It should also be apparent that when we address health and human rights, to generalize broad groups dismisses subgroups that have varying experiences and outcomes. Making distinctions in women’s health is helpful to address disparities, as not every woman has the same experience, outcome or resources. For instance, black women, immigrant women or white women will have differing encounters with the world around them, institutions they engage with, services offered to them that ultimately play into their health and wellbeing. As Kimberle Crenshaw reiterates on the concept of intersectionality that “without frames that allow us to see how social problems impact all the members of the targeted group, many will fall through the cracks of the movement, left to suffer in isolation.” It is for this reason that the widening of our lens is critical to the enforcement of human rights. My personal experiences in relation to inequality, state violence and oppression as a cis white woman in the US are incomparable to that of black women. For this reason, human rights discussions must acknowledge systemic power dynamics that allow for blatant abuses to occur. Therefore, when we pull back the different layers to our identity, we can make sense of societal treatment and overlapping inconsistencies more effectively.
In relation to the prompt on a cultural relativist view on a particular women’s health issue, I began brainstorming different topics that apply and one in particular that I find to be incredibly complex and multidimensional is that of vaccines. With the recent uptake of vaccine hesitancy in the US which is specifically visible in our local region partnered with recent outbreaks and poor vaccination rates has created immense challenges. On one hand, you have individuals granted the ability to opt-out of immunization through protections denoted within ‘personal exemptions’ which involves its own context. Overall, many different people may view immunization interventions in a cultural relativist lens.
A large frame of reasoning focuses on the historical context of vaccination campaigns and the questionable motives and intentions displayed by those in positions of power across many different groups. In a global landscape, a belief on immunization held across areas of Asia and Africa traces mistrust of Western campaigns with the intention of “sterilizing and infecting non-Western countries” (“Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination,” 2018). For example, in the fight against polio, the introduction of federally sponsored polio vaccination campaigns in Northern Nigerian states were forbidden due to linkages made that “the polio vaccine was contaminated with anti-fertility drugs intended to sterilize young Muslim girls” (Le Blanc, 2016). Thus, as is the case in many different examples, vaccine suspicions are fueled by historically poor encounters with groups that involve themselves in locals cultural practices.
As the video, titled “Human Rights and Culture” demonstrates, tensions can arise when an organization with ties to colonialism assert their agenda onto a country that has historically been colonized and may align closer to the relative perspective. Alternatively, a universalist view may elicit a view that reflects the ability to live a safe and healthy life that includes receiving adequate immunization to preventable diseases. As beneficial this is for the overall health and well-being of the global community, it does not deconstruct or acknowledge historical discontent as a result of questionable conduct. In keeping this in mind, this topic follows a difficult debate over personal protections and the general wellness of the public that ultimately points toward “continued communication and collaboration between medical and public health officials and the public regarding acceptable and effective immunization policies” (“Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination,” 2018).
Crenshaw, Kimberlé. (2016). The urgency of intersectionality [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality?language=en
Cultural Perspectives on Vaccination. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/cultural-perspectives-vaccination
Le Blanc, Justin M. (2016). Medical Autonomy and Vaccines: A Kantian Imperative. Retrieved from https://hekint.org/2017/01/30/medical-autonomy-and-vaccines-a-kantian-imperative/
By: Hannah Berg