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The patriarchal stain on women’s health: medicalization of depression

Faculty Advisor




medicalization, depression, women, patriarchy

Abstract (summary)

An increasing trend in Western culture is the use of antidepressants to regulate emotions and the bodily response to experiences of distress brought on by social unrest. The application of pharmaceutical treatments to states of unrest is reflected through the medicalization of depression which appears most prominently among women. In this paper, I argue that the medicalization of depression among women results from societal pressures, gender discrimination, and sexual violence on the female body. Through a feminist lens, I discuss how patriarchal and capitalist institutions of power create social ills that become inscribed on women’s bodies as “female problems” or “hysteria.” Rooted in the male gaze, these institutions develop biases and stereotypes against women that ultimately financially benefit the pharmaceutical industry. By emphasizing the theoretical framework of medical anthropologists Margaret Lock and Nancy Schepher-Hughes, I reveal how patriarchal and capitalist structures exert control over the female body entering public spaces and transform the social experiences of discrimination, objectification, and sexual violence into individual mental illness to be cured through antidepressants.

Publication Information



Presented on April 20, 2023 at Student Research Day held at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta.

Item Type

Student Report



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