Scholarly Publications

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Cancer and Motherhood

In Encyclopedia of Motherhood, edited by A. O’Reilly and J. Geoffrey Golson. New York: Sage, 2010.

Every year 700 thousand women in the United States are diagnosed with cancer. Excluding skin cancers, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. In 2008, the American Cancer Society projected over 182 thousand new cases. Although 80 percent of these were in women over age fifty, nearly 33,000 diagnosed women were under the age of forty-five. Younger women with breast cancer face some issues that older women do not. In addition to frequently having more advanced cancers at diagnosis and higher mortality rates, these women potentially face infertility, early menopause, and implications for pregnancy after diagnosis. They are also likely to have dependent children and a greater responsibility for family care.

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Breast Cancer

In The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World, edited by M.S. Zeiss, C.K. Oyster, and J.G. Golson. New York: Sage, 2010.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide yet there is considerable variation in incidence and survival rates depending upon geographic location. As breast cancer has become more public especially in the United States since the early 1990s, some statistics (particularly those that generate fear) have dominated the public imagination and furthered the common sense message that “early detection” vis-à-vis mammography screening, “saves lives.” This entry will discuss often misunderstood elements of this statement, including the crucial role of disease classification, age, mortality, and the enduring controversy in western countries surrounding mammography screening.

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Pink, In Advertising

In The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World, edited by M.S. Zeiss, C.K. Oyster, and J.G. Golson. New York: Sage, 2010.

The color pink has been used in advertising and popular culture since the 1940s. Drawing upon and reinforcing gender stereotypes, the subtlety and consistency of pink symbolism has adapted to different generations and contexts to shape popular understandings of what it means to be a woman in America. The color pink gained new momentum in the form of the pink breast cancer ribbon, established in 1992 as the symbol for breast cancer awareness. The pink ribbon easily conjured feminine imagery and discourse that was already prevalent in popular culture. Focusing on goodness, morality, and woman’s domain in the private sphere, pink was used to evoke innocence, thereby rendering breast cancer a virtuous illness, and a good cause.

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In The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World, edited by M.S. Zeiss, C.K. Oyster, and J.G. Golson. New York: Sage, 2010.

The practice of yoga uses a variety of movements, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques to help the practitioner to achieve union (balance) between the mind, body, and spirit. Although yoga is an ancient tradition that can be traced back thousands of years, modern yoga has morphed into a variety of new styles that incorporate classical and contemporary philosophies and methods. Yoga today may be practiced as a form of religion, lifestyle, leisure, or fitness. However, many modern practitioners (70 percent of whom are women) do yoga specifically to improve their health. Yoga has become so popular as a health modality, with about 17 million practitioners in the United States alone, that doctors are starting to recommend yoga to their patients. This entry introduces some of the key findings from clinical health research about the health effects of yoga, and the role that spirituality continues to play.

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Managing Biomedical Uncertainty: The Technoscientific Illness Identity

In Sociology of Health and Illness Vol. 31 (no. 7), pp. 1-18, 2009.

This paper analyzes how the uncertainty of breast cancer contributes to the development of a new type of illness identity – thetechnoscientific identity (TSI) – which is grounded in biomedical knowledge, advanced technology, and surveillance of one’s health and risks.

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Fetal Rights/Public Fetus

In Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, Volume 2, edited by J. O’Brien, J. Fields, and E. Shapiro. New York: Sage, pp. 328-330. 2009.

Medical technologies increasingly provide new ways of seeing and knowing the body. In pregnancy, fetal imaging technologies, diagnostic tools, and fetal surgeries have changed the status of the fetus from organism to personhood, a social status reserved for a living human being. Although medical treatment still requires accessing the fetus through the pregnant woman’s body, recent technological advances demonstrate that the fetus is no longer fully contained therein. The woman’s subjective and embodied experience of the fetus has shifted from a private or semi-private phenomenon to one that is public. New technologies produce representations of the fetus that aid in the construction of fetal personhood, allowing public investment in women’s pregnancies and the rights of the fetus.

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No Longer a Patient: The Social Construction of the Medical Consumer

Sulik, G. and A. Eich-Krohm. In Advances in Medical Sociology, Volume 10: Patients, Consumers and Civil Society, edited by S. Chambre and M. Goldner. Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 3-28, 2008.

Analyzing breast cancer and infertility, Sulik and Eich-Krohm find that the proliferation of medical information and personal illness narratives on the Internet, in advice books, and through self-help groups may be empowering to some, while also introducing new fears and anxieties about the range of options for medical consumers and the heightened sense of personal responsibility they have about making the “right” decisions.

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The Balancing Act: Care Work for the Self and Coping with Breast Cancer

Gender & Society Vol. 21 (no. 6): pp. 857-877, 2007.

When faced with a chronic life-threatening illness, women often negotiate social expectations that stress women’s selflessness, empathy, and caring for others. Striking a balance between their own needs and the needs of others involves setting boundaries and establishing criteria for accepting and asking for help.

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On the Receiving End: Women, Caring, and Breast Cancer

Qualitative Sociology 30 (3): 297-314, 2007.

To deal with breast cancer, women often break social norms that stress traditionally feminine traits such as compliance and putting the needs of others first. At the same time, many women take on new nurturing roles to support other diagnosed women, thereby relinquishing to some degree the individualistic approach they found necessary to cope with the illness in the first place.

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When Women Need Care: How Breast Cancer “Survivors” Cope with Being Care-Receivers

Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, State University of New York at Albany, 2004 (330 pages). ISBN: 9780496075942.

In the last decade a growing literature in care work has examined how women’s unequal participation in caregiving contributes to gender identity, social status, and women’s mental and physical health. What happens when women need care for themselves? This research is about how gender socialization influences women’s sense of entitlement to care even when facing a major life crisis.

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Ethnic and Gender Stereotypes in the Media

R. Jacobs and G. Sulik. In Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications, edited by D. Johnston. San Diego: Academic Press, pp. 587-596, 2003.

Jacobs and Sulik offer a critical overview of the two main research traditions concerned with the study of media stereotypes involving race, ethnicity, and gender. Content analysis, predominantly quantitative, examines media bias and distortion among different social groups. Discourse analysis, mostly qualitative, explores how the activation of deeper cultural structures helps to perpetuate and naturalize ways of thinking about different groups.

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