Pay attention to what they tell you to forget: What we know, what we want, and how it affects our health

Stanfield, Michael
Major Professor
Clark Wolf
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Theses & dissertations (Interdisciplinary)

The purpose of this thesis project is to evaluate the roles of preferences and ignorance in a number of women's health and wellbeing issues. In a number of cases, I will use brief, hands-on case studies to illustrate my points. I will also frequently use current examples from the news, the entertainment industry, and other media to show how my work addresses current issues of relevance.

In the first chapter, I will discuss the nature of preferences and the degree to which

preferences can be said to be autonomous to an individual. In the second chapter, I will

discuss Nancy Tuana's "Taxonomy of Ignorance" from her work, "The Speculum of

Ignorance: The Women's Health Movement and Epistemologies of Ignorance" (2006), and show how each of the forms of ignorance Tuana identifies can be related to my topics.

In the third chapter, I will discuss the topic of female circumcision, especially in light of

Martha Nussbaum's "Capabilities Approach." I will argue that her approach can be seen as enumerating a set of capabilities that ensure freedom of desires and preferences in a way that Nussbaum claims addresses the needs of every individual without arbitrarily valuing some preferences over others. I will then examine how Nussbaum uses her approach to criticize the practice of female circumcision, and how, alternatively, her list of central capabilities (preferences) could actually be used to defend the freedom of individuals to choose this practice.

In the fourth chapter, I will explore the variety of ways cultural conceptions of beauty and sexuality have come to influence individuals, especially women and young girls. Some of the effects of cultural ideals has been an increase in women's dissatisfaction with their bodies, an increase in cosmetic and surgical treatments, and an alarming trend of pairing superficial notions of femininity and beauty with androcentric conceptions of women's sexuality.

In the fifth chapter, I will show how one aspect of beauty culture, the cosmetics industry,

uses ignorance to hide possible dangers related to use of their products. I will explore some of the reasons women prefer to use makeup and why, and explain the results of a case study I conducted on my own cosmetics usage.

In the sixth chapter, I will conclude with a reprise, closing remarks and recommendations.