Academicus : International Scientific Journal (Jul 2016)

“Sick woman” or “half woman”? Breast and cervical cancer, emotional script and representations of female body in a mediterranean area of Italy

  • Ignazia Bartholini

Journal volume & issue
Vol. MMXVI, no. 14
pp. 118 – 134


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The proposal aims to highlight the semiotic elements of the discourse that refer to the symbolic ones of representations, and that transform the therapy in an exercise of professional dominion aimed to modify the perception of the self of the female patient through the subversion of specific emotional script. The mapping of the emotional scripts of shame and modesty, in their performative evolution, will be useful to demonstrate how and through what relational strategies the medicalization performs a gender violence which leads to exclude and self-stigmatise the sick woman, considered a “half woman”. The reflection that has its incipit in the ascertainment that the female body has been and keeps being a means of “male dominion” and object of “symbolic violence” as well as physical, and favors unexpected articulations related to a female body affected by breast or uterus cancer with often devastating effects on the woman’s self-perception. This proposal provides a reflection on the effects of experience of female cancer in the emotional sphere and in the gender relations of 36 Italian and stranger women. The research aims at discussing the role of medical therapy as a social practice of male domination that imposes a traditional representation in which female beauty is equivalent to the physical integrity and full functioning of specific attributes sexed (uterus that creates, breast that feeds). The focus of research is an analysis particularly focusing on the transformations of perception of body as Körper and the emotions which, cross-sectionally, constitutes the self-perception of Leib.