Gender Frontiers Speaker Series: Dr. Emma Whelan

(gentle07/Creative Commons)

Dr. Emma Whelan gave a public lecture on November 20th, 2017 that was part of the Gender Frontier Speakers Series. Dr. Whelan is a sociologist from Dalhousie University who focuses on knowledge and power in medicine and health care.

The talk was located at the Brandon Public Library, and was titled “I keep my hands clean! Why can’t he?” Dr. Whelan examined handwashing advice in the UK and North America over the past century, especially focusing on how gender plays a role in such advice. Dr. Whelan looked at soap advertisements, and educational texts for those areas noted above while doing her research and the rise in the discussion of hand hygiene. She saw a focus on women in the literature, especially mothers and nurses as the ones who look after children and families.

It was also noted by Dr. Whelan how hand washing has become a gendered form of common sense. Hand washing is pictured as an obvious thing to do when in medical fields it is considered less mundane and has standardized protocols. The increase in handwashing education had a goal of bringing down the spread of infectious disease in public spaces and health care facilities but became very gendered. Finally, Dr. Whelan examined how hand washing has become up to women to enforce and the effects of this in a contemporary aspect.

The talk was sponsored by the Margaret Lawrence Endowment Fund, the Brandon University Dean of Arts and the Brandon University Dean of Science.