Working it out: will the improved management of leaky bodies in the workplace create a dialogue between medical sociology and disability studies?

Jennifer Remnant (Lead / Corresponding author), Katherine Sang, Katriona Myhill, Thomas Calvard, Sushila Chowdhry, James Richards

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Abstract

This article focuses on the workplace as a significant site of convergence between the disciplines of medical sociology and disability studies. As disability remains on the margins of sociological exploration and theorising relating to health and work, disabled workers remain on the margins of the workforce, subject to disproportionate rates of unemployment, under employment and workplace mistreatment. The article focuses on the experiences of people with ‘leaky bodies’, focussing specifically on employees who experience troubling menstruation and/or have gynaecological health conditions. It brings together data from three studies conducted between 2017 and 2020; interviews with disabled academics (n = 75), university staff with gynaecological health conditions (n = 23), and key stakeholders in universities (n = 36) (including university executives, line managers and human resources staff). These studies had separate, but linked foci, on the inaccessibility of workplaces, managing gynaecological health conditions at work and supporting disabled people at work respectively. Drawing on the Social Relational Model of disability and theories of embodiment, we explore the experiences and management of workers with leaky bodies in UK University workplaces. Data illustrates how workplace practices undermine embodied experiences of workers with ‘leaky’ bodies by maintaining workplaces which ignore their material reality. We highlight that addressing embodied needs alongside acknowledging disabled people as an oppressed political category represents a theoretical meeting point for disability studies and medical sociology.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date5 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • disability studies
  • medical sociology
  • gynaecological health
  • disability
  • menstruation
  • embodiment
  • employment
  • leaky bodies

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