Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Research has demonstrated that gender impacts chronic illness management. However, less is understood about how chronic illness affects gender. This paper examines how chronic illness, particularly diabetes, disrupts gender performativity. In semi-structured interviews with women and men with diabetes in Kumasi, Ghana, patients shared that diabetes “destroys women” and makes men “no longer a man” due to disruptions in sexual function and the ability to work. Current approaches to diabetes management reify hegemonic notions of gender and neglect patients’ social and physical suffering, particularly ignoring women’s experiences of sexual dysfunction. I argue that diabetes challenges patients’ ability to fulfill behaviors expected of the ideal woman or man, often leading to loss of income and relationships and exacerbating their state of precarity. These diabetic disruptions to sexuality and work are a source of distress, leading to poorer diabetes self-management and health outcomes.