A visual analysis of gender bias in contemporary anatomy textbooks
Empirical research has linked gender bias in medical education with negative attitudes and behaviours in healthcare providers. Yet it has been more than 20 years since research has considered the degree to which women and men are equally represented in anatomy textbooks. Furthermore, previous research has not explored beyond quantity of representation to also examine visual gender stereotypes and, in light of theoretical advancements in the area of intersectional research, the relationship between representations of gender and representations of ethnicity, body type, health, and age. This study aimed to determine the existence and representation of gender bias in the major anatomy textbooks used at Australian Medical Schools. A systematic visual content analysis was conducted on 6044 images in which sex/gender could be identified, sourced from 17 major anatomy textbooks published from 2008 to 2013. Further content analysis was performed on the 521 narrative images, which represent an unfolding story, found within the same textbooks. Results indicate that the representation of gender in images from anatomy textbooks remain predominantly male except within sex-specific sections. Further, other forms of bias were found to exist in: the visualization of stereotypical gendered emotions, roles and settings; the lack of ethnic, age, and body type diversity; and in the almost complete adherence to a sex/gender binary. Despite increased attention to gender issues in medicine, the visual representation of gender in medical curricula continues to be biased. The biased construction of gender in anatomy textbooks designed for medical education provides future healthcare providers with inadequate and unrealistic information about patients.