Misogyny in healthcare and women’s disabilities

Ania over on The Orbit discusses how the misogyny of front line healthcare providers can result in delays for women who may be experiencing the early symptoms of chronic illness. This delay in healthcare often exacerbates the problem:

On my Facebook memories page, I found an old Tumblr picture that includes stories from a series of girls talking about how their appendix burst because they didn’t realize the pain they were feeling wasn’t cramps. The post goes on to explain the difference between menstrual pain and appendix pain. The stories were a way for girls to discuss just how painful cramps can be – that appendicitis, which is known to be extremely painful, was not different enough from their regular menstrual pain to be noticeable.

I had shared the post, along with my commentary that the suggestion to talk to your parents or school nurse about pain, even if it was “only cramps”, ignored the reality of most people who experience menstruation who are told that they are overreacting and to suck it up. Many of us have been told that all women deal with it and that it’s not that bad. Even when my cramps would leave me shaking and with a fever, I was expected to go to class and carry on as though everything was normal. After all “every woman goes through the same thing”. (Not all women actually, and not all people who do are women, but that’s another post for another time).

In terms of what to do, this seems harder. More frustratingly, the impetus of finding a not-piece-of-shit doctor is on the patient, rather than the system which is unlikely to discipline a doctor for this kind of negligence. I suppose in terms of preserving your health it that’s what you might have to do–ask around for someone who will take the initial reports seriously and consider additional screening early on.

All of which is moot, of course, if you’re American and don’t have coverage. sigh. Every time I do homework in this area I find myself fantasizing about lining the GOP against the wall and executing them by firing squad. The degree and severity of utter negligence just astonishes me. I thought sociopaths were vanishingly rare but apparently enough Republican voters are just peachy with these outcomes?



  1. Ice Swimmer says

    A specific point about appendicitis:

    I don’t want to minimize menstrual pain in any way, but while appendicitis may be extremely painful, it isn’t always. My appendix burst* because I thought I had a normal gastroenteritis and only seeked medical treatment once the fever, vomiting and diarrhea made me realize I could no longer survive at home alone. The doctor in the emergency room talked about getting me back home (before they got the CRP/inflammation test results), but otherwise I got the impression that I (30ish white dude at the time) was taken more seriously than the (elderly) women in the same room.

    So, from the original post and my experience, health education, access to health care and evidence-based, not sexist health care system will all be needed.

  2. Raucous Indignation says

    Yes, diagnosis sometimes can be hard, but it’s always a lot harder if you let your biases mar your judgement.