In a world predominantly built for and by men, the female population has been overlooked systematically. Consequently, a colossal gender data gap is birthed. This phenomenon presents itself in the most menacing way in healthcare industries, where the pre-existing bias is heightened even further in female specific maladies such as menstruation and menstrual disorders.
Throughout the history of medicine, grievances regarding menstrual pain have tended to fall within a more general analysis of gynaecology, often being scrutinized and considered hypothetical. Persistent symptoms experienced by women are minimized, normalized or disbelieved entirely. 33% patients in primary care and 66% patients in specialty clinics have ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ and unsurprisingly, 70% of them are women.
In fact, the sexism is so pervasive, that preposterous theories with no medical groundwork like the “wandering uterus theory” have been disseminated. According to “The Hippocratic Corpus”, any indisposition that a woman contracted originated due to her uterus literally floating around her body. Another infamous conjecture – “hysteria”, still considered veracious by an absurd number of professionals, is traced back to Sigmund Freud. He proposed that hysterical tendencies are a repercussion of young women’s trauma in realizing that they are not men – therefore not “whole”.
Even today, most diagnoses are excogitated with the male body as the convention. The scarcity in research is clouded by misogynistic views. A 2012 academic study in Milan involved physicians independently rating women with and without endometriosis for attractiveness. The severity of rectovaginal endometriosis is associated with physicians’ subjective assessment of their patients’ attractiveness.
This extreme ignorance and lack of prompt action towards serious ailments like PCOD/PCOS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), endometriosis etc. leads to the development of cysts, ovarian & cervical cancer etc. This silent epidemic has killed millions, if not billions of women.
This trivialisation results in a lack of equity in public spaces too. Premenstrual syndrome is found in 20-30% of women. In 3-8%, symptoms are severe enough to create problems with mobility. According to The University College London’s Institute for Women’s Health, 20% women suffer from dysmenorrhea. Yet, expecting accommodations like period leaves is considered to be “feminazi” agenda.
These conditions are poorly comprehended as it is under speculation that they must be psychogenic, medicine has put astoundingly little effort — and few research dollars — towards discerning them.
As always, women are bearing the brunt.
Written by:- Ria Shridher
Edited by:- Ujjwal Makin