Floozy speaks to the people impacted by medical misogyny.
Australian journalist Oliva Funnel was just 19 when she was diagnosed with vaginismus and experienced medical misogyny in the doctor’s office.
“I went to a male gynaecologist who correctly diagnosed the issue but didn’t treat it very professionally,” she said. “He made jokes, something along the lines of ‘size doesn’t matter, if you can have a baby it shouldn’t hurt’, which was so invalidating. Another male doctor told me to just drink some wine before sex to help the pain, which just felt so unprofessional.”
Thanks to medical misogyny, Olivia’s experience is not an unusual one.
What is Medical Misogyny?
Medical misogyny refers to the worldwide gender bias in healthcare. It is the idea that health of people assigned female at birth is taken less seriously than those assigned male. Medical misogyny portrays itself in so many aspects of healthcare. Women are less likely to be given pain relief for the same procedures as men and more likely to die when operated on by a male surgeon.
Julie Hall, a registered nurse, and practice education facilitator for the NHS, said: “Medical misogyny is unfortunately really common, however it is also misunderstood.
When we hear this term, we often imagine male doctors who want to ignore women’s concerns and see them suffer. More often than not that isn’t the case.
“It comes from a lack of education surrounding women’s health. With degrees like medicine and nursing there is obviously so much to learn in the space of just a few years, so it is common that they will only spend a maximum of one or two hours on particular conditions.
This is where the problem lies, as it seems that gynaecological healthcare isn’t a priority within these courses.
“That’s why it is really important that nurses and doctors commit to their learning even after they are qualified, whether that be through their own research or undertaking modules or seminars within the hospitals they work in. Obviously, that is a lot easier said than done because they work such busy and stressful jobs, but the more they can learn the better.”
Misogyny in Gynaecological Health
The area of healthcare where medical misogyny is often prominent is gynaecological health. For some conditions getting a diagnosis can take years. It takes an average of 7.5 years to be diagnosed with Endometriosis. This is partially due to some doctors not taking gynaecological health conditions seriously.
For people who struggle from a gynaecological condition, the phrase ‘it’s just part of being a woman’ is heard far too often, and a way for doctors to dismiss patients concerns.
Like Olivia, Tara Langdale-Schmidt, owner of VuvaTech, experienced poor advice from her doctor when she was diagnosed with vulvodynia.
“My gynaecologist told me to drink wine and take some painkillers before sex,” she said. “Which obviously didn’t help at all. I tried everything they recommended and nothing helped. Lidocaine injections which didn’t work and then left me dealing with needle puncture pain for days after, and ketamine cream which did not help at all.”
Why is Medical Misogyny Damaging?
For people like Olivia and Tara who have been forced to face doctors that make jokes about their condition, or recommend potentially dangerous treatments, the damage can be huge.
When undiagnosed or untreated, gynaecological conditions can have damaging affects. From painful sex to infertility, when not taken seriously these conditions can have massive affects on people with vulvas, not only in terms of physical health but mental health too.
Medical misogyny can also result in people being less likely to visit a doctor when they fear that something is wrong. Knowing that they could be laughed at or ignored by a doctor can be a huge deterrent for people considering visiting a doctor about their health. This means that these types of conditions could become more underdiagnosed than they already are.