Despite the fact that it is women who make as much as 80% of health treatment decisions in families, they are the ones who themselves get the short end of the stick. In general, medical personnel tend to take women’s suffering less seriously than men’s, spend lesser time treating them, and very often misdiagnose physical pain as being due to emotional causes.
All this because misogynistic stereotypes are still prevalent in medicine; people tend to view women as emotional and melodramatic as opposed to men who are taken to be more authoritative and sincere.
An NIH study found that on average women have to wait 16 minutes longer than men in emergency rooms to receive pain medication. The study also reports that women experiencing acute pain are up to 25% less likely to receive opioids.
There are even more troubling facts. Yet another study reveals that men are more likely to be referred to specialty pain clinics by doctors than women. Male patients also receive pain medication more promptly as opposed to female patients who are far more likely to be given sedatives for pain.
The study also notes that women are more likely to be prescribed tranquilizers and antidepressants to deal with pain. All this is evidence that physicians view women’s pain as being result of emotional factors, as opposed to physical ones.
This blatant sexism is not just infuriating, but deadly to boot.
So, How To Fight Sexism in Healthcare?
Convincing medical professionals to take genuine symptoms seriously is no easy task. Hence it’s not that surprising for many women being reluctant to speak up about their medical concerns. No one would like to be told that they’re imagining pain or overreacting.
It certainly doesn’t help that for generations women have had chauvinistic societal norms forced on them, casting them to be passive and respectful to authority figures. Consequently they’re that much less likely to stand up to healthcare personnel who tell them that their symptoms are psychosomatic.
Some effort to correct this mindset and behavior should be made by the patients themselves. Women should feel empowered to voice their opinion while discussing health issues with medical providers.
However, this goes far beyond women’s behavior. The rampant gender bias at play in healthcare should be tackled. In addition, serious effort needs to be made spread awareness of this issue in the medical field, especially in areas of education and research.
We women deserve to have our pain taken seriously. We deserve proper examinations, correct diagnosis and proper treatment. We deserve to be treated on the same level as men. It’s now time for healthcare professionals to begin treating us as individual human beings instead of cultural stereotypes.