Women, and most people with vaginas, historically have a pretty rocky relationship with the healthcare system. Like female hysteria…what was up with that? And even though things are starting to improve with regards to vulvovaginal care in medicine, the lingering effects of patriarchal ideals throughout history (and present) have put women, Trans folks, and BIPOC individuals in a very compromising place when it comes to their health.
When bias and healthcare coexist, vulnerable populations no longer receive the quality of care they deserve. This is leads to women and many vulnerable populations to having higher rates of mistreatment, symptoms dismissal, and even misdiagnosis.
Let's take a look at why vulnerable groups disproportionately receive subpar care and the dangerous consequences we face because of it.
The Belief That Women are ‘Too Dramatic’
We’ve come a long way since the days of ‘female hysteria’ (callback alert) but the sentiment behind it lingers to this day. Many medical professionals still believe that female patients are ‘too emotional’ and over dramatic by nature. The perpetuation of this stereotype can lead providers to believe their female patients exacerbate their symptoms or even that their symptoms are ‘all in their heads’. This is why we see both physical and physiological symptoms in women being minimized and even written off completely. In fact, one in five women believe a healthcare professional has dismissed their symptoms…which is infuriating to put it lightly.
Read More: Crazy Moments in Vaginal Health History
Lack of Medical Knowledge
Up until the current day the medical field has been composed of almost exclusively cis men. This led to male bodies being prioritized in clinical trials, drug testing, and medical research…turning female bodies into a medical ‘blind spot’. Disappointingly, it wasn’t until 1993 that congress (finally) mandated that women and minorities be included in clinical research and trials. But even still, the female body is understudied and widely misunderstood. This can be very dangerous considering the cellular, metabolic, and functional differences between male and female bodies. Not only can symptoms present themselves differently for prominent conditions like cardiovascular disease and various autoimmune diseases but drugs can also be metabolized differently in the female body.
Read More: The Dark, Twisted, and Strange History of Gynecology
While advances to diversify the medical profession have increased in recent years, it is still somewhat of a ‘(white) boys club’. This leaves room for implicit bias to run rampant without comprehension…and women, especially women of color and Trans folks, suffer because of it. In fact, over half of women believe gender discrimination in healthcare is a real problem, and only one-third of men believe the same. But women on average have to wait longer to see a provider, get prescribed pain management medications less, and are less likely to be referred to specialists. This medical bias is especially harmful towards Black women, who are less likely to be prescribed painkillers or receive mental health treatment due to harmful stereotypes.
Read More: Facing Misdiagnoses for BIPOCs & Trans Folks by Tara Michaela (she/her)
Medical prejudice in healthcare is serious problem and women, Trans folks, and BIPOC individuals suffer because of it. While steps are being made to end this medical discrimination, we still have a long way to go in our fight for medical equality. So always advocate for your care by doing your research, seeking out providers that align with your values, and speaking up when you feel your needs aren’t being prioritized. Because you and your health matters.
Me and My Outie Vagina Against the World by Haley Jakobson (she/her)
Vulvovaginal Health and My Manhood by Clark Hamel (he/him)
Unpacking the Sexual Wellness Industry's Whitewashing Problem by Portia Brown (she/her)Prepare for Your OB/GYN Appointment Like An OB/GYN by Dr Mare (she/her)
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.