Discriminated against for being female

I wanted to know if you ladies feel as if your reproductive health is not seen as being as important as you feel it should be because of a discriminatory attitude towards women. Do you feel as if the pressure and stereotypes of being the gender that has been extremely socially constructed, disadvantages you in regards to caring for your reproductive health? Please feel free and speak your mind.

Thank you!

14 Replies

  • Is this for a research project? If so, happy to participate but please make it clear as to the reasons as this seems very specific.

  • Hi Maria7800, yes it is for a medical anthropology paper I am currently writing. I was reading some of the comments on here and I feel a common theme that occurs is that these women feel like their doctors are not actively trying to help them and they have to go out of their way to find help for themselves?

    Thank you!

  • I'm an Indian female and I know what it feels like to be discriminated against. I haven't gone through anything as drastic as Endo, so I just wanted to know if it also happens in the health care sector. I know that in my culture female sexual health is very discreet so it can be hard for women to express their concerns if they have any. I want to know if it is also the same for other cultures?

    Thank you!

  • Thanks for the clarity; in essence I think for some of us (and certainly myself), I seem to have done most of the work in terms of research of this disease. Furthermore, I am of the view that the NHS in particular is not funded well for female reproductive health and where funding is granted, it is focused mainly on cancer related issues and/or fertility. Whilst important, given this is a disease affecting one of these areas and suffered by so many females for so long a timeframe, this should be given greater levels of funding and research. I personally had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to see specialists and avoid lengthy waiting lists. Some of the so-called specialists within NHS clinics have little knowledge even of the longitudinal study into the genetic causes of endometriosis (oxygene study) at Oxford. This is an area they should be aware of not least when some women have such a significant family history of endometriosis and/or other gynaecological problems. Another issue is the lack of access to effective treatments; most women are either given hormone suppressants (some of which are steroid based), encouraged to have children, or have a hysterectomy none of which provide long-term relief – in some cases, they do not even provide short-term relief. GPs need improved training and whilst many may think female GPs or hospital doctors would be more empathetic the opposite is true; too many believe that endo is a period problem only and do not consider the many consequences of the disease, including infertility, miscarriages, severe internal organ damage (due to adhesions). There is a lack of access to detailed scans which may reduce the need for some surgeries (in the US, there is a new scanner which can detect endo without the need for laparoscopic surgery) and too often women are given the old explanation of “it is normal for pain during periods” and hushed up and sent away. I know of several cases of suicide (both successes and attempts) as so many can’t find the support or relief they need.

    In terms of employment, family and other areas of life, I think women do feel a need to internalise their pain and suffering related to this condition; I remember working as a young woman and being told sometimes that I just had to get on with it and once even yelled at by a female manager to “grow up and stop acting like a schoolgirl who doesn’t want to go to class”….!! She soon was sorry when it turned out I was having a miscarriage and made an effort to make up for her comments…even family and/or partners can be less than understanding – sometimes my mother (who also had the disease to a lesser extent) would say just take some medication and lie down and stop making such a fuss. I avoided marriage until my late thirties because of the fear this would take its toll (and I was right) because for partners it can be difficult to live with this long-term – the idea of ‘sickness and health’ may be great but the reality is too many people find this long-term, and seemingly never ending, disease far too difficult to deal with…especially when sexual intercourse is often unavailable. My husband used to hate when – afterwards – he could see me in so much pain or the consequences were intense agony and occasional visits to A&E just from having sex. Are we discriminated against – absolutely; will this change – unlikely in the short to medium term. In terms of culture, my mother is Greek Cypriot and my father was Sicilian (roman catholic) and the idea of no grandchildren was devastating and often miscarriages were seen as being my fault. I remember as a child being told I must have angered god to make me suffer so much for periods by aunts and grandmothers (on both sides). This made me so guilty for every thought I ever had and certainly for masturbating which is a healthy thing for teenage and adult females to do.

    My mother's attitude has changed completely over the last few years as I think with age and my experiences, she now understands better her own as well as my pain. She is still in distress over having no grandchildren - my sister has fibroids as well as endo so there's no chance there either - but at least it's not considered 'my fault' any longer. I think generally many women feel that somehow not being able to have a child (or care for those children if they are lucky to have them) due to a disease of the reproductive system makes you less of a woman; I thought that for years and I still miss not being able to have them but I did try and I did fail four times. Nothing can change that.

    Sorry for the lengthy post but I went a bit mad - once I started I couldn't stop! I'm a criminologist now so I know the need for research so feel free to PM or ask me any additional questions...!!

  • Thank you so much for your response! I am really sorry that you have had to go through all these things through out your life which isn't your fault at all. I hope that you continue to be strong living with this condition and you're getting all the love and support you need.

    The response you gave me was perfect and answered all of my questions. Thank you so much!

  • Sadly it happens in many 'traditional' male environments like law - one of the reasons I chose another path.

  • I work in construction which is a male dominated field. Often the only female on site, in a meeting or on a huge project but never experienced any trouble in a 30 year career. Being a woman never stopped me from progressing in my career or being appointed to key roles.

    The 'old boys club' doesn't really operate in construction so that has more to do with it in medicine and law I think.

  • That is really interesting to know. Do you know why it is like that? Because construction is known to be more of a masculine career path and is stereotyped that it consists of big butch men who objectify women and you would think that people that work in the medical field or law would have a more open mind because they interact with different types of people everyday yet evidently there is still a lot of discrimination.

  • My experience is the opposite. As I mentioned, the 'old boys club' is in force in medicine and law much more so than in construction. I was in the 'professional' end of the industry but never any problems on site either. I've even worked in India quite a bit and didn't have any problems there either.

    I find your response full of gross assumptions which is very odd considering the topic of the thread!

    There is another aspect to consider and I'm not letting the medical profession off the hook when it comes to how women are treated. I believe that as women we don't always do ourselves any favours by accepting how we are treated without standing up for ourselves. We also don't talk about periods or the menopause etc. openly if a situation requires it. Saying you have your period and you are in pain should be the same as saying you have a sore throat. Are women afraid of what others will think? At work I've sometimes mentioned I had my period and didn't feel great and male colleagues were usually sympathetic and didn't think it was odd in any way. Whenever I've explained my situation with endo they've been understanding and supportive but I never felt the need to talk about it. I just got on with things.

  • Thanks for your response Brownlow, I just said these assumptions to get your response to it.

    Not feeling the need to talk about your situation is an aspect that I haven't thought about to be honest. I've been reading a lot of posts on here about wanting to gain more support but I shall definitely look into the other side of that as well. Thanks so much!

  • I'm just a bit odd maybe! The only support I needed was knowledge and finding the right surgeon. I didn't feel the need for emotional support but the kindness and sympathy of my surgeon meant a lot to me.

  • My problem has always been that when I go to a gynaecology clinic, it's immediately assumed I am concerned with having children. I actually don't want children - I want my own life, which I've never had for more than snatches at a time when I've been on Prostap injections.

    When I go, I know that I am sitting in the middle of a waiting room with women desperate to conceive (my consultant is legendary for helping them to achieve this) - I am not understood, entertained or, dare I say, respected when I walk in and say I'd just like to be pain- and migraine-free.

    I would pay good money to go to a gynae clinic for women for whom 'children' isn't the issue!! :)

  • Most of the above sum up my experiences however I do feel miffed that only when I'd flagged the fact that if been ttc for over 12 month that I was really listened too. Is it just because fertility is an easy problem for gps opposed to all these strange pains women are complaining of when they get a period?

    Another point I find which backs what brownlow is saying is that predominantly male environments aren't my enemy. My boss is a male and for as much add he can understand, he does. His boss however, a female, would be the least understanding person I could describe. Women telling me for years 'oh, mine are bad too' is another reason I've never fought for myself. I think it's because they have something they think they can compare it to and what we're saying just doesn't compute. A female colleague asked me the other day if I was telling anyone what's wrong with me 'you know, given what it is?', I said I'm not taking out an ad but it's certainly no secret! I explained that the last thing I want to do is further encourage silence, women not knowing what could be wrong with them and parents not knowing what's wrong with their daughters. It's acceptable (and rightly so) to discuss testicular cancer so given that this isn't life threatening why do I have to worry about talking about it? Don't get me wrong, I actually don't but if I'm asked im not afraid to!

    In the grand scheme of things I think our reproductive health is seen as important as long as that's all we're talking about! If there was a condition that was affecting 10% of the young male population, getting more aggressive without a clear reason and causing between 30-50% of those men to be infertile we'd then get to see how important we were being dealt with in comparison. I wonder....

    (Thanks for posting the question, interesting to see what others think)

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