How Sexism Affects Women’s Health Every Day

All over the world, women, for a variety of reasons, experience much higher rates of pain than men…Yet, doctors discount women’s reports of pain and are more likely, when treating women, to discount women’s experiences of pain as emotional or psychological discomfort that they have to learn to live with.


My personal favorites? “You are too pretty to have so many problems,” and “You can’t be too sick because you have makeup on and you are not in your sweatpants.”


Lastly, medical research continues to fail to take sex-specific issues into account, mistakenly assuming that male, mostly white male, test subjects sufficiently represent all of humanity. This discriminatory skewing of research, in favor of male physiology, has considerable impact on women’s health, including pain and pain mitigation.

Last year, I had occasion to visit my doctor, who prescribed some medicine. When I asked him if any of the clinical trials for the medicine had included women, he admitted that he didn’t know, but assured me that it was the best solution available. So I looked it up. The trials showed that the medication worked for men, but actually had several high risks and contraindications for women. So I found a new doctor, one who didn’t dismiss my concerns with a paternalistic and sexist arrogance.

I’ve had some ridiculous experiences with doctors because of my gender, including completely outdated and false information about birth control, the implication that I don’t know enough to identify my pain, and having doctors completely ignore my choices because of my mental health issues.

There’s nothing quite like having a doctor tell you there’s nothing wrong with you when you’re incapacitated with pain, or blatantly make fun of your previous health care choices to your face.

And in our modern health care system, it’s basically impossible to figure out how a doctor will react to you and your illness or pain before you’re paying them money for their opinions about your health.

To me, that’s broken. At this point, I have a team of doctors that I trust and am able to communicate with, but it’s been 100% luck of the draw. HealthGrades doesn’t have survey questions for ‘is informed about the latest medical research’, ‘takes time to understand medical implications for diverse populations’, or ‘doesn’t make fun of patients’.