During my free time, or when I need time to kill, I hop on the app TikTok like most people with social media. TikTok provides quick entertainment at your fingertips and even creates an algorithm in which videos one enjoys come on their page quite conveniently. While this app is designed for comedic entertainment, I find myself time and time again stumbling upon videos of women discussing their nightmare encounters with healthcare.
Most of these videos I encounter involve women starting to talk about a health issue they have and are concerned about. The women talk about going to see a professional health care provider about their issue and discuss it accordingly. Typically, this part in the videos is where things turn sideways. It commonly leads to doctors and or medical professionals dismissing the women’s health problem as something minor and nothing to worry about. Nothing to be treated for, and nothing to be further discussed.
It’s no surprise to anyone that women deal with this kind of dismissal of their health problems or issues, especially for black women. This kind of dismissal comes in two forms, women’s physical health and mental health. Women are constantly gaslighted by medical professionals that what they are experiencing isn’t worth being looked into or treated. Sometimes, the medical professionals don’t even believe the women.
Northwell Health discusses a study where women were found to have to wait longer than thirty three percent of males who come in complaining about the same symptoms (Northwell Health). In addition, male patients are typically not questioned about their symptoms unlike women. One Doctor from the Northwell Health article describes there is a large gender bias in health care.
One of the most recent videos I saw online of a woman describing her health issues was the most shocking to me. A woman possibly in her early to late forties describes lower abdominal pain to her medical professional to which he chalked up as appendicitis. Following this diagnosis, she was told to go to the emergency room for further examination. At the emergency room, she was told by doctors they did not think her pain was due to appendicitis, but rather an ovarian cyst.
The woman immediately knew the medical professionals were wrong in their diagnosis as she had a hysterectomy twenty years prior which removed her ovaries and well as her uterus. The woman explained to the medical professionals that it was impossible for her to have an ovarian cyst as she no longer had ovaries and hadn’t for the past twenty years. This is where the shock comes in, the medical professional did not believe the woman at all. They assumed she was “confused” telling her they most likely only took her uterus out for the hysterectomy.
The woman was appalled when medical professionals did not believe her about her own body. The woman was then told to go home while the medical staff did some research. She was back at the emergency room in only a few days with excruciating pain when the medical professionals told her, so, it appears you don’t have ovaries. The medical staff shortly realized that the woman was not suffering from an ovarian cyst, but yet, appendicitis.
Gender bias, discrimination, and intersectionality are all issues in healthcare facilities. My big question is why? Women deal with scheduled pain stemming from their menstrual cycles at least once a month that men will never deal with or understand. So why is it that male health care professionals feel that it is okay and just to dismiss female health issues with pain and all medical issues in general? When will this change if it ever does? What needs to be done for women to feel heard when seeking medical help? This issue will go untouched until people know what’s going on in the medical field for women.
Gaslighting in women’s health: No it’s not Just in your head. Katz Institute for Women’s Health. (n.d.). https://www.northwell.edu/katz-institute-for-womens-health/articles/gaslighting-in-womens-health