Popsugar Reading Challenge category: A book with alliteration in the title
Pain and Prejudice: How the Medical System Ignores Women - and What We Can Do About It, by Gabrielle Jackson
This book is part biology lesson, part history, and part polemic. Jackson traces the history of women's medical issues being dismissed as "hysteria," and how a woman with unexplained pain is still more likely than a man to be offered anti-depressants instead of painkillers.
Conditions that mainly affect women tend to be under-researched, which makes them difficult to diagnose and treat. With little real information about them, conditions that are "contested" (that is, some doctors don't believe they exist) are overwhelmingly conditions that mostly affect women: chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia. The author described her own experience going to an emergency room for severe pain: the moment she mentioned having endometriosis, the staff stopped taking her seriously and quickly sent her away. (The pain was later diagnosed, elsewhere, as an infection.)
Medical research is overwhelmingly done on men or male animals. Even when there are no concerns about test subjects being pregnant, or the tests are on rats, the argument offered is that including women introduces too many variables to get clear results. But the result is that findings aren't necessarily valid for half the population.
Jackson takes pains to stress that this isn't a vast conspiracy of the medical establishment to intentionally harm women. It's easy, even "natural," for people to pay attention to issues that may affect them personally. And most of the people in charge of research and funding are men. So erectile dysfunction (which denies men pleasure) gets about five times as many studies as conditions (such as endometriosis) that make sex physically painful for women. One eye-popping anecdote: one of the few studies of endometriosis to get funding recently was designed to rate the "attractiveness" of women with that condition. No, seriously.
Jackson's proposed solutions appear simple, yet somehow they still elude those in a position to make change. A shift in research funding so that conditions affecting mainly women actually get studied. Including women in all studies of all conditions not exclusive to men. And the most oft-repeated statement from women throughout the book: "If only doctors would listen to their patients!"