The meaning of misogyny

USA Today is calling medical misogyny, which I recently wrote about for Medium, “a sex and gender gap every woman needs to know about.”

From the USA Today piece: “It’s not malice but a pervasive, implicit sex and gender bias in medicine that’s leading female patients to be misdiagnosed, neglected, dismissed as complainers, accused of being overanxious, mislabeled as depressed or told their symptoms are all in their heads, said physicians who are fighting to change the system.”

Found the link through https://twitter.com/SWHR, which I highly recommend you follow if you’re a person who loves to be angry online, aka Twitter user.

Also found this recently:

“Sometimes I think back over all the different medications and pharmaceutical products I’ve taken with the aim of whipping my bodily functions into submission. I thought about it when I learned that Viagra (AKA the ‘Boner Pill’) was graciously covered by my husband’s insurance, while mine didn’t cover anything I could buy to tame my hot flashes. My declining hormones were considered ‘a normal part of aging,’ while impotence in aging males is a national emergency.” From A Woman’s Work: The Inside Story – Longreads

I agree with these physicians who are fighting to change the system, actually. Generally speaking I’m a “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” person in my better moments.

I think this relates to how people tend to misunderstand what misogyny means. It’s not individuals hating women. Okay, some individuals definitely hate women.

But misogyny is better understood as a system that reinforces assumptions about women that turn out to be pernicious. People don’t assume women are less competent than men because they hate women. They assume that because they’ve been taught that from an early age. And since then we’ve all been rewarded when we’ve reinforced that idea: “I’m not like other girls.” And punished when we challenged it: “Actually, I’m just like other girls.” People don’t hate women, we hate being wrong and we hate learning that things are more ambiguous than we thought they were.

So doctors don’t choose to believe that women tend to exaggerate their pain and illness in some conscious attempt to keep women sick. They believe it because that’s what they’ve been told and they don’t have a lot of time to question their assumptions. The result is that women end up being sicker and in more pain for longer than we need to be.

The solution then to misogyny isn’t to try to get people to like women more. It’s to educate people about the lies they’ve been told about men and women. It’s to alert people to their own pernicious biases and assumptions. It’s not women vs the misogynists. It’s everyone vs misogyny.

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