A sturdy account of how sexism in medicine is hobbling women’s health care.
When Feministing.com editorial director and lifelong athlete Dusenbery was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she began an analysis of medical science’s lack of understanding of autoimmune diseases. As she probed further and began hearing stories from women whose health complaints were either dismissed or misdiagnosed, the author developed serious concerns about the lack of attention paid to the potential differences between men and women. She places blame in part on the male-dominated medical industry, which approaches gender gaps and their separate health-related concerns lopsidedly and with a marked lack of knowledge and trust. In her well-informed study, Dusenbery traces the history of women’s medicine and health care activism and presents a wide variety of anecdotal material from women who voice their experiences and their exasperation with a system that remains unsupportive, skeptical, and indifferent when confronted with reproductive issues, pain complications, sex-specific drug reactions, and general well-being. The same applies when addressing diagnostic delays, which can render a suffering woman unable to function in society or physically cope. The author notes that in matters of heart disease and women, the symptoms have been undertreated or misdiagnosed entirely under the universal “male model” platform of the condition. Her analysis progresses into greatly misunderstood issues of chronic pain, migraine disorders, endometriosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome, all supported with engaging stories of women who wound up either being considered “hysterical” or had their suffering categorized as psychosomatic. Within an organized, well-balanced combination of scientific and social research and moving personal stories, Dusenbery makes a convincing case for the need for drastic industry reform and clinical refinement. She also addresses larger issues of gender equality and how to confront a culture of sexism and rampant sexual harassment against women. A final clipped section on solutions, unfortunately, feels insufficient and begs for pages of elaboration.
An intensive, timely spotlight on the gender disparities within the modern health care system that falls short on solutions.