Downplaying women’s pain: Yesterday my mother finally agreed to see a doctor after trying to convince her for several days. But her will was only thwarted when the doctor neglected her pain and termed it as “psychological”. Even my father jumped into the same pit by saying that my mother’s illness was in her mind. But was it right for the doctor or my father to ignore or downplay my mother’s pain?
How women’s pain is neglected in our society
I know I am not alone in this bias that plays behind ignoring women’s pain and health. Often, it is assumed that women complain a lot for small disruptions in their well being. Or that they are feigning their pain. Period pain, for example, is never taken seriously. Women who refuse to work or cry over period pain are often shut out as melodramatic. Women’s pain is downplayed as negligible and not considered important enough to invest time, money and efforts on. This is despite the fact that women suffer from 70 per cent of the chronic pains and experience pain more acutely and intensely than men.
Moreover, women themselves internalise the negligence towards their health. They ignore their pain and health and value their duty as a wife, daughter-in-law and mother. They rarely ask for a clinical check-up because they internalise that the family’s well being is more important than their own. This sacrificial nature of women is the reason why my mother was not ready to see a doctor initially. If she valued her well being, she would not have said no if she felt even a slight aberration in her health.
What are the reasons behind downplaying women’s pain?
The major reason behind this bias is the patriarchal attitude that feeds on women’s service and never considers their welfare important enough to draw focus. The subservient nature of womanhood in patriarchal society forces women to deprioritise their health, choices and rights and uphold those of men. Moreover, the idea that women are internally weak also formulates the mindset that ignores women’s pain as negligible.
Furthermore, the medical and biological research that is conducted to understand the functions of the human body also reeks of gender biases. The male body is often considered the ideal human body and the studies are based on this prejudice. This leads to a lack of knowledge and intellect to deal with women’s issues, which are different from those of men, separately.
As doctor Tanaya Narendra, physician, scientist and embryologist, told SheThePeople, “There has been a long history of misogyny in medicine. Women’s bodies were not understood well simply because male physicians were allowed to examine or dissect female cadavers. Additionally there was so much mystery around the idea of female genitals that no one really understood what they were and how they function.”
But why are we letting age-old patriarchal biases control our lives today? Isn’t it insensitive of society to downplay women’s pain based on traditional beliefs? Why do women’s bodies always become the ground to legitimise patriarchal oppression? Why aren’t women allowed to own, define and express their bodily needs and pain? Why do we let patriarchy determine the terms of women’s lives?
Any progress is not complete without women
The way we are progressing every day in different fields of study is commendable. But any progress that excludes women’s concerns is not wholesome. Women form half of the population in our country. It is just illogical to ignore their concerns and rights based on wrong traditional beliefs. Stop making women the scapegoats of the efforts to keep the tradition alive. Start questioning and changing the misconceptions that have been carried for ages. We are the changemakers. If we don’t envision a society free of patriarchy, then who will?