Why women’s health is a feminist issue

Welcome to Hysterical Women, a place to explore the sexism surrounding women’s health.

Hysterical Women was born out of frustration. Time and time again in my work I speak to women who’ve been dismissed, disbelieved, distrusted, and denied diagnosis or choice over their own healthcare. Women who are made to feel like ‘hysterical’, ‘attention seeking’ ‘drama queens’ or ‘hypochondriacs’. Women who are told they’re ‘just hormonal’, or that it’s ‘all in your head’. Women who are told their (often male) doctor knows their body and mind better than they do. And women living with conditions that are so overlooked and underfunded that there’s a worrying lack of research, knowledge, awareness and treatment available.

From menarche to menopause – their first period to their last – women’s health, and their health-related choices, are constantly scrutinised. But how much are they really understood? What role do our hormones really play in all of this? And how much of it is just good old-fashioned, institutional, medical sexism?

For a long time I’ve been wondering how to start drawing all these threads together, and highlighting the patterns that exist in all areas of women’s health: mental, physical, sexual and reproductive, menstrual, maternal, menopausal. Then it came to me – like most of the best ideas – over a G&T-fuelled session of putting the world to rights with another woman.

I am constantly in awe of the strength, passion and determination of the other women I have the privilege of working with, and the amazing things that can happen when those women put their heads together. I hope Hysterical Women will be a place where more of those conversations can happen – a hub for news, research and, most importantly, women’s own voices.

So, here’s how it’s going to work…

A holistic approach

Women’s health, particularly in feminist discussions, often focuses on the sexual and reproductive – and for good reason. But sexism in women’s health is a much broader problem. Hysterical Women will address the following areas:

  • Attention Seeking Hypochondriacs – on women’s physical health and pain, including (but not limited to) chronic health conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Bitches On The Blob – on menstrual health, from period poverty to problem periods, like endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Handmaids, Wives & Whores – on sexual and reproductive health, including contraception, emergency contraception, sexuality, gynaecological health, sexual dysfunction, STIs, and abortion
  • Hysterical Women – on general issues around women’s health being dismissed, disbelieved and distrusted
  • Mad Women In The Attic – on women’s mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, and self-harm
  • Menopausal Crones – on everything from perimenopause to post-menopause, including vaginal atrophy, hot flushes, and menopausal mood swings
  • Neurotic Mothers – on perinatal and maternal health, and the lifelong sexist scrutiny of maternal decisions
  • Each of these categories is inclusive of LGBT+ health issues. These include lesbian and bisexual healthcare, gender dysphoria and the treatment of trans women, and navigating hysteria as a trans man or non-binary person who is misgendered as female in healthcare settings.

An intersectional feminist perspective

Hysterical Women is, at its core, a feminist blog, founded on the following principles:

  • To be pro-informed-choice
  • To trust women
  • To be pro-NHS and pro-science
  • To address systemic inequalities and prejudices
  • To be inclusive and intersectional

In particular, it’s important to recognise that POC and LGBT+ communities are especially marginalised when it comes to healthcare, and Hysterical Women will strive to ensure their stories are heard.

Weekly and monthly updates

Each week I will publish:

  • At least one guest post (usually on a Wednesday, occasionally on a theme) from a woman or non-binary person sharing their experience of sexism in healthcare. Please contact me if you’d like to share your story
  • A weekend round-up (Hysterical Women Of The Week) of news and research
  • Quotes, excerpts and links to wider reading on the subject – including my own and other women’s work, and spotlights on women’s health campaigns

For monthly updates from the blog, you can sign up to my newsletter (That Time Of The Month, obviously), which will go out on the second Tuesday of every month.