Here’s what we’ve got lined up…

So, 2020 eh? In many ways it barely feels like ten minutes have passed since March, when I put Hysterical Women on furlough to focus on getting through lockdown and beyond. Simultaneously though, it feels like almost a different lifetime.

But, as I wrote in July, it feels more important than ever to be bringing the blog back now. Many of the events of 2020 have helped to highlight the stark existing health inequalities at play in our society. Gender bias – and all the other intersecting biases that Hysterical Women exists to explore – has been around since long before Covid-19, and will no doubt be around long after 2020 feels like a distant memory.

Some important conversations have been started, but there’s no quick fix when it comes to deeply ingrained systemic biases and, as I wrote for The Telegraph today, it remains to be seen exactly what long-term impact the pandemic will have on women’s health:

“Already we’ve seen the impact on maternity services, cancer screening and fertility treatments. We’ve also seen women struggling to access contraception and other sexual health services – although permanent access to telemedical abortion may prove to be one silver lining of the pandemic.

Experts are already warning about the far-reaching indirect effects Covid will have. As both academic and frontline resources are, understandably, plunged into coronavirus research and treatment, there’s a real danger that the already neglected field of women’s health will be one of the casualties.”

There’s no doubt that there are tough times ahead for all of us – and that women will disproportionately bear the brunt of changes to how we access healthcare, how we live, socialise and work, and how schools and other childcare services operate. It’s difficult to predict how circumstances and priorities will shift over the coming months and years, but we have to keep sharing and shouting about women’s experiences to ensure that our health is not forgotten about.

Fortunately, it’s clear that there’s still an appetite for this. Last week on my Instagram account I asked women to share their experiences of being dismissed by their doctors or other healthcare professionals. The response was absolutely overwhelming, and I’m still getting new messages and comments about it daily. I’ve been running Hysterical Women for nearly two years, but the shit some doctors say to the women in their care still never fails to astound me.

I’m always very quick to caveat these kinds of posts by pointing out that Hysterical Women isn’t anti-doctors or anti-NHS. I’m sure I speak for most, if not all, of the UK when I say that we’ve never been more aware than during the pandemic of how precious our NHS is. Equally, the healthcare professionals it employs are absolutely extraordinary human beings, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. But they are also just that: human beings. Human beings with their own biases, who are over-worked, under-resourced, and working within a flawed and biased system that too often lets women down.

So, until women stop sending me stories about the gaslighting, medical misogyny, dismissive attitudes and bias they experience at the hands of their doctors, Hysterical Women will keep banging on about it.

Right, that’s why we’re here. Now, here’s what you can expect from the new look Hysterical Women 2.0:

As I mentioned, my six month break from the blog over lockdown really gave me a chance to reflect on what Hysterical Women needs to do better in order to really achieve what I want it to achieve. And that wasn’t just a snazzy redesign, although I hope you like that too! I’m very proud of the platform I’ve created, and the stories I’ve shared so far, but there was no point bringing the blog back just to keep plodding on, doing what I’ve been doing for the last two years.

Above all, I really believe that Hysterical Women needs to be more proactive going forwards in my goal of being a truly diverse and inclusive safe space. I want anyone who’s affected by medical bias to be able to discuss their experiences here, so I’m working hard to ensure we’re sharing a broader range of voices and experiences.

That includes cis and trans women of all ages, races, sexualities and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as trans men and AFAB non-binary folk, who I recognise are also affected by varying types and degrees of bias depending on how they are perceived in healthcare settings. We all have to exist within a medical system where white, cis male bodies are the default, and there’s room here for all of us.

On the blog

So far I’ve lined up brand partnerships with Modibodi, &SISTERS and WakeyTV, who are supporting me to commission paid guest posts by women of colour in October and November. Generous Hysterical Women supporters have also funded two additional guest posts, which I’m so enormously grateful for.

Hysterical Women’s first mini series, in partnership with Modibodi, will be published in October. Entitled #BlackWomensHealthMatters, it focuses on the intersection of gender and racial bias in healthcare, and features paid guest posts by Black women and non-binary writers on their experiences of miscarriage, bipolar, bulimia, trigeminal neuralgia, and endometriosis, as well as Q&As with the FivexMore campaign, the Motherhood Group, Decolonising Contraception, Black Women in Menopause, and Black Minds Matter UK, and a guest post on Black women and HIV from Terrence Higgins Trust.

Also lined up are guest posts on anorgasmia, tokophobia, PMDD (sponsored by &SISTERS), Black women’s mental health (sponsored by WakeyTV), and more. Plus I’ve made my regular author Q&As a more prominent feature of the blog, with a Hysterical Women Book Club section for the book lovers among you. Our first Book Of The Month is So Hormonal: A Collection of Essays on Hormones, and you can read my Q&A with editor Emily Horgan now.

My next target is to find a sponsor for a mini series on trans and non-binary experiences of bias and ‘hysteria’ in healthcare – so if you work for a like-minded brand that could help me with this, please get in touch. All sponsorship fees (as well as reader donations and commission from book affiliate links) go directly to the writer of each post; I personally don’t take a penny from Hysterical Women.

On Instagram

I’m also launching a number of regular features which will be exclusive to Instagram, so please follow me there, @SarahGraham7writer, to get involved:

  • #ShitMyDoctorSays – inspired by the response to my recent ‘Attention-Seeking Hypochondriacs’ post, this series will look at the worst and most shocking things doctors say to women and non-binary patients. I’m going to organise these thematically (for example, ‘#ShitMyDoctorSays about PCOS’ or ‘#ShitMyDoctorSays to mums’) so please do contribute where relevant
  • WTF is… – drawing on my freelance work around little known, under-researched and misunderstood women’s health conditions, this series will introduce and explain conditions you might never have come across before – using interviews with actual medical experts, not just stuff I found on Google
  • #HealthcareHeroes – a glimmer of positivity, because I’m really not all about bashing doctors, honestly. This series will be the opposite of #ShitMyDoctorSays, celebrating the healthcare heroes whose compassion, care and understanding is changing lives for the better. It might be the words of the doctor or nurse who finally listened to your symptoms and took you seriously after months or years of being dismissed, or who listened and took you seriously from the word go. There are so many examples of best practice out there, and I want to highlight those too, not just the stuff that horrifies and infuriates us.
On email

That Time Of The Month newsletter is also back, with your monthly roundup of posts from the blog, as well as my Hysterical Women of the Month news update to keep you posted on the good, the bad and the ugly from the world of women’s health. If you haven’t already signed up, you can do so here.