Stop ovary-acting

Hysterical Women is a feminist blog founded by freelance health journalist Sarah Graham, to explore the sexism, paternalism, dismissal and disbelief surrounding women’s healthcare.

“Hysteria”, from the Greek word for uterus, hystera (ὑστέρα), was historically used to describe a range of emotional, mental, physical and sexual symptoms in women.

It’s no longer an accepted medical diagnosis, but the idea of ‘hysteria’ lives on.

Often used interchangeably with ‘hormonal’, the word ‘hysterical’ is used to dismiss women as overly emotional or irrationally upset.

Ovary-acting, if you will.


But how much are our hormones really calling the shots, and how much is just plain old-fashioned sexism?

As a feminist health journalist, specialising in mental, sexual and reproductive health, a recurring theme in my work is women not being trusted when it comes to their own health. I see women’s health concerns not being taken seriously, and women being denied bodily autonomy over their own treatment.

I hear from women in mental and emotional pain who’ve been dismissed as “hormonal” – and women in chronic physical or sexual pain who are told “it’s all in your head”. And I hear from women who’ve had to fight for the right to make informed, adult decisions about their own healthcare.

Women in mental, emotional, physical, or sexual pain are dismissed, disbelieved, and denied diagnosis or treatment. They’re not trusted to know their own bodies and minds. And once they get talking about the issues, they invariably tell me: “I thought I was the only one”, or “I thought I was going mad.”

This blog is a safe, inclusive space for them to be heard – both through my own ongoing work on the subject, and in their own words.

Hysterical Women is:

  • Pro-choice

I support informed, evidence-based, consensual choice, and bodily autonomy.

  • Pro-woman

I believe women’s accounts of their own experiences. I believe in the power of sisterhood, solidarity, and supporting one another to speak out.

  • Pro-NHS

I love our wonderful, free at the point of delivery, great British healthcare system, and I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the people who work in it. I’m not here to bash over-worked, under-resourced healthcare professionals. Frankly, I think they’re doing an incredible job under enormous pressure. What I am interested in is the higher level medical sexism that holds women’s healthcare back: the lack of investment in research, training, and treatments, and the social stereotypes that negatively impact on women being taken seriously in medical settings.

  • Inclusive

Although the primary focus of this blog is on women’s health, it is inclusive of all women (trans or cis), trans men and non-binary people who are interested in these issues.

All women and all AFAB folks’ experiences of healthcare are welcome here. Although there are common themes, we all have different bodies and different experiences, and women’s health covers a far broader remit than just gynaecology. Equally, I recognise that ‘hysteria’ can also affect trans men and AFAB non-binary folks who are perceived or misgendered as female in healthcare settings, and I welcome guest posts on these experiences too.

I’m interested in presenting a whole range of perspectives on health, gender, hormones, and sexism, regardless of what the author has in their pants. POC and LGBT+ communities are especially marginalised when it comes to healthcare, and I will strive to ensure the voices and stories of these women or trans/non-binary people are heard.