5 Health Effects Of Sexism, Because It Isn't Doing Anyone Any Favors
Like a zombie on The Walking Dead, sexism is a contemporary scourge that just refuses to die. As much as we try to study the phenomenon's machinations to arm ourselves properly, it still somehow finds ways to attack. But although the devastating social effects of sexism are well-documented, the health effects of sexism don't often rank high on the list of gripes about systemic gender disparity.
As many feminist theorists have noted over the years, sexism hurts people of all gender identities. It of course disproportionately affects women and queer folks, but even cis men can feel its sting. The sexist narratives that define how we should act and what opportunities we have in the world influence our emotional, professional, and physical well being in a variety of ways. As those same narratives determine how much we get paid at work, how much control we have over our bodies, and how much we are protected under the law, it doesn't take an expert to imagine that the lower one's standing in society is, the more their health might suffer because of it.
Here are five studies that delve into the links between health and sexism, with some offering more conclusive links than the next.
1. Women's Pain Is Treated More Slowly Than Men's Pain
According to a 2008 study published in Academic Emergency Medicine, which measured 981 patients with acute abdominal pain who visited an emergency room, men waited a median of 49 minutes to receive pain medication, while women waited a median of 65 minutes. In another study where nurses were given profiles of hypothetical patients and asked to calculate how much time would be needed to treat each one, male patients were consistently given more time, which in the real world, correlates to more attention and thus more care.
2. Women's Pain Is Harder To Recognize
Another barrier women face when trying to get treatment for their aliments is the ability for caretakers to recognize pain. One study published in the European Journal of Pain found that gender impacts our ability to decode pain in a person's face. Participants, regardless of their own gender, found it more difficult to pick out a facial expression of pain on a woman than they were on a man.
3. Bisexual Women Suffer From More Health Problems Than All Other Women
Bisexual women were found to suffer from more health problems than lesbian and heterosexual women, according to studies from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Norwegian Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs. Researchers pointed to lower rates of coming out to friends and colleagues, and higher rates of discrimination faced from not fitting into the "gay" or "straight" categories as factors which might impact their physical and mental health.
4. Women's Health Issues Are More Likely To Be Dismissed As Psychological
Study upon study have demonstrated that women's pain is less likely to be treated seriously than men's — and often attributed to psychological factors rather than physical ones. I believe they call it the "it's all in your head, you hysterical woman" phenomenon, actually. But seriously, this is a well-documented issue and one that affects millions of women across the country.
5. Sexist Men Are More Likely To Suffer From Depression
In a delightful twist, it seems that both the victims and the perpetrators of sexism suffer in their own ways. (OK, maybe it's not delightful, but merely sad all around.) A new study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology looked at 78 studies on masculinity and mental health between 2003 and 2013. According to The Washington Post, of the predominately white, heterosexual male participants, those who were identified as “traditionally masculine” and displayed the "desire to win, need for emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, sexual promiscuity or playboy behavior, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality and pursuit of status" were also more likely suffer from depression, stress, substance abuse, and body image issues.
The takeaway? Although not everyone might see it this way yet, sexism isn't doing anyone any favors.
Images: Unsplash; Giphy