Witchcraft, the Wage Gap, and Medical Malpractice

The Lethal Effects of Misogyny in Healthcare

Elizabeth Nielson, Staff Writer

  Many women have been victims of cruelty, misdiagnoses, medical gaslighting, and more because of misogyny in the health system. Especially in regards to pain and mental health, women feel that they are not listened to. Duke University argues that “studies show that women’s perceptions of gender bias are correct. Compared with male patients, women who present with the same condition may not receive the same evidence-based care. In several key areas, such as cardiac care and pain management, women may get different treatment, leading to poorer outcomes.” 

  Throughout history, since the beginning of ‘modern’ medical practice, the poison of misogyny has been allowed to continue. Since its beginning, healthcare has been male-oriented. In more recent years, healthcare has been predominantly female, and yet, still geared towards the patriarchy. A 2019 analysis of 104 countries by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that while women make up 70 percent of the healthcare workforce, they make, on average, 11 percent less than men do for the same work. Not only is this misogyny evident in the glaringly obvious wage gap, but it also affects how women are treated in the workplace culture. Many female healthcare professionals report not being respected or listened to like their male counterparts.

  While healthcare sexism affects those working in the system, it also greatly affects their female patients as well. In earlier times, many aspects of a biological female were not understood. Women were more often than not left out of scientific studies. This led to continued mistreatment of women in healthcare, as many treatments were only tested on men. Along the same vein, because women were not included in many psychological experiments or clinical trials, mental health was a largely sexist medical field. Women dealing with entirely physical disorders of the body were diagnosed with ‘hysteria’ (an entirely sexist term in and of itself), and witchcraft. 

  Not only were women misdiagnosed and mistreated for easily treatable disorders (still to this day), they used to be killed from it. Women who suffered certain physical disorders or diseases, such as encephalitis (swelling of the brain) or Lyme disease, were seen as ‘witches’ and were tortured, drowned, burned at the stake, or killed in other ways because of it. Some argue that the girls of the Salem Witch Trials suffered from the brain swelling indicative of encephalitis, a largely curable disease in modern days, which manifests itself in symptoms of catatonia, hallucinations, seizures, and other behaviors seen as ‘witchcraft.’ 

  While an extreme example, the worldwide witch hunts that occurred are testimony to the historical sexism in relation to healthcare. While many strides have been made in regards to women’s health, there is still a long way to go. One of the biggest modern issues in healthcare is sexism that leads to missed or incorrect diagnoses. Women’s symptoms tend to present vastly differently depending on the affliction. The process of diagnosing a variety of disorders and diseases in women is considered entirely separate from that of men by many healthcare professionals simply because of the unique manifestation of symptoms.

This silent epidemic still kills today. Because of false or missed diagnoses, women aren’t receiving the care that they require.

— E. Nielson


  This silent epidemic still kills today. Because of false or missed diagnoses, women aren’t receiving the care that they require. Oftentimes, this results in long-lasting effects and damage and occasionally death. The Columbia Journal of Gender and Law supports this, saying, “women are more vulnerable to diagnosis-related malpractice.” Cecilia Plaza, the author, argues that this is because of two reasons: the aforementioned knowledge gap and the trust gap. The trust gap refers to the lack of trust between healthcare professionals and their female patients. Many women are accused of being dramatic or lying about their symptoms. This causes a delay or lack of treatment, which can result in negative long-term effects or death. 

  Since the beginning of what we call modern medicine to its current practice, the effects of misogyny in the system are, time and time again, evidently lethal.