Introducing Hysterical Women: a feminist blog exploring sexism in women’s health

Hysterical Women

In October I launched a new blog, Hysterical Women – a project I’ve been thinking about and wanting to explore for quite a long time now. Visually it looks pretty similar to this one, but I wanted to create a dedicated space to focus on one specific strand that’s come up over and over again in my work over the last couple of years: the stereotype of the ‘hysterical woman’ in healthcare.

As I wrote in my (Wo)Manifesto for Hysterical Women:

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-fueled 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.

I’ve been really heartened by responses to the blog so far – and in particular by some of the conversations it’s sparked on my Facebook page. I’ve had the privilege of sharing some brilliant guest posts, on topics including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the perimenopause, vaginal atrophy, fibromyalgia, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and the LLETZ cervical biopsy – and there’s plenty more lined up over the coming weeks and months.

Guest post submissions are also very welcome (please get in touch!) – and I’d particularly like to feature more stories from women of colour and trans/non-binary people who’ve experienced sexism and other discrimination in healthcare settings, and healthcare professionals or researchers who are working to improve things for women.

I’ve also launched a monthly sister newsletter, That Time Of The Month, which you can sign up to at: tinyletter.com/sarahgraham7. Otherwise you’ll find a weekly guest post and a weekend round-up of news and research on the blog itself, or on my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles.

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