Barely a week goes by without another weird and wacky wellness trend hitting the internet – from Kardashian-approved vampire facials to colonics, to an ever-increasing list of things doctors have warned us not to put in our vaginas. But beyond Instagram, what exactly is driving women to try these kinds of alternatives?
Since October, I’ve been running Hysterical Women, a feminist blog exploring women’s experiences of feeling dismissed and let down by their doctors, and I’ve increasingly found myself wondering just how much this disillusionment is driving the $4.2 trillion global wellness industry.
There’s no denying there’s a serious gender health gap. A 2003 study, “The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain” concluded that “women are more likely to be less well treated than men for their painful symptoms” and “biases have led health-care providers to discount women’s self reports of pain.”
As for medical knowledge, we’re also lacking. “Only 2.48% of publicly funded research goes towards women’s reproductive health, and fewer women than men participate in clinical research,” explains Janet Lindsay, CEO of charity Wellbeing of Women, which funds research into women’s health.
“There is a clear gender bias when it comes to medical research. In 2016, for example, there were five times more studies on erectile dysfunction (ED) than premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – yet PMS affects 90% of women compared to only around 19% of men suffering from ED,” she adds.
“Women’s health is still too often overlooked and underfunded. Women are often told their symptoms are ‘just women’s problems’, and this results in some women feeling that they can’t seek specialist help for fear of being dismissed.”