Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > Pain and Prejudice

Pain and Prejudice by Gabrielle  Jackson
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bookshelves: australian-author, australian-womens-writers-challenge, librarybooks

‘I have a disease that I know nothing about.’

I picked this book up because I saw a reference to Gabrielle Jackson’s diagnosis of endometriosis. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 1980, and I wondered what might have changed since then.

‘Endometriosis has been known as the ‘silent disease’, but that isn’t because women don’t want to talk about it.’

I quickly learned that while endometriosis was Ms Jackson’s starting point, her book is more broadly about women’s pain and suffering, and how that is treated (or not treated). Ms Jackson points to a lack of education about how our bodies work, and the social taboos and stigmas that prevent many of us from talking about our genitals, sex life, pain and reproductive processes. As she points out, many women do not know the names of parts of their anatomy. So how can women accurately describe the location of pain when they can’t identify where it is? Add to that the fact that in medicine the male is the default human being, then it is easy to see how women’s concerns can be overlooked and (or) ignored. Writing this, I am reminded that many women experience different symptoms of heart attack from men and consequently can be mistakenly diagnosed. Or, sometimes tragically, not diagnosed at all.

So I kept reading, becoming more and more uncomfortable. I remembered, too, that I’d had many of the symptoms of endometriosis for at least ten years before diagnosis.

‘We need to know what is normal as opposed to what is common.’

Women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men, and less likely to receive effective treatment. I can relate to this, and I know several other women who can as well. How often are men described as being ‘hysterical’?

This book is a blend of personal memoir, and presentation of reasons why women’s pain has been ignored. There are also some hopeful signs of a better understanding. But then I read about the earning differential between male and female doctors, that female doctors often take more time with their patients (which disadvantages them fee wise because of the way Medicare provides a greater benefit for some consultations than others). One outcome noted:

‘In 2018, an inner-Melbourne medical practice kicked off a media storm when it put up a sign announcing female GPs would be charging more than male GPs because women’s health issues take longer to deal with than men’s, and women tend to self-select female doctors.’

So, what are the answers? Surely the Australian health system is capable of recognising that then insertion of an IUD is more complex than a standard consultation? Surely the Australian health system is capable of recognising that biology can have an impact on medical issues? And, if you suffer from an autoimmune condition (as women do, more frequently than men), you’ll find some interesting information here.

I’d recommend this book to most of my friends (male and female). Many women my age and older will be acutely aware of the social taboos and stigmas, that leave us with euphemisms and vague descriptions of ‘down there’. I’d like to think that younger women are more knowledgeable, but I wonder.

Where to from here?

I’ll leave the last word to Ms Jackson:

‘Pain isn’t killing us, but it is denying us our full humanity. Refusing to understand this fact of life for women is tearing opportunities from our grasp. And I say, enough.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Reading Progress

December 17, 2019 – Started Reading
December 17, 2019 – Shelved
December 17, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-author
December 17, 2019 – Shelved as: librarybooks
December 17, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-womens-writers-challenge
December 19, 2019 –
page 150
December 21, 2019 – Finished Reading

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