The 'Invisible Women': Gender bias in medicine through a patient's lens
Vision of Luxury – Synopsis:
I have sculptured my very own vision of luxury; a striking female figure standing proud, adorned in beautiful clothing created only of genuine luxury materials.
While this statement may appear to be in jest given the objects used for my conception, it is true that tampons, pads, and other menstruation products are currently taxed as “luxury, non-essential items” in the UK and subject to a 5% tax. I am using this piece of artwork to highlight the absurdity of this fact, and the point that period poverty is a real and serious cause of health and social disadvantage to women / those that menstruate. Until very recently, menstrual products were not even provided free of charge in all hospitals for use during an inpatient stay, whereas shaving products for men have always been easily available. How can it be that to be clean-shaven is a granted freedom & essential aspect of hygiene/sanitisation afforded to (predominantly) male patients, however suitable menstruation products are not included under the umbrella of essential toiletries for women. This is one way in which there is a gender bias in medicine, and one that is often overlooked when considering gender inequality from a patient’s perspective. Period poverty also has a significant effect on women’s health; poor menstrual hygiene can cause both physical and mental health problems, having been linked to reproductive and urinary tract infections, and also to greater incidences of anxiety/depression. It also prevents women from engaging fully in activities of daily living, with a quarter of women in the UK report missing either education or work due to being unable to afford adequate menstruation products. However despite all of this, period poverty is still a relatively un-heard-of phenomenon. Women using food banks for menstruation products, or young girls using stolen toilet roll for their early periods are still largely unseen. I therefore present my ‘tongue-in-cheek’ demonstration of the absurdity of classing menstruation products as non-essential luxuries, to highlight the ‘invisible women’ who suffer in silence.
Artistic piece created by Dr Kirsten Sellick August 2019
Medical Women’s Foundation Junior Doctor Creative Prize