Discounting Women's Pain and Fear


Though it is not a new finding, researchers have once again corroborated the observation that both men and women severely discount women's pain. The subjects of the experiment were shown video clips of patients with shoulder pain:

"Perceivers rated how much pain they thought the patients were experiencing using a scale of 0-100, ranging from "absoluely no pain" to "worst pain possible." Overall, the female patients were perceived to be in less pain than male patients at the same intensity level of pain expressiveness. . . . The [subjects] prescribed pain medicine to women 58% of the time and psychotherapy 42% of the time, while men were prescribed pain medicine 62% of the time and psychotherapy 38% of the time."

The researchers hypothesized these differences were due to gender stereotypes, presumably because the subjects felt men would be more stoic than women, since women were allowed to be more expressive than men socially.

Of course, there may be more to this. The ubiquity of violent porn means that almost all men and a significant number of women are desensitized to women's pain entirely. Some are even influenced by religious ideas that God cursed women, and part of this curse is to experience a lot of bodily pain through reproduction--and therefore one can justifiably overlook or downplay women's pain.

I'd suggest, though, that there are real world consequences to this attitude that cascade far beyond the medical arena. Consider the case of 19 year old Shana Grice in the UK. Her ex-boyfriend began stalking her. She reported him to the police 5 times in 6 months. The police decided she was a nuisance, and fined her 90 British pounds for "wasting their time." Five months later, the ex slit her throat and killed her, after a horrible campaign of intimidation where he slashed her tires, stole her keys and entered her home, grabbed her on the street, and so forth.

Why didn't the police listen to her? Is it the same knee-jerk response as we see with pain? That her fear should be discounted because she is a woman? Or that a woman's natural condition is to be in fear?

What happened to Shana Grice makes my blood boil. What happens to all women whose pain and fears are dismissed or viewed as unremarkable and not worth responding to, makes my blood boil. I know how it feels, and it's a dehumanizing feeling. I don't even feel to ask what we can do about this, because I am not sure it can be changed in this fallen world. At this point, what I want to do is try to imagine Zion, or the celestial kingdom, where presumably this doesn't happen. But do you know what? I can't even imagine it. Isn't that horrible?