Why do women seek out alternative forms of medicine?
Women flock to use alternative medicine. Why is this?
Amidst a pandemic, it's only normal to begin questioning the current healthcare system. The flaws in which have existed for years are now cracking through in full force.
With this in mind, it's important to note that the use of alternative medicine is increasing, without the guidance of clinicians.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are used predominately by women.
So, why are women running to try out some of these interesting (albeit a little strange) alternatives to medicine, and what does it say about our current system?
What jumps to mind when you think about this? For me, it's a composite of traditional remedies used by generations of women and Gweneth Paltrow's brand 'Goop'.
One look onto Paltrow's website, and, in my opinion, it's a smart marketing ploy. From the face oil listed under "wellness" that costs £126, the £122 oil diffuser (which I'm not sure even includes the necessary oil), and the Luna Beads which are essentially just vibrating balls- for £54.
Goop isn't the only company guilty of capitalising off the wellness trend, though. I'm constantly seeing expensive juice cleanses, Himalayan salt lamps, and boosting vegetable vitamins.
It's obvious that the most privileged women in society have almost created their own healthcare system. Now, we can just leave them to do their own Goop-esque thing and use their expensive oils in peace. But the complexity of this issue goes much deeper.
It's reasonable to worry about crystal dildos which are harmful to your genitals and the detox teas which encourage starvation. It's also reasonable to call out the powerful wellness influencers which are guiding women into these products for some quick cash.
It's not just privileged white women that use CAM, though. It's a norm practised through many cultures - sometimes for generations. A study found that many races and ethnicities use CAM, but for different reasons - highlighting cultural and social factors prevalent in society.
So, we have to look into this deeper. The success of the privileged wellness trend and the continual use of CAM by those less privileged only highlights the flaws in the medical industry, which often dismisses and fails women.
Nobody thinks that healthcare is pleasant, for anybody. Nobody wants to be sick. Nobody wants to go through the waiting times, and in America's case - nobody wants to pay the cost.
Undoubtedly, the medical system is much worse for women. In a society engraved with sexism, and professionals holding internalised misogynistic views, the experience is a lot worse.
Another study found that doctors (incorrectly)assume that women have a "natural capacity to endure pain" and possess better coping mechanisms due to their ability to give birth.
Possibly as a result of this bias, women have to wait longer than men for similar/identical issues, and are 25% less likely to receive opioids when dealing with pain.
Most women have dealt with these bias and stereotypical views that doctors hold. Many who attempt to get help for autoimmune diseases such as endometriosis, autoimmune disease and even MS will go undiagnosed for years.
Conditions that affect women in higher rates are much more likely to be dismissed by doctors - claiming they have a psychological source rather than a physiological.
The gender data gap also means that women are 50% more likely to die from a heart attack, due to the majority of medical knowledge deriving from the testing on males. That is male bodies, male animals, and male cells.
Needless to say, a large population of women have been negatively treated by medical professionals. So much so, we often downplay our own problems and allow treatable conditions to worsen.
Then, the wellness industry enters. Like it or not, it provides a much more open-minded, safer, and understanding space - one where women feel respected, heard, and cared for.
The female body, for many CAM products, IS the dummy. A big difference from how women are treated in medical settings.
It's not all overpriced crap, too. Yoga and meditation have both been proven to have a variety of benefits. Acupuncture has shown to be effective for pain relief, and kava (a traditional medicine made from the crushed roots) can be an effective symptomatic treatment option for anxiety.
Problems arise when the wellness industry meets with capitalism. To claim that the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow have capitalised from the lack of respect in medical treatment would be justified.
Experiencing an adverse medical assessment or being dismissed leaves women susceptible to misinformation. Rather than indulging in evidence-backed CAM, they begin to obsess over coconut oil and crystals.
On the surface, this is harmless, However, this has led to many women practising harmful treatments, ignoring useful medical advice, and opting against vaccines for their newborn babies.
We are a long way from gender parity when it comes to medical research and treatment. That's no secret.
But does spending our hard-earned cash on Jade eggs and a coffee enema help anybody, even yourself? This isn't pushing for change or closing the gender data gap. It only dismisses the problems, in a similar way that doctors do - only this time, this dismissal is embellished with oiled-up crystals.
These products, considering their high price points, are quite clearly for the most privileged; widening the wealth gap.
Minorities and the working class, as with most subjects, are the worst hit by medical inequality. Studies have shown that minorities considered the cost of conventional medical treatments as the main reason they turn to CAM.
Overall, this showcases wider socio-economic issues. Women should not feel like they have to resort to crystals. Practitioners need to let go of sexist stereotypes and listen to their patients. Society needs to abandon the gendered claims about pain tolerance and illness.
Likewise, healthcare should be treated as a basic human right. Nobody in society should opt for disproven CAM methods because they cannot afford the treatment they need.
In the UK, a hostile environment has allowed the NHS to share data with immigrant enforcement. Many migrants are afraid to seek the healthcare they need. Sign this letter to make healthcare services available and safe for all migrants to use.