As an endometriosis patient, I am quite versed in the art of explaining my symptoms to friends and strangers. Talking about my disease on podcasts, or telling doctors about the embarrassing things my body does has become quite natural to me. I am also familiar with being at the receiving end of advice I never asked for. And there is one particular form of unwarranted council that irritates me above the rest: mansplaining.
Mansplaining happens when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending, patronizing way. And you’d think that because endometriosis is generally suffered by those of us with periods, those free of any menstrual fun would not target us. And you’d be wrong.
Yes, I have been a victim of mansplaining while quietly and politely rolling my eyes so hard I almost blacked out. Some examples include:
The doctor who told me to forget about specialists.
Since I am based in the U.K., soon after my diagnosis, I went back to my general practitioner to get referred to a specialist. I had researched specialist clinics and made a list. Yet my doctor, making no eye contact, reminded me of the “poor state of almost every hospital.” He also told me I shouldn’t bother searching for specialist care, since pregnancy would cure my disease. I politely explained, with facts and figures, how wrong he was. Still, he insisted: “Some women do cure their endometriosis like that.”
Then there was the businessman who called me for “advice.” Except he knew nothing about endometriosis, and barely acknowledged my response when told there was currently no known cure. He kept talking over me, loudly repeating how he wanted to end women’s suffering. What about my suffering? I never wanted a conversation to end that badly.
Then there are those commenters lurking around endometriosis forums who love to address all of us as a single collective. Calling us to attention with a casual “ladies” or “girls,” they offer their patronizing rants on why labeling ourselves as chronically ill is to blame for our symptoms. They also are extremely keen on telling us that what we know about our own bodies is incorrect.
Guys, please don’t do that.
All of my experiences with mansplaining came courtesy of men with no uterus, no ovaries, and no vaginas. They claim to understand the pain that comes with illnesses like endometriosis, but not only have they no experience of it, they don’t really listen to anything patients say.
That’s the common denominator in cases like the ones mentioned above. They claim to want to help us, but when we open our mouths, their brains short-circuit. They see words coming from someone with a pair of ovaries and fail to process it all. Their minds label any facts we throw at them as “hysteria” or “drama,” and switch off.
I must add that I don’t intend to criticize male doctors or cis men as a whole. My first specialist was a male doctor, and he was incredibly kind. He believed my pain and knew that my symptoms were real. He understood that his job was to offer me effective treatment, not patronizing advice. When I told him I wrote about the disease, we discussed some ideas, and he put me in contact with fellow experts.
There is hope for mansplainers, though.
I know there are men out there who don’t mansplain. That’s why I strongly believe that there is hope for those tormented by this horrible affliction. From brain shutdowns to ears that stop working, and mouths that won’t stop jabbering — unlike endometriosis, mansplaining can be cured.
Please leave period talk to those who are pros at it, and by that, I mean those of us who bleed regularly. And listen to us when we say it hurts because unless you suffer from regular heart attacks or plan to give birth, you don’t know endometriosis pain.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.
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