I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had relatively few sexist experiences while seeing doctors. The worst that ever happened to me was one doctor who refused to stop referring to me as a girl even though I’m actually an adult woman now, thanks, and way past the age when anyone should be calling me a “girl.” It wasn’t as if I’d been seeing him since I was a child or anything, so I didn’t understand. Maybe he called everyone girl. Maybe it was just me because I’m what they call short. Who knows. But he wasn’t a gynecologist or anything (that would have been a lot more creepy) so it was no big deal.
But people on BuzzFeed are sharing stories of the most sexist things that doctors have ever said to them and, boy howdy, they are bad. Like, cringing-bad. It’s not just that the sexism itself is frustrating, it’s that people can be misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed because doctors refused to listen to them.
At 18 and suffering from extreme pain and swelling in both knees, I was told it “because I’m a woman and my hips are wide.”
One time I was feeling pain when I urinated, but i could tell it wasnt a UTI because I’d had them before and this didn’t feel at all the same. Went to the (male) doctor and described the pain, saying I don’t think it’s a UTI. He said it’s a UTI. He ran the tests which confirmed I didnt have an infection. He wasnt convinced and prescribed me antibiotics and sent me on my way. I still never figured out the cause of the pain because he was positive a UTI is the ONLY source of pain when a female urinates.
I went to the doctor after coming back from study abroad to get diagnosed for what turned out to be chronic dehydration. When the doctor entered the room and started reviewing my medical history, she saw that I, a 21 year old woman, had depression. She was initially in disbelief saying, “but you’re so young!” and then asked “hmm was it a really bad breakup with a boyfriend?” As if that’s the only real explanation for why a woman would be depressed. Honestly, it’s pretty appalling that a doctor’s appointment with a female physician couldn’t pass the Bechdel Test.
I was 15 and was at my brothers appointment but I tagged along with my mom. I was wearing a basic v-neck, and doctor pulls me aside to tell me “you don’t need to wear low cut shirts for attention”. I was really taken aback by it
I visited my new doctor when my back pain from falling down stairs didn’t subside after a bit. He told me that I was just nervous about getting married. It was actually two herniated discs.
I recently saw a gastroenterologist for unexplained vomiting. I’m a small person to begin with, and I lost ten pounds in a month. At one point I had to be hospitalized for dehydration. When I was finally able to convince him that no, I’m definitely not pregnant, he scheduled an endoscopy.
While I was lying on the table waiting for the anesthesiologist, he asked if anyone in my family was “anorexic, like you”. Not a question, a statement of fact. And after the procedure he told my husband (while I was sitting next to him) that I needed to gain weight if I was gonna be giving him babies.
My drivers license was suspended after I had a seizure, and when I went to the doctor to have the paperwork filled out in order to get my license back, the male doctor said to me “Why are you upset that it’s suspended? In a few years your boyfriend or husband will drive you everywhere anyway.” When I made a complaint to his superior, I was told this wasn’t the first time he had had similar complaints made against him.
I was in labor with my youngest child. My midwife had encouraged me to keep going a while before getting an epidural so things wouldn’t slow down, which I was on board with. I knew I would eventually want one though, so the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me about what would happen. I was in the middle of a contraction and he said, “Now if you’d like, you can wait a while before doing this so you can experience the flavor of labor…” I was in too much pain to tell him that was the dumbest thing I ever heard. I’m sure he meant well, but he was making the most excruciating pain of my life sound as minimal as choosing which ice cream I wanted. Luckily he didn’t come back when it was time for the epidural – a (male) nurse anesthetist got the job done with no fuss and clearly took my pain seriously. This was the only moment in either of my pregnancies where I didn’t feel heard or understood – I was lucky to have excellent care from male and female doctors, midwives, and nurses both times – but seriously, the FLAVOR of labor?
My family doctor told me at 28 that I seriously needed to consider when I would be having children because I was “getting on up there”. It was the last time I saw him. And I had my kid at 31.
When I was 18 I went to the ER by ambulance after passing out, following three straight days of pain and passing blood. The first doctor who saw me told me I was “just having a miscarriage”, despite my repeated insisting that that was a- not the type of bleeding I was experiencing, and b- 100% impossible since you kind of have to have some sort of intimacy with men to become pregnant. The doctor told me to take a Tylenol and go home. I did just that, wound up vomiting, went back to the ER and ended up hospitalized for almost a week with both colitis and bleeding stomach ulcers.
I’ve been in and out of emergency rooms for years with severe pelvic pain and horrific periods. I’ve had several male doctors insist that it’s normal to be vomiting and on the verge of passing out when I’m on my period. Finally had surgery this year and it turns out I have endometriosis.
A couple months post op I was still having my periods and still in excruciating pain every day. My (male) surgeon told me it was impossible for me to still be in pain because I just had surgery. Flash forward a few weeks and I am in the ER again from pain and vomiting for two days straight not able to keep anything down—not even water. The doctor did a pelvis exam and an ultrasound as well as some bloodwork. Turns out I had a massive pelvic infection that had been untreated for weeks. Even after delivering my results he refused to prescribe me any pain medication and insinuated I was a drug addict/dealer because I had a couple prescriptions filled for painkillers (before and immediately following my surgery). I didn’t even ask for anything beyond ibuprofen. Now I get to start a shot to temporarily induce menopause because no one listened to me for ten years of pain.
After experiencing issues with the contraceptive pill, such as extreme mood swings for example, I went to my GP to see other forms of contraception. After I told her why I wanted to stop taking the pill, she said “I don’t understand why girls lie about this, the pill does not affect moods”. The doctor literally accused all girls of lying about the side effects, despite it being a listed side effect in the manual.
I was in my early 20s, and having bad headaches. My GP sent me to a neurologist, and my Dad came with me because he was worried. The neurologist did not address me ONCE. He spoke only to my Dad, asking things about my symptoms as though I was not even in the room. And then he said it sounded like it was probably “hormonal”, and sent me on my way. Yeah, we found another neurologist, who actually spoke to ME.
I was 16 when I went to the ER for what I knew was appendicitis. (My mom was a nurse and I knew a lot about the symptoms, etc). While I was there they kept asking me when my last cycle was, and it had been 10 months because I am super irregular. They kept asking me if I was pregnant and I kept explaining no (I was a virgin, never even kissed a boy better yet seen a penis). They literally had my mom leave the room (she worked at his hospital) telling me that they needed to do an ultrasound to check for a pregnancy. I was like I AM NOT PREGNANT MY APPENDIX IS ABOUT TO RUPTURE. Finally after the ultrasound they confirmed my non pregnancy and after the cat scan I went to emergency surgery to remove my appendix. So crazy I knew I wasn’t pregnant but they had five different people come in and ask me to “make sure.”
I had to see a male OBGYN because my regular doc was out of town and I was experiencing extremely heavy vaginal bleeding and cramps. Turns out, I was having a miscarriage and hadn’t known I was pregnant. The doctor questioned me condescendingly, asking how I couldn’t have known I was pregnant. After I explained that my husband had had a vasectomy, he then asked if I was sure my husband had really done it. During the pelvic exam, he used forceps to forceably pull the fetal material out of me, no anesthesia. I had to go back to see this doctor after a couple of weeks and all he wanted to discuss was prescribing me birth control pills so that “this doesn’t happen again” to me.
It was over three years before I went back to a gynecologist.
Went to the ER a few months ago because I was fatigued all the time and could barely muster the energy to get off the couch. I had been losing weight, coughing and unable to sleep. The doctor looked my mom in the face and told her he saw this in a lot of young girls and that I was probably anorexic. Refused to give me proper care beyond an inhaler. Later I found out I was battling bacterial, fungal, and viral lung infections- simultaneously. Suck it doc.
I went to the ER for extreme abdominal pain. The male physician assistant I saw failed to listen to me explain where the pain was and how my stool was black and sludgy. He pressed on my abdomen while I was sitting in a chair and sent me for an ultrasound. After the test, he said I had an ovarian cyst and a history of them then sent me home. I followed up with my female OBGYN the next day and she looked over everything and had me lay down to do an exam. She told me I had colitis and gave me antibiotics. The treatment worked and I felt 100% within a week. When I followed up with my female general practice doctor about a week later, she looked at a CT scan I had done two years prior and said there is no way I had colitis and told me that I needed to lose weight. When I told her I was doing CrossFit to get in shape, she told me that men don’t like bulky women. My husband was sitting in the room! I have switched GPs and I’m much happier.
Just a few weeks ago when my boyfriend and I went to a doctor because we realized that I was pregnant.
My boyfriend and I do not have the same nationalities and I recently moved to his country and therefore do not speak the language (French) that well. So I asked the doctor to speak English (which is also an administrative language), which she at first did. However upon explaining things for our next appointment she switched to French and kept talking to my boyfriend, ignoring me completely.
Well next appointment – I did not bring any pee as my bf forgot to tell me to do so. My comment: “Well as you were talking French against my wishes, I cannot abide to your wishes. Next time talk to me because I am growing this baby in me and I need to know everything that is going on in here.“
Sexist or racist – might be both.
At the age of 18, I went to my primary care doctor because every day I was having awful stomach aches, was feeling drained, and was losing weight and I knew something wasn’t right. I had vaguely googled my symptoms and it came up with the potential of colon cancer (unheard of for an 18 year old female). My old male primary care doctor told me I was just mistaking my period pains for colon cancer and was overthinking due to anxiety which he said was “common for women that are starting college”. He said it isn’t possible for me to have colon cancer at a young age and I was just making it up for attention. It’s a blessing that my mom and dad believed me because we bypassed my primary care doctor and went to a GI specialist who sent me in for an EMERGENCY COLONOSCOPY AND ENDOSCOPY at the very fragile age of 18. And they indeed found gigantic pre cancerous polyps in my colon. So yeah, had I listened to that old man who dismissed me as an anxious young female, I would have never caught a literal cancer that would have ended my life by the time I was 30. If I had let myself fall victim to this nasty mindset of dismissing women, I would have become a statistic. The battle isn’t over yet, every single year I get a colonoscopy to cut down all the new growths.
I’ve had renal issues all my life, ranging from chronic uti, chronic kidney infections, over active bladder and more. I once had a male urologist blame my renal issues on my cycle. I actually laughed in his face, walked out and had my gp refer me to a new urologist who eventually figured out my issue.