When we meet a young woman with a serious illness, we tend to label her an outlier. But while we might think of young female patients as anomalies, they are, statistically, the primary demographic for many major illnesses. And they are also one of the most overlooked populations in our health-care system--a system that not only ignores young women to begin with, but women of color and trans women even more severely.
Research shows that doctors are more familiar with the way symptoms manifest in men and often fail to recognize equally dangerous ones in their female patients. Women are told they "look fine" and are overreacting to symptoms. They may also have doctors who talk down to them or even sexually harass them. In their personal lives, many women scramble to hide their symptoms and scars to avoid making their friends, partners, and coworkers uncomfortable. Health issues and disabilities further amplify what women already face regularly: warped beauty standards, workplace sexism, and mistrust of their own bodies.
Weaving together interviews with young women who have experienced severe illnesses, insights from scientists on the study of gender and illness, and her own harrowing story of coming of age with serious medical issues, Michele Lent Hirsch exposes just how much our gender norms hurt women who are already hurting, and how sexism prevails both in relationships and at the doctor's office.