Listen to women and close the gender pain gap

theguardian– The proliferation of support groups for women dealing with conditions such as endometriosis and migraine is testament to the existence of the gender pain gap discussed by Emma Barnett (Endometriosis showed me we need better ways to talk about women’s pain, 22 October). In Giving up the Ghost, Hilary Mantel, who has suffered from both conditions, describes both the excruciating physical pain of illness that is misdiagnosed and mistreated, and the stress and humiliation of being “ignored, invalidated, and humiliated” – not being listened to, and not being believed.

This is not just another complaint directed at overworked NHS staff (though I have not forgiven the neurologist who, instead of treating my migraine, told me: “I don’t know what you’re making a fuss about – it won’t kill you”). Those outside the medical profession can cause pain by their casually dismissive comments too. One of the cries most often heard in migraine groups is “Migraine is not just a headache!” I imagine endometriosis sufferers shout: “This is not just period pain!” Employers, colleagues, friends and families need to think twice and listen again when women tell them they are in pain.

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