Informed, engaged communities for health

Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010
Support non-profit public interest journalism
Filter by Categories
Aged care
Budgets
Federal Budget 2024-25
Federal Budget 2023-2024
Federal Budget October 2022
Federal Budget 2022-23
Federal Budget 2021-22
Climate and health
Climate emergency
Healthcare sustainability
Heatwaves
National Health and Climate Strategy
#HealthyCOP28
#HealthyCOP27
#HealthyCOP26
#CoveringClimateNow
COVID collection
COVID-19
Long COVID
COVIDwrap
COVID SNAPS
#JusticeCOVID
Caring for the Frontline
COVIDglobalMHseries
Croakey Conference News Service
Croakey Professional Services
NHLF series
#KidneyCareTogether
ACSQHC series
ACSQHC series 2022
ACSQHC series 2021
ACSQHC series 2020
ACSQHC series 2019
CATSINaM 25 Years
Croakey projects
Summer reading 2023-2024
The Zap
#CroakeyLIVE #DigitalNationBuilding
#CroakeyLIVE #VoiceForHealth
#PHAAThinkTank2023
The Health Wrap
ICYMI
@WePublicHealth
@WePublicHealth2023
#CroakeyVOICES
#SpeakingOurMinds
Croakey longreads
#CroakeyREAD
CroakeyEXPLORE
CroakeyGO
#CroakeyGO #NavigatingHealth
#GamblingHarms
#HeatwaveHealth
Mapping CroakeyGo
Determinants of health
Environmental determinants of health
Social determinants of health
Education
Discrimination
Housing
Internet access
Justice and policing
Justice Reinvestment
Newstart/JobSeeker
Poverty
Racism
Social policy
Commercial determinants of health
Alcohol
Arms industry
Digital platforms
Food and beverages
Fossil fuels
Gambling
Pharmaceutical industry
Plain packaging
Sugar tax
Tobacco
Vaping
Disasters and extreme weather events
Disasters
Extreme weather events
Bushfires
Bushfire-emergency 2019-2020
Floods 2023
Floods 2022
Floods 2021
Floods 2011
Donor-funded journalism
Donor-funded journalism – 2024
Donor-funded journalism – 2023
Donor-funded journalism – 2022
Donor-funded journalism – 2021
Donor-funded journalism – 2020
Elections
#NSWvotesHealth2023
Victorian election 2022
Federal Election 2022
The Election Wrap 2022
#QldVotesHealth
SA election 2022
WA election 2021
Tasmanian election 2021
First Nations
Indigenous health
Community controlled sector
Cultural determinants of health
Cultural safety
Indigenous education
Social and emotional wellbeing
Uluru Statement
The Voice
Lowitja Institute
NT Intervention
WA community closures
Acknowledgement
#CTG10
#NTRC
#RCIADIC30Years
General health matters
Abortion
Cancer
Cardiovascular disease
Child health
Chronic conditions
Consumer health matters
Death and dying
Diabetes
Disabilities
Euthanasia
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
Genetics
HIV/AIDS
HRT
Infectious diseases
Influenza
LGBTQIA+
Medical marijuana
Men's health
Mental health
Mpox
Non communicable diseases
Oral health
Organ transplants
Pain
Pregnancy and childbirth
Sexual health
Suicide
Swine flu
Trauma
Women's health
Youth health
Global health matters
Asylum seeker and refugee health
Conflict and war
Global health
WHO
Ebola
NHS
#WorldInTurmoil
Health policy and systems
Co-design
Health financing and costs
Health reform
Health regulation
Medicare 40 Years
MyMedicare
National Health Performance Authority
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
Private health insurance
Royal Commissions
TGA
Workforce matters
Strengthening Medicare Taskforce 2022
National Commission of Audit 2014
Healthcare
Adverse events
Allied healthcare
Australian Medical Association
Choosing Wisely
cohealth
Complementary medicines
Conflicts of interest
Co-payments
Digital technology
E-health
Emergency departments and care
Equally Well
General practice
Health Care Homes
Health ethics
Hospitals
International medical graduates
Medicare Locals
MyHospitals website
Naturopathy
NDIS
Nursing and midwifery
Out of pocket costs
Palliative care
Paramedics
Pathology
Pharmacy
Primary healthcare
Primary Health Networks
Rural and remote health
Safety and quality of healthcare and aged care
Screening
Social prescribing
Surgery
Telehealth
Tests
Media and health
Media-related issues
Health & medical marketing
Misinformation and disinformation
Public interest journalism
Social media and healthcare
The Conversation
Media Doctor Australia
News about Croakey
Public health and population health
Air pollution
Artificial intelligence
Australian Centre for Disease Control
Government 2.0
Gun control
Health communications
Health impact assessment
Health in All Policies
Health inequalities
Health literacy
Human rights
Illicit drugs
Injuries
Legal issues
Marriage equality
Nanny state
National Preventive Health Agency
Obesity
Occupational health
Physical activity
Prevention
Public health
Road safety
Sport
Transport
Vaccination
VicHealth
Violence
Web 2.0
Weight loss products
#PreventiveHealthStrategy
#UnmetNeedsinPublicHealth
Research matters
Cochrane Collaboration
Evidence-based issues
Health and medical education
Health and medical research
NHMRC
#MRFFtransparency
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
#HealthEquity16
#HealthMatters
#IHMayDay (all years)
#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2023
2023 Conferences
#GreenHealthForum23
#hpsymposium2023
#NMS23
#HEAL2023
#ASMIRT2023
#NSPC23
Our Democracy Forum
#AskMSF
#Lowitja2023
2022 Conferences
#16nrhc
#GreenHealthForum22
#Heal2022
#ICEM22
#NAISA22
#NNF2022
#RANZCP2022
#RethinkAddiction
#RTP22
GiantSteps22
Equally Well 2022 Symposium
Choosing Wisely National Meeting 2022
2021 conferences
#21OPCC
#BackToTheFire
#FoodGovernance2021
#GiantSteps21
#GreenHealthForum21
#HealthClimateSolutions21
#HearMe21
#IndigenousClimateJustice21
#NNF2021
#RANZCP2021
#ShiftingGearsSummit
#ValueBasedCare
#WCepi2021
#YHFSummit
2020 conferences
#2020ResearchExcellence
#Govern4Health
#HealthReImagined
#SAHeapsUnfair
2019 Conferences
#ACEM19
#CPHCE19
#EquallyWellAust
#GiantSteps19
#HealthAdvocacyWIM
#KTthatWorks
#LowitjaConf2019
#MHAgeing
#NNF2019
#OKtoAsk2019
#RANZCOG19
#RANZCP2019
#ruralhealthconf
#VMIAC2019
#WHOcollabAHPRA
2018 conferences
#6rrhss
#ACEM18
#AHPA2018
#ATSISPC18
#CPHCE
#MHED18
#NDISMentalHealth
#Nurseforce
#OKToAsk2018
#RANZCOG18
#ResearchIntoPolicy
#VHAawards
#VMIACAwards18
#WISPC18
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20
#CATSINaM17
#ClimateHealthStrategy
#IAHAConf17
#IDS17
#LBQWHC17
#LivingOurWay
#OKtoAskAu
#OTCC2017
#ResearchTranslation17
#TheMHS2017
#VMIACConf17
#WCPH2017
Australian Palliative Care Conference
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
Croakey Professional Services archive
#CommunityControl
#CommunityControl Twitter Festival
#COVIDthinktank21
Lowitja Indigenous knowledge translation series
Croakey projects archive
#PHAAThinkTank 2022
Summer reading 2022-2023
#CommunityMatters
#CroakeyFundingDrive 2022
#CroakeyLIVE #Budget2021Health
#CroakeyLIVE #USvotesHealth
#CroakeyLIVE Federal election 2022
#CroakeyYOUTH
#HousingJusticeAus
#IndigenousHealthSummit
#IndigenousNCDs
#JustClimate
#JustJustice
#LookingLocal
#OutOfPocket
#OutOfTheBox
#RuralHealthJustice
#TalkingTeeth
@WePublicHealth2022
@WePublicHealth2021
@WePublicHealth2020
AroundTheTraps
Croakey register of influence
Croakey Register of Influencers in Public Health
Croakey Register of Unreleased Documents
Gavin Mooney
Inside Story
Journal Watch
Naked Doctor
Poems of Public Health
Summer reading 2021-2022
Summer reading 2020-2021
Summer Reading 2019-2020
Summer Reading 2017-2018
Summer Reading 2016-2017
The Koori Woman
TOO MUCH of a Good Thing
Wonky Health
CroakeyGO archive 2017 – 2018
CroakeyGo 2018
#CroakeyGO #QuantumWords 2018
#CroakeyGO #VicVotes 2018
#CroakeyGO Albury 2018
#CroakeyGO Callan Park 2018
#CroakeyGO Carnarvon 2018
#CroakeyGO Marrickville 2018
#CroakeyGO Palm Island 2018
CroakeyGo 2017
#CroakeyGO Adelaide 2017
#CroakeyGO Melbourne 2017
#CroakeyGO Newcastle 2017
#CroakeyGO Sydney 2017
Elections and Budgets 2013 – 2021
Budget2020Health
Federal Budget 2020-21
Federal Budget 2019-20
#AusVotesHealth Twitter Festival 2019
#Health4NSW
Federal Election 2019
NSW Election 2019
Federal Budget 2018-19
Federal Budget 2017/18
NZ Election 2017
Federal Budget 2016-17
Federal Election 2016
#HealthElection16
NT Election 2016
Federal Budget 2015-16
Qld Election 2015
NSW Election 2015
Federal Budget 2014-15
Victorian Election 2014
Federal Budget 2013-14
Federal Election 2013
Federal Budget 2012-2013
Federal Budget 2011
Federal Budget 2010
Federal Election 2010
Federal Budget 2009-2010

The unattractive truth about misogyny in medicine and medical research

Introduction by Croakey: In recent weeks, a little known 2012 study, conducted at an academic hospital in Milan, Italy and published in the specialist medical journal, Fertility and Sterility, found an audience on social media, and not in a good way.

The study, descriptively entitled, “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case control study,” involved four physicians independently rating 300 women with and without endometriosis for attractiveness, and concluded that women with rectovaginal endometriosis were significantly more likely to be judged as attractive than those with peritoneal and ovarian endometriosis, or no endometriosis.

The participants in the study were told various “phenotypical variables” would be evaluated, but not the study’s full hypothesis relating to attractiveness (in case of the Hawthorne-like possibility that they would engage in “unintentional seductive behaviors”).

If you’re wondering about the clinical relevance of this finding, you’re not alone. Outspoken Canadian gynaecologist, Dr Jen Gunter wrote at the time it was first published,

…the article contributes nothing to the medical literature and Fertility Sterility should be ashamed they accepted it for publication.”

The investigators tried to defend the study when it was first published, citing possible links between perceived attractiveness, high oestrogen levels, and/or genetic links with severe endometriosis, but hormonal and genetic tests were not included in the study, so this line of inquiry seems incomplete at best.

The first author also responded in an online publishing forum to recent critiques, arguing along similar lines.

That the study was done and published certainly raises some questions about the way women are viewed and treated when seeking health care, writes senior public health registrar Dr Lea Merone, below.

And now that it has resurfaced with a renewed round of outrage, writes Merone, it also poses risks to women’s therapeutic relationships with their health care providers.


Dr Lea Merone writes:

From a recent study that compared the success of endotracheal intubation for male and female physicians (there was no difference, but where is the evidence that male-delivered intubation is the gold standard by which we measure women?), to the controversy over endometriosis research that involved rating women’s attractiveness, sexism is at times observed to permeate the narrative in modern medicine.

The paper Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case control study was published in the specialist medical journal Fertility and Sterility relatively recently – in 2012 – and one wonders how in modern times, a study professing to link physical attractiveness to a debilitating gynaecological disease not only gained ethical approval, but was also quietly published.

As outrage spreads through social media and a potential for mistrust between women and the medical profession develops, it seems timely to discuss this problematic study, and call for the journal to consider retraction or modification of a paper that, at best, does nothing to further women’s health and wellbeing, and at worst, could cause significant harm.

The ugly side of attractiveness

The pervasiveness of sexism within societal beauty standards is well-known, and it is also well known that these standards are largely socially constructed. Naomi Wolf’s influential book, The beauty myth, how images of beauty are used against women highlights the problems of society’s preoccupation with unattainable beauty standards, stating beauty is utilised as a “political weapon” against women’s advancement and as a backlash against feminist movements.

This “beauty myth” tells us the embodiment of beauty is imperative for women, but not for men, and enforces false beliefs of the intertwinement of beauty and reproduction. However, societal perceptions of beauty have changed notably throughout the recent decades with no corresponding evolutionary or genetic change, from the lean women of the 1920’s, the voluptuous trends of the 1940’s and the emaciated look that pervaded the 1970’s-1990’s.

Additionally, there are considerable cultural differences in the perception of beauty, further casting doubt on evolutionary theories of reproduction.  As Naomi Wolf wrote,

There is no legitimate biological justification for the beauty myth

The emphasis on beauty, according to Wolf, is about power and male institutions. The ageing woman is perceived to lack beauty, because with age comes increased knowledge and power. Fear of ageing creates generational divide.

A woman’s identity is entrenched in her physical attractiveness; this ensures that she remains vulnerable to external approval and validation and that failure to achieve these gold-standards of beauty impacts self-esteem and subsequent success.

Indeed, a global survey from the cosmetic company, Dove (2016) found, concerningly, that female body confidence was a critical issue, often leading women to avoiding socialising and eating when feeling negative about their body image.

Misogyny in medicine and medical research

If beauty ideals are central to the oppression of women, studies such as Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case control study, could serve to reinforce false beliefs and hostility towards females.

Arguably, this study by Vercellini and colleagues perpetuates the beauty myth, degrading female patients to nothing more than a subjective assessment of their attractiveness under the pretence of patient care and research.

When sexism pervades professional medical spheres, we are confronted by significant concern for the care for half of our patients; women. Studies have demonstrated that owing to gender biases, the pain of female patients is often taken less-seriously than that of males; with women on average waiting significantly longer for diagnosis and pain relief.

Vercellini et al suggest that the severity of endometriosis is associated with physicians’ subjective assessment of patients’ attractiveness, but to what aim? To aid physicians in diagnosis?

Encouraging physicians to evaluate and assess a woman’s illness based upon subjective assessment of her physical attractiveness leads us into dangerous territory; in a society that places undue emphasis on this beauty myth, are we now to prioritise diagnostic care on the basis of perceived attractiveness?

This research in no way contributes to, or changes, current clinical practice; there is no objective way to truly measure beauty, and indeed, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Consequentially, suggesting that endometriosis is linked to attractiveness is moot and based upon the researchers’ own expectations of patient aesthetic.

This leads us to question if the research team have a fixation on female beauty, having previously published a narrative review in another specialist medical journal, entitled, “You are so beautiful, behind women’s attractiveness towards the biology of reproduction”. This article also posits a link between “attractiveness” and gynaecological disorders.

Arguably, it is not the role of the doctor to notice or comment on the sexual attractiveness of the patient. Doctors are trusted by the public and guided by a set of ethical standards laid out in the Hippocratic Oath, under which the boundary of sexual relations with patients is absolute.

Use of a Likert-scale measurement of sexual attractiveness of patients (as was done in the endometriosis study) resoundingly over-steps this mark, objectifying vulnerable women – who were not told the true nature and hypothesis of the study – and sexualising those under the care of the researching and clinical teams. There is a clear line between noting phenotypic risk factors for disease, such as obesity, and ranking attractiveness on a 5-point scale!

This research, although published in 2012, has finally reached the popular media and the wider public. This may throw the reputation of the medical profession into question; if our vulnerable patients cannot approach us for care without judgement, the foundations for effective clinical care are lost.

On those grounds, consideration should be given to the continued availability of this paper. It is scientifically questionable, given that the beauty standards were based upon the subjective opinion of just four clinicians, and it has the potential to damage doctor-patient relationships.

Even if the findings of this study were valid and sound, within medical research we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that published findings advance knowledge or patient care. The findings of this study do neither, for no doctor should, or indeed will, evaluate a patient’s symptoms based on her physical attractiveness.

Even if further research established a way of validly assessing attractiveness, all patients with concerning symptoms should be assessed in the same way, according to the ethical principle of justice, or fairness. All this research achieves is further objectification of women in a world where many are working hard against this rhetoric.


On Twitter:

Dr. Lea Merone is a senior public health registrar and PhD scholar. On Twitter @LeaMerone