Health and the Kyriarchy, part 2

(Click here to read part 1!)

As soon as I found out about having Hashimoto’s, I went Googling. I found a Facebook group recommended by a Hashimoto’s expert, and joined it. There are over 68,000 members there, most of them women (that is to be expected, because men with thyroid issues are in the minority).

Every time I visit the group page, I see multiple stories of being dismissed by medical professionals in some form or another. (By “medical professionals”, I mean conventional doctors, not MDs who are working in functional medicine.) I had felt somewhat relieved upon diagnosis, but I also felt another sense of relief when I discovered I wasn’t alone. Medical professionals tend not to take women seriously; in some cases, they are even dismissed when they are gravely ill and/or in severe pain. This has seemingly been the case since the dawn of time, and one woman is accurate in labeling it as gaslighting. I can talk to several women right now, who don’t have the same conditions I do, but were treated in similar (sometimes worse!) fashion when seeking medical help. (It is even worse for women of color, but I’ll get to that in a following blog post.)

With all of that in mind, there is no surprise that I felt safer going to a naturopathic doctor. Over the years and in between doctor visits (mostly put off due to lack of means), I would consult books and Google, self-diagnose, and try various home treatments. I tried different diets (including going gluten- and dairy-free), herbs, vitamins, minerals, teas, and even essential oils. (Sometimes I felt like a poser, because not one medical doctor had told me that I needed a special diet. I just knew I felt better eating a certain way, but without a doctor to back me up, I would constantly get the side-eye.) There is a certain stigma around the wellness movement, and people are rather generous in using the word “quack”, but you can’t really blame a woman for wanting to be healthy, being skeptical of modern medicine while knowing it’s largely against her, and trying to help herself.

Let me be honest. I am a skeptic when it comes to modern medicine, and not just because I’ve had better experiences in the naturopathic world. It makes sense to me that the body works as a whole, and works best when the causes of symptoms are addressed, not merely the symptoms (don’t misunderstand me: I am not completely against modern medicine). I have an abundance of information at my fingertips that has led me to that conclusion, but here’s the thing: that’s a privilege.

Being a woman seeking health is difficult, but I have other privileges beside information access. I have insurance that will allow me to seek the alternative treatments I want, along with special diets. I am also white-passing, which is something I take for granted too often. The wellness movement, including holistic medicine, is rife with privilege, and here is where intersecting forms of oppression weave together.

Modern medicine, and alternative health/wellness movements, are both oppressive, and for multiple reasons. I’ll explain with more detail in the next blog post, but I agree with Katie Fustich, who concludes that, “Were it not for this strange relationship between wealth and wellness, holistic medicine could provide a viable path for those left vulnerable by the massive gaps in the American health insurance system.”