#324: How Doctors Convince Women That Their Symptoms Aren’t Real and How We Continue to Misdiagnosis with Elinor Cleghorn

If You Want To Learn How to Better Advocate for Your Health, You Should:

  1. If possible, seek out a physician that you feel listens to your concerns
  2. Keep a symptoms diary to present clear evidence to your doctor
  3. Find a trusted friend who can support you on your diagnosis journey
  4. Do your own research to empower yourself with the knowledge you need

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Episode Summary

The sad truth is that most women know what it is like to have their symptoms be dismissed or downplayed by our medical system. The history of women being gaslit in medicine goes back centuries, which is why it is important to understand the history of bias in the medical field so that we can pave the way for policy changes today.

What It Means to Be an Unwell Woman with Dr. Elinor Cleghorn

Dr. Elinor Cleghorn has a background in feminist culture and history, a Ph.D. in humanities and cultural studies, and is the author of the new book Unwell Women. She is passionate about sharing her experience of chronic illness, debunking the myths and history surrounding the gaslighting of women, racism, and misogyny in the medical field. Dr. Cleghorn exposes how the system has been historically rigged against women and empowers others to advocate for their health and bodies.

A Historically Discriminatory System

The idea that women exaggerate their pain or are unreliable when speaking about their bodies has a long history. These prejudices are still seen today in the language used by practitioners and the dismissive attitudes embedded into the medical field in general. 

This ancient sexism, racism, and misogyny in the medical system will only be corrected when research and funding are allocated to understanding the more complex issues of gender and chronic disease. While this kind of content can be challenging to hear, it is only by preparing ourselves with the knowledge necessary to advocate for ourselves and our mothers, sisters, and daughters that we can create much-needed change.

Becoming Your Own Advocate

Although the system may be rigged against us, the eternal truth is that nobody understands your body better than you do. You have the right to search for the answers and have ownership over your health because, in the end, that is what matters the most. 

Everybody has the right to be respected, spoken to as they want to be spoken to, and have things explained to them. We all need to be alerted and empowered to stand up for these rights so that we can advocate for our bodies and health. If you have been made to feel like you are not reliable, that your pain is not real, or discriminated against, this episode will empower you with the information you need to become your own advocate and get the answers you deserve.

What are your experiences as a woman seeking answers in today’s modern medical system? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!


“I knew that I was unwell, and I wanted to know why, but I really wasn’t getting any validation back from any doctors, so I did start to internalize this a bit.” (11:21)

“These sort of myths really stick, and how I feel is that these sort of ideas, which were often associated with perceptions or prejudices about women’s lives, they’ve often obscured or got in the way of knowledge progressing.” (16:44)

“This is not just a medical bias; this is a social and cultural bias that has been proven in other studies that more feminized was of speaking, verbal and nonverbal communication, tends to be either underestimated or undervalued or distrusted.” (21:16)

“These awful eugenic, biologically racist assumptions do still exist as unconscious and implicit biases. So I think before anything happens in the medical curricular, we really need to address this. Not just from anti-bias training, but from facing up to the histories that medicine has been complicit in as it has developed over its centuries and decades.” (29:56)

“It is your body. And you really are the best narrator and the best interpreter of what you are going through no matter what anybody else makes you feel, your intuition and your trust in your own body and your feelings are correct.” (31:43)

In This Episode

  • Why it takes so long to diagnose women’s autoimmune disease and how that impacts our health (9:50)
  • How the dismissive attitudes towards women’s pain have been embedded into our modern medical system (14:10)
  • Why feminized ways of talking about pain in the body have rigged the system against us (21:17)
  • The role of racism and misogyny when it comes to dismissing symptoms and providing treatment (25:34)
  • How to advocate for yourself and set yourself up for success when dealing with symptoms today (31:15)

Resources Mentioned

Use Promo Code drmariza for 15% Off Your Organifi Order Here

Unwell Women by Dr. Elinor Cleghorn

Follow Dr. Elinor Cleghorn on Instagram | Twitter

Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery

Related Episodes

Essentially You Episode #319: Red Flags: 10 Ways We Gaslight Women in Medicine Today

Free Download: Top 11 Questions to Ask Your Hormone Doctor

Ready to take charge of your own health? Grab this free guide to get you started!

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