Why We Need Feminist Based Medicine

May 26 | Written by Ethan Milne, Graphics by Sissi Chen

At Marlow, we’re making tampons easy to use and easy to buy. One part of that is taking the “ouch” out of tampon insertion. When we explain what we’re doing, a common question is: “Why is this necessary? Surely someone’s done this before if it’s a big problem?”

We’d love for that to be true, but we started our company knowing that the pain of women and other marginalized groups is routinely downplayed. Medical research has a gender bias problem; women are often excluded from participation in clinical trials, are systematically under-treated for pain in hospital settings, and for life threatening conditions like heart attacks have double the risk of dying.

Image states: "Women are often excluded from participation in clinical trials, are systemically under-treated for pain in hospital settings, and for life threatening conditions like heart attacks have double the risk of dying."

A commissioned paper for the Journal of Women in Health Research notes that “Women's health care must often be based on untested inferences from data collected about men, but because there are important physiological differences between women and men, such inferences cannot always be presumed to be reliable.” In other words, we assume that women will have the same experiences as men in clinical settings, often without good justification.

Our society has yet to adequately research the experiences of women, and there exists systemic biases in the treatment and care they receive. Is it any surprise that tampon insertion pain remains an unsolved problem? It should be, but it isn’t. This is why the medical community has seen a push away from “evidence-based medicine” to “feminist-based medicine” - acknowledging that there are significant limitations and biases built into current systems of research.

At Marlow, we want to help by starting conversations about the unspoken and unaddressed needs of women. That’s how we’re developing our first product - by listening to real people and identifying areas where their current menstrual products just don’t cut it.


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