Book Review: Pain and Prejudice by Gabrielle Jackson
1. What the book is about
This book is a combination of personal experience, historical reflection and modern day commentary on how women’s health issues have been, and continue to be, misunderstood and mistreated. Author Gabrielle Jackson shares her own struggles with chronic pelvic pain and the challenges she faced before finally getting a diagnosis of endometriosis, only to find that the treatment remains a mystery to many medical professionals due to lack of research and funding for this common and debilitating condition. She provides some basic education around the female reproductive system, because this important topic remains poorly taught in Australian schools and consequently many women are not familiar with the proper anatomical names of their genital organs. Jackson then takes us on a journey through the ages, revealing the horrifying theories and treatments that male physicians developed to manage the symptoms of “hysteria”. On arriving in the present times, Jackson highlights that our sexist culture of physical violence, emotional exploitation and financial abuse towards women continues to pervade our Western healthcare system, minimising women’s suffering and overlooking health conditions that affect mainly women. She finishes with a call to action, urging medical institutions and governments to own their past failures and get busy funding research to help women live better lives.
2. What I liked about this book
I liked the fact that author Gabrielle Jackson shares her own experience so honestly and courageously. I liked that she has researched this book so thoroughly, using her skills as a journalist to present the hard, scientific facts as well as expert opinions on this vitally important topic of women’s health. As a GP who predominantly cares for women throughout their life cycle, a medical educator who teaches women’s health to medical students and a mother of two daughters, I feel so grateful that this book has been written. I am inspired to continue doing everything I can to serve women in my community through providing evidence-based health care, participating in women’s health research and restructuring the way we teach women’s health to medical students as well as in schools.
3. Who should read this book?
I have been recommending this book to my female patients who present with chronic pain syndromes, including endometriosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. I have also been encouraging my GP colleagues and medical students to read this book as an important part of their professional education.
4. Other work by Gabrielle Jackson
Gabrielle Jackson is an associate news editor at The Guardian Australia and writes regularly for this independent newspaper.