Understanding PCOS And Its Patriarchal Standards Of ‘Femininity’


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Editor’s Note: This month, that’s May 2020, FII’s #TemperOfTheMonth is Menstrual Health, the place we invite varied articles about varied experiences that revolve round menstruation or the absence of the identical. If you’d prefer to share your article, electronic mail us at pragya@feminisminindia.com. 


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal dysfunction which is quite common amongst ladies. At least one in ten ladies are purported to be affected by it worldwide, and an estimated one in 5 are affected in India. (20%). While the precise causes should not recognized, the elements leading to PCOS are attributed to genetics, manufacturing of extreme androgen within the physique, insulin resistance and low grade irritation. It then manifests each on a bodily and psychological degree, inflicting irregular or extraordinarily painful intervals, hirsutism (elevated hair development), pimples, despair and heightened ranges of stress. In addition, ladies with PCOS have additionally been recognized to undergo from consuming issues, decreased sexual satisfaction, temper swings, hair loss, reminiscence loss and sudden weight adjustments.

However, the way in which folks with PCOS are handled and stigmatised particularly within the Indian context, is a deeply unsettling and related problem to speak about on the intersection of gender and well being. The healthcare system works inside a patriarchal framework, the place docs, particularly gynaecologists are touted to be the guardians of the household. They need to ensure that infants are coming into this world and caste-purity is being maintained by way of the establishments of household. They do that by treating ladies with PCOS not as sufferers with a critical well being syndrome however as vessels who might be future moms, and with a purpose to be future moms, their femininity and sexuality (in essentially the most heteronormative requirements) needs to be preserved.

Throughout historical past, medical science has at all times been an androcentric self-discipline, with little or no illustration from ladies, trans and non-binary folks. Thus, it’s not stunning to see how the analysis for PCOS is so insufficient and poor, along with being extremely heteronormative. Till date, docs have no idea the precise reason for PCOS, which ends up in them addressing solely the signs of PCOS, with out having the ability to get to the foundation of it.

Throughout historical past, medical science has at all times been an androcentric self-discipline, with little or no illustration from ladies, trans and non-binary folks. Thus, it’s not stunning to see how the analysis for PCOS is so insufficient and poor, along with being extremely heteronormative. Till date, docs have no idea the precise reason for PCOS, which ends up in them addressing solely the signs of PCOS, with out having the ability to get to the foundation of it. Symptomatic therapy for PCOS has primarily centered on weight discount, unrealistic diets, contraception drugs, strategies to forestall infertility and so on.

Sanjana, who has a historical past of PCOS shares,

I began gaining weight once I was 11. I’ve a historical past of being continuously physique shamed for nonetheless quick and fats I appeared. I continuously discovered myself occurring fad diets, making an attempt to half-wear my bra to let my breasts look smaller or tying a shawl over my bra to flatten my chests. I gave up on these solely once I developed excessive form of scars on my breasts. All of this translated to physique picture points, stress and low vanity. I began growing signs of PCOS very early on however as a result of menstruation was already a taboo across the place the place I used to be rising up – I selected to not deliver that up. I used to be identified with PCOS solely once I entered school. The first physician I went to warned me of just one consequence of PCOS – infertility. The second physician I attempted requested me to shed extra pounds to combat PCOS. The third physician I consulted requested me to work out twice a day along with different bodily actions. The fourth physician put me below treatment that wouldn’t cease me from crying for a few month. There is a lot emphasis being given to my physique having the ability to reproduce and in addition to shed extra pounds that even the results that docs warn of mirror the patriarchal gaze. This is without doubt one of the main explanation why prognosis of PCOS usually occurs very late.” 

Women affected by PCOS additionally, in nearly all instances have various levels of tension and despair. It is a continual sickness which impacts all elements of 1’s life. Constantly being mocked about one’s weight, the dearth of help and consciousness round this, being blamed for bringing PCOS upon oneself all add to the stress and low-self esteem points. They are additionally termed ‘lazy’ or ‘irresponsible’ for not having the ability to comply with a food regimen/train routine to scale back the hostile results of hormonal imbalances that come together with PCOS. Menstruation, already being a taboo in our society, prevents quite a lot of younger ladies from discovering help inside household for a similar except it considerations fertility points.

Ashmita, who has been experiencing signs of PCOS since she was 11 says, “I can’t share the pain or the mood swings I deal with in my family because no one wants to talk about periods. I started my treatment of PCOS because my family took me to a doctor to get my acne marks treated (for better marriage prospects in the future) and then the doctor told them that to cure the marks permanently I would have to go through PCOS treatment. She also believes that the treatment is necessary so that I can get pregnant easily.” 

Women affected by PCOS additionally, in nearly all instances have various levels of tension and despair. It is a continual sickness which impacts all elements of 1’s life. Constantly being mocked about one’s weight, the dearth of help and consciousness round this, being blamed for bringing PCOS upon oneself all add to the stress and low-self esteem points. They are additionally termed ‘lazy’ or ‘irresponsible’ for not having the ability to comply with a food regimen/train routine to scale back the hostile results of hormonal imbalances that come together with PCOS.

Thus, coping with PCOS is feeling the inadequacy of each physique picture and physique perform. Body picture points stem from how society desires us to adapt to female requirements of magnificence (sans hair and the added weight). But there may be additionally the acute frustration felt at how a physique with PCOS isn’t in a position to perform the way in which we predict it ought to – irregular and painful menstruation, consuming issues, lack of means to have the ability to do bodily strenuous work, fixed digestive and abdomen points leading to horrible cramps – all of those combining to worsen one’s psychological well being.

Also learn: PCOS And Women: What We Need To Know

Jaanvi, who has suffered from PCOS since she was 12 says, “People continuously stored telling me what I wanted to eat, how a lot, and what workouts to do. In a 12 months, I misplaced weight, however I had additionally developed bulimia, an consuming dysfunction. My mom tried to get me to eat much less fat, tried the arduous love method, it solely made issues worse. I skilled quite a lot of physique shaming in that specific 12 months, particularly because of the sudden weight and pimples.

The absolute lack of management one feels over their physique and thoughts whereas coping with PCOS is inexplicable. This is essential to grasp why ‘control’ primarily based strategies to cope with PCOS are so reductive. Controlling one’s food regimen and recurrently exercising should not the one issues somebody with PCOS wants. (Next time you meet somebody with PCOS, please don’t inform them to eat wholesome or go to the fitness center. They most likely know that).

It’s excessive time that the medical group stops allocating all its sources and time solely in the direction of cis-men’s well being. What is required, is extra in depth and multi-dimensional analysis into the syndrome. More advocacy to make psychological and sexual well being companies accessible to all. More sensitivity from docs who don’t see a girl’s well being solely in relation to her reproductive capability. More intersectional medical approaches that embrace and handle the well being considerations of transgender folks. More help from communities to combat fatphobia and deal with despair.

Also learn: What People Don’t Tell You About Stretch Marks And PCOS

Lastly, it’s important to develop a typical understanding that each single physique is completely different. PCOS is to not be blamed on the particular person affected by it for they didn’t trigger it. What they need to be getting is our help and empathy, Not our patronization, infantilization or pity. 

Sources Cited :

  1. How a Flawed Understanding of PCOS Robs Women of Their ‘Femininity’
  2. PCOS Therapist (Elizabeth Armstrong)

Featured Image Source: PCOS Awareness Association

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