Health and wellness concerns us all, of course. But there are very real issues facing women, which are often considered under the headline “women’s health”. So let us just list and briefly (very briefly) outline the main issues involved…
Women are different to men. The same or similar in many ways, of course, but different in several important ways.
- There are key genetic differences between men and women e.g. women have X-X chromosomes where men have X-Y.
- There are key hormonal differences between men and women e.g. women have more oestrogen and less testosterone than men.
- Women are lighter and physically less strong than men (on average).
- Women experience more migraines, bladder infections, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune conditions (eg. lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis), and certain other medical conditions, than men do. For clarity we are not listing or considering disease of gender-specific organs such as cancer of the cervix (only affects women obviously) etc.
Women experience several specific issues in the broad area of sexual health.
- Women bear children, which men cannot.
- Adult women go through a monthly menstrual cycle.
- Older women go through menopause (life change where oestrogen levels drop, fertility ends, and the menstrual cycle stops).
- Women contract sexually transmitted infections (e.g. syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV, herpes) more easily than men do.
- The responsibility for contraception tends to lie more with women than men (unfairly and inappropriately many feel, but it remains the case for most couples).
- It seems true that attitudes towards women and sexuality are more “conservative” and less empowering, than they are towards men – attitudes around dress-code, sexual behaviours & choices, orgasm, promiscuity, sex work, and more, are examples of this. This is a huge generalisation of course, and it will not always apply – we think it true-enough to list it here but please know that we respect the complexities involved here.
Despite the achievements of feminism generally, many still consider women to be a marginalised group in many societies. While this might be more debatable in parts of the developed world (northern Europe is for example a region where gender equality seems quite established and mature), it does seem to be very much the case in much of the developing world including Africa. Some of the issues faced include:
- Violence – gender-based violence, including rape, remains a very very real problem in several parts of the world, including much of Africa.
- Sense of value – in some societies women are valued less than men. As archaic as this seems it is a reality for many. Many women do feel that they are second-class citizens.
- Educational opportunities – linked to the above point, girls sometimes receive less education than boys. Since education is a placeholder for life-opportunity (at least simplistically) this is clearly hugely important.
- Role – again linked to the above points, women tend to be assigned more domestic and less career orientated roles in many families, societies, and even nations.
- Appearance – women have historically and “traditionally” been more concerned with their appearance, than men have been. Cosmetics, fashions, weight control, footwear (high heels) and cosmetic surgery are all examples. As much as this is changing/improving somewhat in much of the world, it seems to remain a “burden” for many women.
In all of this, the issues are quite complex and variable. There are many controversies and differing views. There are regional, cultural, religious, legal and other nuances around the world. In general terms there has been real progress with gender equality in recent decades, but much remains to be done, especially in the less developed nations of the world. This article does not aim to explore this in detail but is rather just a brief listing of the key issues at play in women’s health 2021.