For Teen Vogue, by Danielle Sinay
Find out why scientists still haven’t found a cure for PMS symptoms like period cramps.
Nine in 10 women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and we still haven’t found a cure. Why? There’s a massive discrepancy when it comes to research on the subject: Scientists are too busy studying other more important (and manlier) things.
There are five times the studies on erectile dysfunction (ED) than on premenstrual syndrome (PMS), even though only 19% of men experience symptoms of ED. And this scientific inconsistency, among others, leaves many of these women with no treatment at all. Over 40% of women with PMS do not respond to any available treatment, and about 5 to 8% of women suffer a more dangerous form of it, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD can be so severe that 15% of those diagnosed attempt suicide.
Despite these dangerous consequences (and the casual perpetual pain women are forced to endure once a month), grants are rarely awarded for research on PMS. The reason? Grant reviewers literally do not believe that PMS exists. “I suspect that this is a fancy way of saying it’s really just in a woman’s head,” Kathleen Lustyk, a psychologist from the University of Washington, told ResearchGate.
Unfortunately, the gender bias in scientific research is far from surprising; it’s a world largely dominated by men. According to research conducted by Yale, chemists and biologists are “significantly more willing” to hire a male scientist over a female with the exact same credentials. In the case that they did hire the female scientist, however, her salary would be nearly $4,000 lower than the men’s.
And securing a job isn’t even the hard part. Women working in science tend not to advance as far as their male colleagues, and it’s gotten worse in recent years. The number of women contributing to scientific journals has immensely declined, and according to NewScientist, “in science, publication is key to career progression.” Female scientists are also forced to choose between a job and a family: married women with children earn less than men, and as a result, often drop out of science entirely.
Alas. Let’s hope the research world improves in terms of gender equality, both in terms of employment and research they choose to conduct. In the meantime, may the odds forever be in our favor as I cry in bed with a heating pad.
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