Here’s a pop quiz. The answer is an integer between one and ten.
How much more research is done about PMS, which affects 90% of women, than is done for erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men?
What did you answer? Four? Seven? Ten? Ten times as much research into PMS than into ED? That would make sense, right? Because PMS affects the majority of women and it’s something that affects us whether we want it or not and it affects our everyday lives. It’s not limited to a recreational function that does not have to happen.
So it makes sense that science and research and money would be focused on women and our health issues instead of on how to help men get it up, which I think we can all agree is not essential to everyday life and the lack thereof is not crippling to everyday life the way menstrual cramps and other symptoms of PMS can be. (I guess cramps are technically M, but you know what I mean.)
Well guess what?
The answer is not four times as much money for PMS.
It is not seven.
It is not ten.
This was a trick question.
Because there is more research about ED than there is about PMS.
You read that correctly.
“There is five times more research into erectile dysfunction, which affects 19% of men, than into premenstrual syndrome, which affects 90% of women.”
Nope. I did not make that up.
It came from a piece in The Guardian.
I was trying to find data on how much money is spent on research about menopause, a condition that affects 50% of the people on this planet, as opposed to erectile dysfunction, a condition that affects some men, some of the time, a condition that is not necessary for the functioning of life, a condition that does not strike him without warning, interrupt his sleep, make him miserable on both hot days and cold days, a condition that if left untreated would not make him otherwise miserable, but guess what it’s almost impossible to find information on menopause research because ALMOST NOBODY IS DOING IT.
I didn’t find much other than The Guardian piece.
It wasn’t just the topic of pain that was poorly researched. The lack of evidence was a problem she encountered time and time again, which is no surprise when you look at the research gap: less than 2.5% of publicly funded research is dedicated solely to reproductive health, despite the fact that one in three women in the UK will suffer from a reproductive or gynaecological health problem.
And I thought, Why am I even surprised? I should know better by now. One third of the women in the UK need female-specific health care but less than 2.5% of the publicly-funded research is devoted to that medical care? I am shocked. Shocked that women’s health needs are overlooked.
It started when I read the story in the Washington Post about Michelle Obama talking about hot flashes and what a pain in the neck they are and I found myself agreeing with her, which is not something I have done in the past.
(But how I long for the days when I thought disagreeing with Barack Obama was my biggest problem.)
Michelle Obama said, “It’s an important thing to take up space in a society, because half of us are going through this, but we’re living like it’s not happening.”
Preach, my sister! I have tried to normalize this kind of conversation. I have tried to talk about hot flashes at work so that other women know this is something that happens and it’s normal.
And I was excited to see Obama talking about it because I thought, “She was a First Lady! She has access! She can get the best medical care! They told her The Secrets!”
Guess what oh wait this will not be a surprise to you.
There are no answers.
Which – again. Are we surprised?
In my googling, I found this:
Spending for the three most popular phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) tops $1 billion worldwide annually.
Around the world, we – WAIT – MEN – spend a billion dollars just on the drugs for ED.
Just. On. The. Drugs.
Do you know what they do for hot flashes?
There used to be drugs.
But they found out those drugs caused cancer.
So now we don’t get those drugs.
Now there is another solution.
Now they tell me to wear layers.
I am not making this up.
They tell me to dress in layers.
Women make up half of the population. Those of us who live long enough will go through menopause. Those of us who are unlucky enough will have hot flashes.
I don’t even have bad hot flashes, I don’t think, but I can promise you that even mild hot flashes are not a pleasant experience. During the day, they are distracting and uncomfortable. Have you ever been boiled from inside your stomach while your skin is still cold? I have! Have you ever felt your calf bone sweat? I have!
At night, hot flashes wake me up. I can feel not just my torso but my head getting hot from the inside. Mr T didn’t believe me until the night when he put his hand on my skin and exclaimed, “But you’re HOT!”
Yet we don’t have a pill to stop them?
While we have a pill for erections on demand?
I hate the patriarchy.
Twenty years ago, at my job, birth control pills were not covered by our company health insurance plan.
This injustice made me angry.
A female co-worker told me I should just ask my doctor to write my prescription as medically necessary, but that didn’t solve the problem for the young receptionist making only $20,000 a year for whom a $30 a month expense was not insignificant.
I wrote to the VP of Human Resources and pointed out that having decisions like this made by middle-aged men who can’t get it up might seem unfair to the younger, lower-paid female employees.
That is probably not what convinced them to change the policy, though. I also pointed out that pregnancy was far more expensive than birth control pills.
Honestly, though? When people say “Representation matters!”
This is the kind of thing they are talking about.
They didn’t include a period tracker in the initial version of the Fitbit. Do you think if more (or any – I don’t know who was in the design group) women had been involved in the design of the Fitbit that perhaps a period tracker might have been included?
This is why we need to elect women. This is why we need women in positions of power in both the private and the public sector. This is why we need to talk about hot flashes – and thank you, Michelle Obama, for speaking out.
One. Billion. Dollars.
One. Billion. Dollars.
One billion dollars a year spent on ED drugs.
And the advice to women for hot flashes is to “dress in layers.”
Screw you, patriarchy.