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Why Does Society Dismiss the Feelings of Black Women?

Being a black woman in America is tough. The black woman is oversexualized, not taken seriously, and is not truly heard. 

There are so many examples out there that have proven this to be true. Some examples include higher rates of black women dying from pregnancy-related issues, black girls’ stories of rape and abuse being swept under the rug, and the assumptions that we are uneducated. 

Let’s start with the issues in healthcare. 

Over the last decade, it has become more apparent to the Black community that women of color are dying at higher rates than others when receiving care at hospitals. 

This is especially disheartening with all of the stories of mothers dying while giving birth due to complications that could have easily been avoided. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes.

Also, with Black women who have at least a college degree, the mortality rate for pregnancy-related causes was 5 times more than white women. 

Why do you think that is? 

This is due to the Black women being perceived as having “tough skin” and can tolerate more pain than others. 

But why would an educated healthcare professional treat a patient differently based on the color of someone’s skin? 

Maybe it is because the foundation of gynecology was built on a man undermining the pain of Black women. 

Dr. James Marion Sims is referred to as the founding father of gynecology because he pioneered tools and surgical techniques for the health of women’s reproductive systems. Sadly, he received this honorary name through torturing Black women. 

He conducted his experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia because he believed that Black people did not feel pain.

Once he “perfected” his techniques through experimentation, he began providing surgery to white women, but he of course used anesthesia on them. Shocker!

Another example of issues in healthcare is in regards to complaints about aches and pains that are subjective.

For example, if someone is complaining about pain in their back or neck, the doctors have to go off of what you say rather than blood test results. 

A study published by the American Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2019 found that white patients were 40% more likely to receive medication for acute pain in comparison to Black patients. 

There are so many stories out there that have circulated the internet about healthcare professionals ignoring the pain that Black patients are going through. 

For example, Amy Mason-Cooley was left in a waiting room for 10 hours and ended up passing out from the amount of pain she endured. When she woke up, a nurse told her that she wasn’t in a pain clinic assuming that she was seeking drugs. 

Another example of pain being undermined was the story of Sevon Blake from Queens, New York. She was experiencing lower abdominal pain and when she expressed that to her doctor, he said, “ It’s probably just a little gas, you’re fine.”

Following this incident, Blake changed her doctor to a Black woman. She explained that once she made this change, she was listened to, provided with options for care, and got a solution to her pain! 

Turns out it wasn’t just gas…. Blake had a gluten intolerance that was easily fixed by changes in her diet. 

Clearly, non-black healthcare professionals assume that we are either overexaggerating or we are able to handle the pain. 

A study conducted in 2016 showed that half of first and second-year white medical students believed that Black people have thicker skin than white people. 

Some more myths they believed were: 

  • “Black people’s skin is thicker than white people.”
  • “Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s.”
  • “Black people’s blood coagulates more quickly than white people’s.”
  • “Black people have stronger immune systems than whites.”
  • “White people have larger brains than Black people.”

This is absurd because these are medical students that are the future of healthcare!

This leads to the Black community having less trust in the healthcare system and makes them want to avoid going to the hospital! 

These myths are all based on the beliefs of slave owners. It is saddening that this mindset is consciously and unconsciously prevalent in society today. 

Now let’s talk about Black women’s stories of abuse being dismissed. 

The numerous stories of the young girls’ abuse from Robert Kelly have been out in the public for a long time! Yet, it took 23 years to get him behind bars! 

If it had been white girls coming forward about the sexual and emotional abuse he committed, he would have been in jail as soon as the first allegation came out. 

Why did it take so long? 

It took 23 years to lock him up because Black girls are perceived as less innocent, more adult-like, and more independent than white girls indicating that they don’t need as much protection or help according to a study by Georgetown Law Center

Alongside that, people cared about Kelly’s talents more than they cared about the abuse he inflicted on hundreds of Black girls. So, it was ignored and dismissed for years.

Another story that correlates with Black women being dismissed is the current issue between Megan Thee Stallion and Tory Lanes.

There are so many rumored stories about what happened, but from the video that was released, it is clear that Tory Lanes was arrested, he was with Megan Thee Stallion and another woman, and Megan Thee Stallion’s foot was bleeding.

Tory got arrested with a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, and Megan didn’t initially tell the police anything that happened with the gun because she feared the police would end up shooting all of them. 

After the incident, she did come out on her socials to tell her fans that she was shot twice in her foot and had to get surgery to remove the bullets, but did not reveal who shot her.

It was rumored that Tory had been the one who shot Megan. But, Tory and his team made sure to flip the story to avoid bad publicity. 

With the two different stories, who do you think the public believed? 

They believed Tory and questioned Megan’s credibility. 

This resulted in Megan feeling obligated to come out about a personal situation that she felt resulted in her losing her peace. 

What Effect Does Dismissing Black Women’s Voices Have?

  • Make her feel like she is alone 
  • Increases feelings of sadness or anger
  • Makes her feel devalued
  • Decreases trust in others 
  • Makes her apprehensive to come out about abuse
  • Decreases feelings of hope 
  • Makes her feel unimportant 
  • Makes her feel silenced

What Should Be Done To Help Change This?

It’s simple. 

Everyone needs to actively:

  • Uplift Black women
  • Believe what Black women say 
  • Stand up for Black women
  • Reassure Black women 
  • Listen to Black women 

Related: How to Support Someone Experiencing Mental Health Issues

This may seem easy to do while reading it, but you will be surprised at how many people unconsciously dismiss Black women because it is a societal norm. 

Take time to actively think if you would want to be dismissed during times that are impacting your mental, emotional, or physical health.

Treat others how you would like to be treated and lead as an example for others to follow. 

The way society treats Black women is based on generations of beliefs being passed down, so be the change and help to create a new, positive outlook on the perception of Black women. 

Comment down below your thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear what everyone thinks and start a discussion about it. 

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to share it on your socials! 

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6 Comments

  1. Good article. I’ve been hearing a lot about black women and our pregnancy issues being dismissed, had I been aware of these facts, I may never have had children. Its. Unbelievable that doctors are not only taught but believe the myths about black people (women) and pain. I recently wrote a blog post on the Egyptian physician Imhotep and found out that several of his teachings are still in effect/being taught in medical school today. Seems like the medical profession needs an overhaul. They need more understanding and compassion, whatever happened to having a good bedside manner, i used to think that was almost mandatory for a doctor but thats a phrase you don’t even hear anymore or even see practiced. I recently told a doctor that she lacked a bedside manner. The profession has become desensitized, their motivated by money, not by how the can best help the patient and until they truly put the patient first, nothing will change.

    1. Thank you! I recently learned about how healthcare professionals dismiss black women’s pain during childbirth and am looking to have an at-home birth with a black mid-wife because of it. I feel like that would make me the most comfortable and would guarantee that I would have a positive experience. I will definitely go check out your blog post on Imhotep because I was extremely interested in learning about the doctor James Sims and how tools that he created are still used & named after him! There is a black physician who is working hard to change the name of the Sims tool to “Lucy”, which was one of his patients that he worked on and tortured. I couldn’t agree with you more on the fact that medical professionals need to have more compassion and practice more bedside manner. Medical schools need to do better with ensuring they are producing well-rounded doctors, not just doctors that know how to retain knowledge. Hopefully one day, we can put our trust into these professionals, but for now it is best to stay clear because of how prominent implicit bias is in the healthcare industry.

  2. Wheewwww, so much to say, but I’ll try to keep it short. I’m a nurse and I worked labor and delivery. I worked in a hospital where the majority of the patients were black, but the OBGYNs were predominately black as well so thankfully we didn’t see as much bias. I only wish there were more black nurses on the staff like me. When I walked into a patient room I could see a sigh of relief on their face. When I gave birth to my last baby I let the staff know I was a nurse. Amazing what kind of care you can get when they know they can’t BS you.
    When it comes to pain, ppl with sickle cell often get labeled as drug seekers when they’re going through a crisis. And of course black ppl are the majority of sickle cell patients.
    And I won’t get started on the medical students.

    1. That makes me so happy that the OBGYNs were predominantly Black, that has to be so comforting and reassuring to the Black women coming in for care. Also, I am sure the patients were so thankful to see you walk in the room! I feel the sense of relief whenever I see a Black doctor or nurse attending to me because it is someone who will actually take what I am saying seriously! It shouldn’t have to be that the nurses treat you differently if you are a medical professional, they should be providing that same care to every patient! It is so sad. Change definitely needs to happen.

  3. “The way society treats Black women is based on generations of beliefs being passed down, so be the change and help to create a new, positive outlook on the perception of Black women.” I loved everything about this entire blog, especially when you touched on healthcare! It’s to the point where we don’t feel comfortable going to the doctor unless it’s a Black doctor, due to fear of neglect. That’s why we need more Black people in the medical field! We have to start being advocates for one another!

    1. Thank you so much! That means everything to me! Healthcare is one of the main areas that Black women are not taken seriously and it’s really sad that we are put in a position to question whether we want to go to the hospital due to the implicit bias present. I couldn’t have agreed more with what you said!

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