Making Sense of Women’s Pain in Modern Canada
Women’s pain is routinely under-recognized and under-treated. In a number of contexts, and for a variety of painful ailments, women are more likely than men to seek treatment. Yet they are less likely to receive adequate care from health care providers who regularly discount women’s verbal pain reports.
Taking these gendered inequities in the treatment of pain as a starting point, Dr. Whitney Wood, Canada Research Chair in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health, seeks to historicize medical and cultural attitudes toward female bodies and women’s sensitivity to pain in modern Canada, particularly as these ideas intersect with race, class and age.
Focusing on 20th century childbirth cultures, women’s experiences of pain across the life cycle, and gendered experiences of violence in the medical sphere, Wood and her research team are drawing on both oral histories and a range of archival and print sources. They are using these to explore how perceptions of women’s pain are inseparable from the historical contexts in which they are produced. These perceptions, in turn, markedly shape the treatment that women receive in a range of medical settings.
Making important contributions to the history of medicine and to women’s and gender history, Wood’s research reveals that a historical examination of medical and cultural attitudes toward women’s pain is a necessary part of contemporary efforts to address ongoing inequities in women’s health.