osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Sexism or Habit?

It is rather common to attribute all disparities in medical treatment between men and women to sexism. But my personal bet is that habit and narrow ways of thinking -- informed by sexism, true -- are more to blame.

Let us consider two recent cases of medical profession recommendations. One the one hand, we have the well publicized recommendation to raise the age for routine mammography testing from 40 to 50, absent any other risk indicators. On the other, we have this study on the positive impacts of alcohol on men's heart health. This being only the latest in a series of studies that would indicate that regular consumption of modest quantities of alcohol has positive health benefits -- particularly for men.

Conventional wisdom on sexism would suggest that the later is about reducing care to women and the former is about male privilege and we would expect them to be embraced by a sexist medical profession.

I predict, however, that both will be rejected by the medical profession. Why? Because most doctors are inherently conservative in changing their recommendations. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The other factor is that the American medical profession generally regards alcohol as bad. Indeed, for the last 20 or so years, the American medical profession has been doing everything it can to minimize the tests that find alcohol has any beneficial effects, while pushing any study on the negative impacts of alcohol for all its worth. Thus, we push to pregnant women that if they so much as sniff alcohol fumes they risk deforming their unborn child, while refusing to advise men over 50 that a glass of wine or two a night might do them good.

Surely custom is king over all.

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