Germaine Greer has caused a storm and made the headlines for saying that transgender women are ‘not real women’ and that ‘misogyny played a big part’ in the crowning of Caitlyn Jenner as Glamour’s Woman of the Year. As much as I empathise with transgender issues, the physiology between the sexes is different and that lends weight to Greer’s perspective. I find it disturbing when women related headlines are not dominated by cisgender 1women because it is a missed opportunity to highlight otherwise overlooked issues. For example, health and medicine, an area where sex discrimination is still impacting. Medical care for women is lagging behind that of men. Conversations on women’s health are centred around, breast cancer and reproduction. Yet heart disease is the biggest killer of women, who are also more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer. Women are also 70% more likely to suffer with depression than men. These illnesses are directly related to differences in the physiology of the sexes. This is the type of information that should be making headlines for women. Women’s health is a high priority equal rights issue. However, the momentum on women’s news seems to be dominated by transwomen. There are cisgender women issues that need to be in the spotlight in order to save lives.
Until recently, little attention has been paid to the physiology of men and women. The difference between the sexes has pretty much been restricted to sexual plumbing and breasts. Current research is scratching the surface, but we now know that every single cell in our body contains the chromosomes that determine whether we are man or woman. The sexes are different all the way down to molecular levels.
Contrary to the popular perception, it is women who are dying of heart disease at four times the rate of men. Alarmingly, women aged 20 to 40 years of age are at great risk. In the USA heart disease kills one in three women. The numbers of deaths are increasing for women and declining for men. Globally, approximately 8.6 million women die of heart disease compared to 500,000 succumbing to breast cancer.
Women’s hearts are different to men’s. They are smaller in size and beat faster at rest and exercise. When men have a heart attack it is usually an explosion of the coronary artery from blockage. Women’s heart attacks are from an erosion of the coronary artery. So whereas an angiogram will show the blockage in the male pattern of heart disease, it does not for a women whose type of heart disease is typically erosion. This means that the classic heart attack symptoms of ‘the elephant on the chest’ does not necessarily apply to women. 40% of women having heart attacks have no chest pain or only some light pressure or indigestion. Women’s pattern of heart disease tends to have a general feeling of being unwell or tiredness.
I wrote an article which considered the differences between a man and woman’s brain structure and how it affected rearing children. The structural difference also affects moods. Across the globe, depression is the single biggest debilitation for women. Women are 70% more likely to suffer depression than men yet they are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed for depression; although it is known that women experience more sleep deprivation, anxiety, fatigue and pain than men. These depressive symptoms are generally overlooked.
Women’s association with cancer, is commonly breast cancer but findings in the USA show that lung cancer kills more women. When men and women who are non-smokers are compared, women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer. However, young women’s survival rates are higher than men’s. Early findings suggest that this might be related to oestrogen but there is lack of investment in women’s medical research.
The general assumption that men and women are alike in every way, apart from their sex organs is indisputably wrong. Cisgender women have their own anatomy and physiology. It goes beyond society’s prescribed gender roles and the mismatching of the physical body one is born into. These facts are sadly lost in the transgender debate. Yet, as illustrated there are very important fundamental differences between men and women. It is because these inequalities exist we cannot say that transgender women are the same as cisgender women.
By design of an unequal society, the framework for medical research for over a hundred years has been based on men only. The results, have just been applied to women as demonstrated in treatment of heart disease. It is no wonder that for men, who have the benefit of 50 years research, the rate is rapidly falling. Even cells used in both human and animal experiments today are predominately from males. Our sex makes a difference and there needs to be far greater investment in research on the sexes. We need to call for improved knowledge on the health of women and their care. Clearly, it works as is evident from the fall in breast cancer rates and recovery. We are just not doing enough for the other 50% of the population, women. This can be changed with financial investment from Government and increased awareness amongst women.