Challenging the Medical Patriarchy

Some really nasty happened to a friend recently, which got me thinking about the traditional patriarchal structure of many elements of our society. And what’s one of the worst places for it still? The medical system.

Don’t panic, this isn’t going to be a feminist rant.

Instead, I have to simply question why it is that so many people are still so totally health-illiterate, so completely in the dark about such basic things as fever, good nutrition, and how to manage run-of-the-mill illnesses that we, as humans, have dealt with for eons. It’s 2012 for goodness’ sakes, surely we should be ok with our children running a fever and understand how to prepare a wholesome, nutritious meal for our family? These are the basic concepts that have enabled the human race to survive as long as we have and to get this far.
And yet. On a daily basis I see parent after parent panicking about their children running temperatures and being under the weather, unsure of how to deal with it other than knocking back Pamol or running to the doctor.

Now, I won’t go into the do’s and don’ts of fever management and healthcare right now – we’ll save that for another blog – but suffice to say it’s our body’s way of dealing with whatever is going on, unless it hits 41.7C it isn’t going to harm the child, and our body will generally self-regulate so it won’t reach that height. Pamol does, however, stress the liver and can cause serious harm long-term (as well as being a leading cause of hospitalisation and accidental overdose in kiwi children!).
So how is it we became so illiterate?

I’d suggest we follow the proverbial money-trail, as usual.

Doesn’t it just suit a particular sector with a particular agenda down to the ground that people are terrified of diseases such as measles, chicken pox, mumps, and so on? Things that can, in very rare cases in people with predisposing illness, lead to nasty complications, but which for the most part and for most people aren’t going to cause much more than a few days of feeling awful (if that), a fever, and time off school? Think back to when you were a child – did a school-friend having mumps or measles sound alarm bells and cause mass vaccination scares? Or was it something that just happened and you shrugged off?

How about chicken pox? Remember chicken pox parties? Itchy and uncomfortable, sure, but nothing to write home about, and something that everybody had. A dab of calamine lotion, a baking soda or oatmeal bath, time off school, and it was over with. Nowadays, it’s met with cries of ‘shingles! Shingles! Shingles!’ and hyped as something far worse than what I (and most of you) remember – of course, you don’t general hear how being exposed to children with chicken pox as an adult will give you a ‘booster’ and generally prevent you getting shingles, unless your immune system is low. So why is vaccinating all the children and stopping this natural booster happening of any benefit to anybody? Except, of course, those ready with a shingles vaccine…
If we’re all terrified of these illnesses, then we’re compliant. We’re powerless in terms of how to treat them, how to understand how they work, and what do to when we encounter them. If nutrition is poor, then our chances of having mild disease are lower as well, and things can be significantly worse. Likewise, ‘treating’ things by throwing Pamol will lower defences too.
All of which makes for great little consumers for the medical profession and the drug companies.

That isn’t to say all doctors or people in the mainstream health profession think like this – I personally know a number of doctors who love to educate and empower their patients on how to handle things properly, on diet, exercise, and so on. And I love them for it.

But there is another element who are aware of the financial gain for them having people who aren’t sure of themselves or their abilities. And these are who we need to be aware of. If we start to challenge that patriarchal ‘there, there’ mentality and question what we’re told, to relearn the wisdom of our forebears and understand the role of nutrition and how immunity works, and to know how to handle most mild illnesses on our own and support the body’s healing process, we become a threat to the profit margins and the patriarchal mindset. We also create healthy, happy children and families.

Time to throw off those shackles, I say…