People With Endometriosis Express “Betrayal” Over Study Linking Disease To Attractiveness

"Welcome to the world of women's health, where your pain is denied while your body is commoditised."


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A medical study measuring the ‘attractiveness’ of women with endometriosis has been retracted, prompting many with the painful disease to speak about how it’s just one extreme example of how doctors don’t take women’s pain seriously.

As reported by The Guardian, an Italian study from 2013 called “Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case-control study” has been retracted from the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Rectovaginal endometriosis is a severe form of endometriosis, a painful disease where the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus, potentially causing scarring and infertility. It is a disease that many women and people with uteruses are only diagnosed with after many years of consultations, prompting those with the disease to say that the medical profession by and large fails to recognise their pain.

The study has long been criticised for objectifying women, with US gynecologist Dr Jennifer Gunter summing it up: “I fail to understand how a small group of Italian doctors rating attractiveness of women with different stages of endometriosis contributes anything to medical science.”

The study concluded that women with rectovaginal endometriosis were more attractive, with a “leaner silhouette, larger breasts, and an earlier coitarche,” aka their age at time of first sexual intercourse. Only white women were included in the study.

The women involved in the study did not know their attractiveness was part of the study, which was funded by the University of Milan’s school of medicine. The study has now been removed, though without an apology.

“We conducted the study in good faith and according to correct methodology,” the authors wrote. “We believe that our findings have been partly misinterpreted, but at the same time realize that the article may have caused distress to some people. Women’s respect is a priority for us, and we are extremely sorry for the discontent the publication originated.”

As Guardian writer Gabrielle Jackson points out, the seven years it took for the study to be retracted is the average time it takes to be diagnosed with endometriosis.

In response to the article circulating on Twitter, people with endometriosis shared how the long-standing defence of the study and non-apology was frustrating, but far from surprising.

“It’s finally been retracted but like…you wonder why we speak up about this condition not being taken seriously,” wrote triple j host Bridget Hustwaite, who runs endometriosis resource Instagram Endogram.

“Welcome to the world of women’s health, where your pain is denied while your body is commoditised,” tweeted Amnesty UK employee Rebecca Nguyen.

Others shared their disgust with the study, describing it as an insult to their pain.

An apology has not yet been issued.