What the nipple piercing incident tells us about attitudes to women’s pain

When 39-year old Mandi Hamlin set off the metal detectors at Lubbock airport, she probably didn’t imagine she’d end up using pliers to remove her nipple piercings while airport security snickered.

The Curvature has more about the incident, pointing out a notable detail which demonstrates that this was not motivated by any concern for exploding body mods: after removing the piercing and being scanned again, Hamlin was sent through onto the plane – without being asked to remove a belly button ring.

It takes a brave woman to come forward in this situation, and I praise Hamlin for refusing to take this shit laying down. It would be much easier to try to forget the whole thing. It would be even easier than that to not seek out publicity and show her face on television. She’s going to face ridicule — compounded, let’s face it, by the fact that she’s not a 20-year-old blond who wears a size 2 — and as she strikes me as an intelligent woman, I can only believe that she knew this. Reflecting on the officers who laughed at their abuse against her, she had to know that they weren’t the only horrible, entitled assholes who would find the whole thing to be fucking hilarious. Staying quiet is understandable, and the officers expect it — which is how the abuse continues.

Clearly, this was an abuse of power. However, Jennifer Bard at the Women’s Bioethics Project draws interesting connections between this incident and the undertreatment of women’s pain by doctors.

One interesting point she makes relates to the flurry of doctors and pharmacists withholding treatment from women (whether that be abortion, emergancy contraception, fertility services for lesbian women, etc):

Are there any doctors refusing, for religious reasons, to prescribe Viagra to unmarried men because they have religious objections to sex outside of marriage? How is this O.K.?

Another point: attitudes to women’s pain have not changed, despite the numbers of women going through medical school.

Well, first because it is beyond unfair into fanciful to expect that the existence of women doctors is enough to change the fundamental power structure of a profession or indeed a society. Second, people learn what they are taught. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for women doctors to absorb the same prejudices as men about their women patients’ accounts of pain.

Moreover, even if every woman doctor was committed to believing women, despite everything they learn through from their mentors, few are in any positions of power. 17 of the 129 Deans of Medical Schools in the United States are women.

(Via Feminist Law Professors)

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