Dec 26 2008

Why do women go alternative?

It seems to be a fairly established fact that more women than men use alternative medicine. It is also probably fair to say that they are more likely to read horoscopes, spend money on bullshit cosmetics that “make you look younger” and, I don’t think unrelatedly, be prone to depression (although this may be linked to reading Heat magazine). All of which points to a distinct lack of engagement with science and is interpreted by some (i.e. wankers) to be down to women’s lack of intelligence.

Women aren’t the only gender that wastes its money on fantasy and snake-oil. The pornography and prostitution industry is one of the biggest in the world, 99.9% of which caters for men and most of which tries to make men believe that they are not in fact sad wankers. So men, don’t get superior here.

What is interesting is women’s engagement with science and medicine. Yes generally, fewer women are attracted to traditionally male dominated trades such as science and engineering. However, this is changing with for example, the majority of medical graduates in the UK are now women, girls are getting better science and maths results etc.

However, the female suspicion of the medical establishment is deep-seated. Some of the biggest criticisms I have heard of the NHS have come from (middle class) women who have given birth in NHS hospitals. Is it a lack of understanding or simply about communication?

Alternative medicine does, at least on the surface, seem to give greater empowerment to the patient than ‘orthodox’ medicine.

We have also been conditioned by our consumerist society to expect to buy the solution to our problems. Not happy? Buy happiness. Not well? Buy health. A huge amount of advertising plays on female empowerment, which was perfected first by the tobacco industry.

But of course its a false empowerment, just as pornography is false desire. Let’s only hope that the credit crunch affects the advertising and marketing industry more than any other.