COVID-19 & Sexism

The sexism of this society has meant that the care-givers, particularly women of color, have borne the brint of dealing with the crisis. The shelter-in-place necessitated by the pandemic has resulted in a sharp noticeable increase in cases of domestic abuse of spouses and children. The increase in repressive police violence that has accompanied the pandemic, and provoked a massive response of solidarity and resistance, also reflects institutionalized racism and sexism within law enforcement. Nurses, obviously not exclusively women, have been in the forefront of facing down the astro-turf “re-open now” protesters demanding the “freedom” not to wear masks. They have also led struggles for adequate Personal Protective Equipment for medical care-givers.

The profound lack of social services have meant that going forward the lack of capacity for high-quality childcare places inordinate burdens on women in this society. This has been made manifest to everyone as people are sheltering in place with schools closed, massive unemployment, and people who have kept their jobs attempting to work from home while caring simultaneously for children and elders. The percentage of women doing paid work in the U.S. has declined to its lowest level since 1986 because of gender bias within both the family and the workplace in relation to the impacts of the pandemic.

There is some evidence that sex-linked differences in immune response may pre-dispose men to more severe bouts of COVID-19, and that (male) sex can be a risk factor in death from COVID. It’s not clear how male socialization and unwillingness to admit to the need for or to accept medical care may factor in. Here’s recent piece from Science:

On the other hand, sexism within the pharmaceutical and medical industries has downplayed or ignored women’s reports of adverse responses to the COVID vaccines, and testing has not been broken out by gender, or paid close attention to menstrual dispruptions reported by women, either during the testing or subsequently with widespread vaccination. Here’s a report on this matter: Why won’t the US medical establishment “believe women”? Covid-19 vaccines do not warn about menstrual disruption | The Grayzone


[W]omen of childbearing age have reported becoming temporarily “postmenopausal” after their second mRNA shot; conversely, women in menopause are reporting suddenly beginning to bleed again; trans men on hormone therapy have also reported sudden bleeding. Apparently, the number of vaccinated women around the world reporting alarmingly disrupted menstruation is, to be conservative, in the tens of thousands.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, does not warn women who get the shots that they may experience a disrupted menstrual cycle.

Why is this? In part because even though menstruation is sometimes called the sixth vital sign and directly implicates fertility, and the fact that women on average suffer higher rates of adverse reaction to vaccines of all sorts and medication in general, the effects of Covid vaccines on women’s health specifically, including the menstrual cycle, were not studied as part of the Emergency Use Authorization process.

Impacts on menstrual cycles are, it turns out, very rarely studied in clinical vaccine trials. Stated another way, the quality of COVID-19 vaccine safety data is better for men than it is for women, yet across the country, vaccine mandates make no sex-distinction and in practicality, actually fall more heavily on majority-women industries.

Here’s a link to a piece on COVID’s impact on women prisoners in California from a new women-oriented news site:


“On the streets they are asking for you not to have people over your house and to social distance,” Ortega said in an email to The 19th. “I am not given a choice in here. I am not allowed to say no.”

So, Ortega, out of options, did the only thing she could to keep the virus at bay: She unfolded menstrual products and started to clean.

“I am forced to make a choice on what’s more important, my freedom or my health,” Ortega said.

Via email, The 19th interviewed nine people incarcerated at CCWF. Eight of them told The 19th that CCWF was holding prisoners who had tested negative for the virus in 503, quarantining people who were COVID-19 negative in close proximity to those who had the virus. The ninth discussed lack of safety related to the virus in the prison but did not reference building 503.

Nearly half of the people interviewed live with pre-existing conditions — asthma, heart conditions, a compromised immune system — that put them at heightened risk for complications of COVID-19. All described dirty, unsafe conditions that left them wondering if their lives will end in prison.


I Volunteered For The Covid-19 Vaccine Trial To Fight Medical Sexism

Louisa*, 34, is one of thousands of volunteers taking part in Covid-19 vaccine trials across the UK. We spoke to her about the process so far and her motivations for taking part.

BY KATIE O’MALLEY 06/19/2020

‘I don’t think I’m brave,’ Louisa* says, matter-of-factly. ‘Bravery is the overcoming of fear – I don’t feel scared.’

The 34-year-old is used to her body being tested on. As a baby, she was one of the first in Leicestershire to take part in a heart monitor trial after her parents lost a baby to cot death. Now she’s one of thousands of volunteers taking part in the Oxford University trial to find a vaccine that could put an end to the coronavirus pandemic.

* Not her real name

When Women Medical Workers Can Get PPE, They Find It’s Designed for Men


NHS professional bodies, experts and trade unions have warned that female healthcare workers’ lives are being put at risk because personal protective equipment is designed for men. As one frontline NHS worker put it: “PPE is designed for a 6 foot 3 inch bloke built like a rugby player.”

Dr Helen Fidler, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) UK consultants committee, said: “Women’s lives are absolutely being put at risk because of ill-fitting PPE. We know that properly fitted PPE works, but masks are designed for a male template, with the irony being that 75% of workers in the NHS are female.”

Caroline Criado-Perez, whose book Invisible Women addresses the issue of ill-fitting PPE for women in one of its chapters, said she has been inundated with messages from healthcare workers who could not find protective equipment to fit them.

“Respiratory protective equipment is designed for a male face, and if it doesn’t fit it won’t protect,” she said. “Because of a dearth of sex disaggregated data we don’t know how many women are affected, but I am hearing on a daily basis from women in the NHS who say they can’t get their masks to fit.”