Blogging for HONS 201: Feminism, New Media, and Health at Hunter College.

Heart Attacks, Media Representation, and Men & Women

My earliest memory of watching a heart attack being acted out on film was in the (CLASSIC) Canadian miniseries Anne of Green Gables. In a scene that brings me to tears to this day, dear old Matthew Cuthbert is returning to from the field when, all of a sudden, he clutches at his left arm in obvious pain and collapses.

The image of the pain shooting in the left arm or a crushing pain in the chest are the most widely known symptoms of a heart attack – but when it comes to women, this is not always accurate. As I first found out from a friend in the Hunter Nursing Program, and then researched myself, there are differences in the symptoms of heart attack between men and women.

While chest pain is the identifier for many for a heart attack, women are less likely to experience the terrible pain that men are shown to experience. More than the obvious pain, women are more likely to experience more “minor” discomforts, such as nausea, jaw pain, and sweating. I think it’s interesting that this type of heart attack has never been represented in the media, or taught in basic health classes; it’s important to be aware of symptoms for things such as heart attacks, and the women’s side has never been explored on a public level. On TV, we see a man clutch his chest, get rushed to a hospital, and hear someone yell “CLEAR!” The nurses use a defibrillator on him, and either he’s good or he’s not. But we never see it for women; blogger distractedbyshinyobjects explores this imbalance,

Except you can’t show a topless woman on TV – and you can’t defibrillate a woman in a bra. So victims of heart attacks on TV are *always* male. Did you know that a woman having a heart attack is more likely to have back or jaw pain than chest or left arm pain? I didn’t – because I’ve never seen a woman having a heart attack. I’ve been trained in CPR and Advanced First Aid by the Red Cross over 15 times in my life, the videos and booklets always have a guy and say the same thing about clutching his chest and/or bicep.

And people laugh when I tell them women are still invisible in this world.

Of course, this study and information aren’t without its flaws. I’m almost sure that they mean “sex,” “males,” and “females” instead of “gender,” “men,” and “women” – as one’s gender identity can very much exist independent from the physical embodiment and anatomy. And then there is the question of intersex individuals – where do they fit into this? Would their symptoms appear to be similar or different to those of males or females?


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This entry was posted on November 23, 2012 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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