My research will consider the impact of gender on experiences of diagnosis and stigma, with a particular focus on two conditions – polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and autism in women. Both conditions can be considered to contravene normative femininity; autism is typically associated with a ‘hyper-masculine’ profile, while PCOS encompasses a broad range of symptoms including hirsutism, alopecia and fertility problems. As evolving diagnostic categories, both conditions are vulnerable to being defined and understood within gendered social contexts and are therefore ideal as case studies for examining the impact of gendered discourses on lived experience.
It is hoped that this study will help to fill a number of gaps in research relating to the experience of both of these conditions while shedding light on the difficulties and challenges many women face both pre- and post- diagnosis. It is also hoped that this research will contribute to the emerging literature within the sociology of diagnosis, and the vast body of research relating to gender and diagnosis, by focusing specifically on the experience of conditions which contravene dominant feminine ideals.
Before starting my MA this year in Sociology and Social Research, I completed my undergraduate degree (also at Newcastle) in Combined Honours in Sociology with Business. I then spent some time living and studying in Greece in the year after graduating. I have a longstanding interest in the experience of chronic conditions which contravene feminine ideals and realised in the first year of my undergraduate degree that this was an area of research I wanted to pursue.