Professor’s book delves into the reality of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

August 28, 2023

Headshot of Marissa McKinley

Marissa McKinley, assistant teaching professor of English, exposed the struggles women face when finding treatment for a hormonal-metabolic syndrome called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in her recent book called “PCOS Discourses, Symbolic Impacts, and Feminist Rhetorical Disruptions of Institutional Hegemonies.”

McKinley explained that the book showcases not only her journey to health, but also shares the stories of many others.

“The book explores how women with PCOS resist the often-disparaging language used by these powerful institutions and authorities by social networking in an online PCOS health community correcting falsehoods about the illness and constructing and disseminating embodied knowledge about living with PCOS,” she said.

In 2009, McKinley was diagnosed with the hormonal-metabolic syndrome, especially displaying signs of increased androgen, insulin and testosterone levels that contributed to the development of cystic acne, ovarian cysts and androgenic alopecia.

McKinley struggled to remedy her symptoms and find someone willing to give her the time of day, she said.

“The challenges of navigating the healthcare system and in seeking treatment for the management of my symptoms from providers prompted me to research PCOS from a rhetorical perspective, focusing, partly, on PCOS knowledge construction and dissemination of such knowledge within and outside the clinic,” said McKinley.

McKinley discovered that she wasn't the only one experiencing trouble finding treatment during her difficult hunt for a solution.

“Unfortunately, from my research, I have learned that my PCOS-related healthcare experiences were not unique,” she said. “The women I studied often reported that their providers failed to help them seek diagnosis and treat their various symptoms. Further, women who reported struggling with their weight, a primary PCOS challenge, were frequent victims of fat shaming by clinicians, impacting their care."

The injustices that McKinley herself and other women have faced when attempting to seek treatment have inspired her to publish her research in her recent book.

“I’m passionate about my work because I seek to expose the injustices that women with PCOS often face when working with providers and how to challenge health injustices so that women with chronic illnesses — and all women — receive better care from providers.”

Given her work in this area, McKinley has been continuously reminded of the importance of showing compassion and care to her students in the classroom. As an English professor, she enacts a practice of attentiveness, compassion, competence, responsibility and responsiveness in her curriculum.

McKinley hopes to provide reassurance to women who feel like they are alone in battling their condition through sharing her PCOS story and the experiences of other women, she said.

“I hope, by reading and interacting with my work, the PCOS community feels less alone in their fight for a cure,” said McKinley. “Above all, I hope 'PCOS Discourses, Symbolic Impacts, and Feminist Rhetorical Disruptions of Institutional Hegemonies' inspire other women battling health challenges and encourage them to keep fighting for their emotional and physical health because, at the end of the day, our bodies and experiences matter well beyond the margins of androcentrism.”

Learn more about “PCOS Discourses, Symbolic Impacts, and Feminist Rhetorical Disruptions of Institutional Hegemonies” 

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