Women living with PCOS have found a unique community through the online forum, Reddit, according to Associate Professor of English from University of Delaware, McGuire. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that affects 1 out of 10 women of child-bearing age, resulting in complications such as infertility and varying types of diabetes. In her webtext published in the online journal Kairos, McGuire writes that she is “one of the 5-10% of women aged 18-44 diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome” and that this is what initially drew her to the subreddit r/PCOS. She explains that during her research she learned about her condition and was impressed by how the community “carve[d] out spaces for their voices to be heard in areas where the loudest voices are often antagonistic and disconcerting.” The community’s use of communication, reciprocity, respect and community building allow the webpage to be a place of safety, learning and empowerment for women on social media, which is unlike many other subreddits within Reddit, making the location for this community so interesting.
The “r/PCOS” subreddit is a beautiful way for women around the world to connect and empower one another while dealing with this illness. It is also powerfully feminist since Reddit is a website predominantly used by men, “only 33% of Reddit users being women.” But, in spite of this, a community of women is using this platform to allow McGuire and others to learn more about their condition, find solidarity and understanding from fellow women suffering from PCOS. As a result of Reddit being a predominately male platform, there is a lot of misogyny that occurs within the website. However, McGuire explains that because of Reddit’s ability to keep user’s identities anonymous and the capacity to create specific groups or spaces geared toward a specific interest, she can see this site’s appeal to the women within this subreddit community and potential for others.
Through McGuire’s research of this subreddit and the positive impacts it has on women such as herself, she wonders if there are other pages or subreddits within the usually misogynistic site that are going unnoticed. “As women charge forward, they become more empowered and more equipped to both advocate for themselves offline and deal with behavior on Reddit, or other online spaces, as well as assert their right to communicate in other spaces that may not always be female friendly.” McGuire hopes that this r/PCOS subreddit is the start of more women feeling comfortable and heard within online forums as well as more accessibility for women to find communities on social media platforms.