Posted by: ginnychisum | March 21, 2018

Female…doctor?

Throughout the course of this semester, I’ve had various conversations with friends and families about this class and what we’ve been discussing. One discussion I had with my mother began about the idea of women leaders in medicine (my annotated bib. topic) and she shared a quick story with me. She was driving my younger sister and a friend (ages 14 & 12) to practice when a conversation about my dad began. The friend asked where he was and my sister explained that he was still at work because he had a day full of surgeries, the friend then quickly agreed saying, “oh right, your dad’s a doctor.” My sister explained that our dad is not a doctor, but a PA and still participates in surgery. This confused the friend and she quickly announced, “but your dad has to be a doctor because he’s a man!” My mom, a little horrified, chimed in, saying that being a doctor does not mean you are a man, but the friend insisted it did. My mom even asked the friend about her doctor and the friend revealed her doctor was a female, but still insisted that doctors had to be men. I just thought it was very sad and worth sharing with you all this story that a ten year old girl still believes that doctors have to be men. Even though her pediatrician is a women, she still doesn’t believe that other women can be doctors.

Along with having these discussions, I’ve also started to notice more comments that are made to me that I’m sure are meant to be harmless, but in the moment, I can’t help but think if the comment was truly necessary. Since, I’m a senior I’ve been looking more into post-grad plans such as grad school and internships. I want to be a pediatrician eventually, but have a lot of work to do before I get there, so I recently started having meetings with on of my mentors. This particular mentor is a retired orthopedic surgeon that worked with my father and has therefore been through Medical School and has a lot of knowledge and opportunities to offer. I’ve started to notice while talking with him though that he’ll start out a sentence saying some along the lines of, “well all these guys [students in Med. school]” and then he’ll add, “and the girls too” or the “girl doctors.” While I’m sure he doesn’t mean anything by it, he’s an old dude and therefore a little more traditional, the idea of needing to specify “girl doctor” rubs me the wrong way.  It almost sounds like its an after thought in his mind or as if he feels the needs to encourage me by acknowledging females can be doctors as well.

I just thought these were very interesting interactions I’ve had this past semester and thought I’d share because I think it shows that there is still a lot of room to grow for women in the medical field, but also in other traditionally masculine fields too.


Responses

  1. I definitely see how problematic these occurrences can be, especially considering the background that we’ve developed in issues that pertain to women leaders specifically. Considering this, I think it is a common issue for modern girls to recognize and understand the pervasiveness of sexism within their young lives. As an adolescent, girls are not exposed to alternative ways of thinking about their bodies, their gender identities, and how their gender identities may have an effect on their success or opportunities. Rather, these girls are influenced by an oppressive media that perpetuates unrealistic standards of appearance and attitude that young girls are expected to maintain. Furthermore, massive corporations bolster these portrayals by marketing certain products or services, such as clothing and make-up, in widespread advertising campaigns. It seems that young girls cannot escape the clutches of misogyny that the contemporary world has provided and falling into the traps of sexism appear inevitable.

    This is why learning about the aspects of gender, such as women and leadership, are so effective at fighting back against these inescapable norms. While the judgments, expectations, and convictions of society are difficult to change, becoming educated in such oppressive topics can help to combat and eventually eradicate them. One day, your younger sister’s friend will hopefully take a class, read an article, or speak to feminist-minded elder that will change her narrow perspective on the functions of reality. And one day, she will hopefully be able to discern the normative assumptions of today’s hierarchical society and how she chooses to envision and express herself.

  2. Hi Ginny! I’ve heard stories like this, and can’t believe it. Are we not in the twenty-first century? I think that it’s interesting that children aren’t taught that they can be anything they want to be. Parents teach their children that they can reach for the stars, but I don’t think they tell their children enough to counter the stereotypes that our media so readily propagates. The Wilson chapter about culture spoke about how culture and society have a chicken and egg relationship; people do things because they see the media portray it, and the media portrays things because they see people doing them. Female characteres are shown in positions of power, and male-dominated fields, more often now than they were in the past, but we still have lots of ground to make up.

    One such way that people are trying to combat these long-lasting stereotypes is by purposefully creating characters that defy normal standards. For example, on the show How to Get Away With Murder, the professor is a reputable lawyer with her own firm. Annalise is a black female, who is incredibly strong in the face of several really dramatic conflicts. She is a wonderful leadership case study for all sorts of theories, like tokenism and communication style. Shonda Rhimes, a black woman herself, wrote a character who looked like her; is doing so, she may have given hope to a young girl somewhere who wanted to be a lawyer because of some show. This inspiration is not to be understates. Additionally, there are some really interesting commercials that try to address this topic. I believe it was Barbie,
    and it depicted young girls performing a series of occupations. There was a businesswoman, a veterinarian, a professor, and a soccer coach. The point of the commercial was that Barbie, and the young girls who play with her likeness, could do anything they wanted to.

    As for your second point, I have noticed this too. I’m guilty of watching Netflix with the subtitles, and it provides a little dialogue tag if the speaker is out of frame. I was watching a show that had a psychologist and a client. The psychologist was female and the client was male. The dialogue tag for the psychologist was ‘female psychologist,’ while the male’s was simply ‘client.’ Not only were the subtitles suffering from second-generation bias, but the other characters were as well. They referred to her as ‘the lady shrink’ instead of just ‘the shrink.’ Why was there this need to specify? Was it because medicine is still predominantly considered a masculine field?

  3. I’ve heard about this a lot and since I’m pre-health, I deal with the stigma a lot. However, I’ve also found myself being guilty of using masculine pronouns when talking about doctors. Personally, my doctors are usually women but my family history is men doctors so I think that might be why. It’s interesting that “girl doctors” is used because it separates them from doctors and “girl” is another word that has serious connotations that also undermines women. It’s always bothered me when people say girls and then men. It creates a further disparity between the genders. I also notice people use female pronouns when talking about a typically feminine career such as elementary teachers and can be looked down on for choosing a career that is commonly thought of as a woman’s job.

    It’s important that we start to notice these subtle sex discrimination in ourselves and others and call it out so that it ripples and other people can consciously try to stop it. It’s strange though that the classic “1960s atomic family” is only 50 years ago. So it makes sense that those gender roles are still ingrained in our generation and the generation above ours. This is that second generational bias that we’ve been learning about but it still makes me sad how early children, especially young girls, are learning that some career fields can only be for boys and limiting themselves so early on.

  4. I have had similar experiences to you Ginny. My roommate is on a pre-med track but wants to be a PA. However, whenever anyone asks what she is doing and she tells them, they assume she is going to be a nurse. However, with another friend who is also pre-med and a male, they assume he is going to be a doctor without questions. It is very sad and my roommate often gets upset. She has had people ask her about being a personal assistant, because they assume thats what PA stands for and not physicans assistant. I have always had a female doctor and have never felt that she was less competent because of her gender, and it is sad to think people beleive that.

    We truly are living in complicated times, because there is so much push for women to be succesful and support their dreams but when they are too big or masculine women are berrated. I watch a show called “The Good Doctor” which is about a doctor with autism. However, they show is full of male doctors and only one female. The female doctor is often criticized for being to caring and not doing her job, even though most of the time she is the one that gets the patient on board for life saving surgery. Only recently in the past two episodes have they introduced a female doctor, but she is the complete opposite of Claire.

    The new female doctor is aggressive and often steals others ideas to get credit herself. Are these the only two sterotypes for female doctors? Too emotional or too aggressive? Both of these stereotypes frame women as being incompetent and needing to cheat to get ahead or too emotional to fullfil her duties. I know many female friends that want to go into the medical field. I hope this is a global trend and we see the number of female medical personal grow in the future. The more intelligent women in the medical field the more stereotypes will change.

  5. Hi Ginny! I would definitely agree with you in that through this class many new and interesting conversations have started between me and others as well as the observations I have made because of what I have learned in class.

    Although we are in the twenty-first century we are living amongst people who have lived a life a very particular way before us. The generations before us are used to the separation of women and men especially in particular roles such as doctors. So although your mentor is of old age and probably lived during that time, he was trying to acknowledge that women can be doctors too which is great. Even though how we was saying it did rub you the wrong way, it would have rubbed me a little off too, but that could have been a great opportunity to tell him about it and teach him why it rubbed you the wrong way.

    Especially in the health field there are these stereotypes and generalizations that have been created over the years, such as women nurses and male doctors. This idea and from your story reminds me of athletics because its never the basketball all together its basketball and women’s basketball. One of the other students in the class brought up how the score board says “Captains” on one side and “Lady Captains” on the other. Both the women’s and men’s basketball teams are made up of Captains and besides the obvious gender theres really no difference, yet there somehow needs to be a difference. I can understand your taken abacuses with these comments because I was taken aback to find out about the score board being true when I went to the next basketball game. Unfortunately these stereotypes and generalizations still exist and while its great that women have been able to play these sports and be what they want to be, adding this idea of “lady” or “girl” doctor further separates the genders. Especially when using the term “girl” because it can give this adolescence/young and less mature connotation instead of woman or adult. We have to find a way to give the same respect and understanding of competence to both genders for any sport or occupation.

    However, it is very interesting to hear about the little girl in your story who insisted on doctors only being men. I find it interesting to think that the mother, who is the one who takes her daughter to a female pediatrician, doesn’t try to help her daughter understand that doctors can be both women and men. Although I do not know that for sure, nor was she there for the conversation, but I find it interesting.

  6. The medical field presents a really nice example of how gender stereotypes affect both men and women. Your story is a perfect example of how these stereotypes see women. One of my dad’s best friends is a nurse, as is his wife. It’s really interesting to hear him introduce himself, because he introduces himself as a “male nurse”, almost the exact opposite of your mentor, who uses “girl doctor”. The fact that we have to specify gender when discussing highlights the extensiveness and pervasiveness of the gender division in this field in particular.

    My dad’s friend and his wife also tell many stories of how gender stereotypes play out in the hospital where they both work. While many the gender stereotypes don’t affect his wife as much, because she is not violating gender norms in any way, he has a very difficult time with people making assumptions. When he walks into a room with a patient, the patient usually assumes he is the doctor and is shocked when he reveals that he is actually the nurse who will be preparing or caring for the patient. This reaction is even more pronounced when the doctor walks in and is a woman. It’s almost like patients oftentimes have to take a minute to reset their pre-existing expectations when this duo walks into the room. People also automatically think less of him because he is nurse. They generally assume he’s a nurse because he didn’t “make it” in medical school. However, he’s always wanted to be a nurse and really loves what he does.

    I think the growing push for women in STEM fields will help with a lot of these problems with stereotypes, simply because once more women are in the field, seeing women as doctors in practices and hospitals will be more normalized.

  7. These are some very interesting observations! One thing that I think is important to consider is why it’s a bad thing that the older man specified that some of the doctors were women. Considering that the role of being a doctor is traditionally a role filled by men, I would argue that it is actually important to clarify that the population of doctors being discussed was made up of both men and women. Though some people may find this to be offensive, I think it can actually be a good thing for people to emphasize the presence of women in male dominated fields to highlight the fact that women are really present and participating in these roles.

  8. Hi Ginny!

    I too have noticed that clarification regarding gender is provided when talking about a female filling a traditionally masculine role. Prior to taking this class, hearing people say things like “woman police”, “female firefighter”, or “female athlete”, or even “female professor” never really bothered me. However, now that I am more aware of the pervasiveness of gender expectations and stereotypes in society, this really bothers me! How will we ever move past these kinds of issues if we can’t see qualified and competent females on an equal professional playing field as just “police”, “firefighters” “athletes” and “professors”? Yes it’s important to recognize when a female breaks the mold, but if we continue to distinguish and label professionals by their gender, we encourage a division between genders.

    One way to combat the idea that we must differentiate a woman professional from a male is to increase the percentages of females within a certain career field. We can start by encouraging young girls to actively pursue their dreams in whatever field they choose. It is especially important that we support girls and women in fields that are typically male-dominated. In doing so, we can prove to society that women are just as capable, just as competent, and just as accomplished in their professions as men. Ultimately, there should not be a reason that people feel the need to attach a gender to a profession. The people filling the roles should have already proved themselves as a professional, rather than as a FEMALE in a certain profession.

  9. While it does sound like your friend was saying that women are not usually doctors, I do not think she was saying women can’t be doctors. Furthermore, she may have been confused about the status of her own doctor because officially, her doctor would be known as a pediatrician. As a result, she could not have associated the two. Lastly, her point may have been that she expected her dad to be a doctor because he was working in surgeries, which are usually considered things only doctors do. It could also be that males are not usually nurses, so just associates as doctor because men *can’t* be nurses, so *must* be doctors.

    Furthermore, while not directly related to the medical field, I also have always disliked the label they put with females like “girl doctor.” I first noticed it in middle school when guys were considered falcons (the mascot of my middle school), but girls were considered lady falcons. For some reason, they felt the need to specify the gender to show that girl athletes are somehow different. I didn’t notice it as much until coming to CNU and going to the basketball games. In the center of the court, the giant scoreboard has labels on the two panels: Captains and Lady Captains. Like my middle school, they felt the need to emphasize the gender of the females, but not the men. If they make lady captains, shouldn’t they make manly captains or something? (Also, it’s important to point out the lack of adjectives to describe something as manly when there are abundance of ones to describe femininity. Things shouldn’t automatically be assumed to be masculine). Why are the captains assumed to be men? The specification takes away unification of the school and tells women that they can’t be captains- that’s a guy thing.

  10. Hi Ginny! I agree that it is frustrating how society today still genders so many occupations. I have also experienced a lot of exposure to stereotypical views on females and what they can and cannot do in their chosen fields. The majority of doctors I have had in my life have been male, while their assistants have been female. Why is that? Why does society have a preconceived idea that men should be doctors, and women can only be their assistants? I am happy to say that I have seen many women trying to fight this trend. I know numerous females here at CNU that are studying biology and are on the pre-med track. I am very proud to see what these young women are accomplishing and the road that they are paving for the women after them. In ten years these women will not be assistants. They will be doctors themselves. I know a few that are hoping to become physician’s assistants, but many are also wanted to become doctors themselves. It is empowering to see how strong and independent these female students are. They know that they will have to overcome struggles later on down the road, but they do not care. They are choosing to push through those hardships instead in order to make a difference and help break that glass ceiling.

  11. I really enjoyed reading your post! I also plan to go to medical school or PA school after CNU and have experienced similar situations. My grandpa, having lots of friends who are doctors and some experience himself, always gives me advice and constantly talks about all the “guys” he knows that are doctors. I don’t think he realizes that what he is saying could be discouraging or rude but it is just what he is used to. I have worked on correcting his language and talking to him about all my friends that are women and interested in medicine. I have noticed a slight change in the way he talks about it since I started doing so! This proves a point to me that we as women have to speak up when we notice gender discrimination. Speaking up doesn’t have to be a super confrontational way but should rather educate the person you are talking to. Despite many similar conversations I have had about becoming a PA, I have met so many women doctors who motivate me to push forward.

  12. In speaking with the younger generations, the established roles are influenced by largely the media or what they view clearly in front of them. Their minds are susceptible to certain things they see and neurologically speaking in order for them to establish this stereotype they have to be explicitly subjected to what they are experiencing. Scientifically, children’s frontal lobe, the area of the brain responsible for higher cognitive processes and decision making abilities, is not fully developed and will not develop until the child is in their 20s. This means that these children are taking what they see to heart and definitively in the moment deciding that is the way of life because they do not have the ability to cognitively think that there are other options. For this reason, it is extremely important that when targeting the younger generation, women and men are equally shown in these roles so these stereotypes can not be established because once they are, it will be a long process to alter the predisposed idea.

    I have experienced much of the same subliminal messages while pursuing a career field that tends to be more masculine; however, I view these innuendos as an opportunity in two ways. First, I see it as a chance to address the matter with those making the gender references in order to make them question their vernacular when speaking and why they feel the need to reference doctors on two different bases. Secondly, after reading this post and noting that the older man separating the girls from guys is at least recognizing that there is indeed the room for female doctors to come and rise into these generated masculine roles. He has the established stereotype of a doctor being male yes, but he is aware that females can be doctors too and is open to the idea of a female in this role and willing to offer the opportunity for women to rise in this field and help a female rise by offering his advice and wisdom when he went through the process rather than just completely denying that a women had the ability to succeed.

  13. I definitely agree that men (and women) should not internally assign certain jobs specifically to men or specifically to women. But, I do think in the cases you mentioned that both people had legitimate “excuses.” The young girl probably assigned the role of doctors to men due to immaturity. I’m sure her household also played a role in this but since she denied that females can be doctors despite her actually having a female doctor it seems to be due to immaturity. The older man is probably used to the more traditional gender roles and has to think twice to remember that females can do what men can do. At least he is trying to adapt to the changing social climate. I do see the point you are making and I know I can’t fully relate since I’m a man. I think it is important to not take offense to possible sexist comments. True progress can be made in the equal treatment of both genders not by getting emotionally charged due to sexist comments, but by speaking and living out your desires of equality. This is in a way tempered radicalism. Through small wins people will start to automatically accept both genders in every role. This is especially true for the next generation. Parents need to enforce to their children the importance of equality among genders.

  14. When I think of old people and them having a hard time assimilating todays culture and mindset, I cant help but think about me being an old person and trying to be as open minded as possible. Then at the same time just being accepting of the newer generations and their culture has to be super tough. We grow up learning about the world and our morals and beliefs and at a certain point we begin to get stubborn because our way of new thinking was right to us. I cant but imagine how in the future kids might want to marry robots and have it be accepted in gov or whatever. I don’t know how I could get behind that with my way of thinking today. So I think its important to look at what old people say from their perspective and be proud of them for at least trying to change in the way they speak. It must be extremely tiring to have to constantly change ones speaking habits, but we will all find out how hard soon enough.


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