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Doctoring in Lipstick: Female Doctors, Femininity and Medicine

Discussion in 'Doctors Cafe' started by Nada El Garhy, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. Dr.Scorpiowoman

    Dr.Scorpiowoman Golden Member

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    Why do I feel weird wearing lipstick in the hospital? Why do I have to announce myself as a doctor to gain respect from patients and other members of the hospital staff? In my short time as a physician, I have yet to find the answer to these questions, but they seem to lie in my set of XX chromosomes. As in all other areas of life as a female, being a doctor comes with a different set of rules than that of my male colleagues. These rules are never mentioned or taught, but they are apparent the first time you step foot into the role. We aren’t men, but we need to fit in with them and act like them — but we also have to act like women, in the right ways, of course. Confused yet? Same. Let’s consider some questions about the abilities of a physician who’s also a woman.

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    Question 1
    Can she be a leader? Can she provide medical care and make critical decisions? Yes, with tremendous effort. I quickly learned to state my role clearly when walking into a room. “Hello, Mr. X, I am your doctor.” Of course, it’s inevitable that a patient, nurse, or family member will ask to talk to the “real doctor,” or say “oh, I’m not used to a lady doctor,” or reference a male colleague as “the doctor.” Even worse is when staff members double-check with a male in the room to see if my plan was the medical plan for the patient. Meanwhile, none of my male colleagues have ever been assumed to be any healthcare professional other than a doctor.




    Question 2
    Can a woman who is physician also be feminine? If we do not wear makeup, we are asked if we are sick or having bad day. If we do wear lipstick or a skirt, negative assumptions are made about our IQ and our abilities as a doctor. Not only is our appearance a careful balance, but so are our interactions. A woman cannot use even the slightest tone of forcefulness when advocating for her patient without being labeled as that 5-letter word that begins with a b: bossy. In fact, if we aren’t sugary sweet, we are quickly written off as being angry, rude, or a another 5-letter word that begins with a b. (Use your imagination.) Meanwhile, when my male colleagues do the same, it causes a flurry of action to complete the task they’ve asked to be done without a single mention of his mood, how his day must be going, or his hormones.


    Question 3
    Can women work as physicians and have a home life? Yes, but to many, your home life is more important than your career life. Ultimately, society doesn’t judge us by our accomplishments at the bedside, but on those within the home. Am I married? Have I had children? (Shouldn’t the real question be, why does it matter? I spent 23 years completing the rigorous education and training required to obtain the job I dreamed of and that accomplishment is swiftly diminished by these two questions.) I have a huge fear of moving forward with having children because I wonder what might happen to my career. The life of a physician is far from flexible. My partner (and the would-be baby-daddy in this hypothetical scenario) is also a physician, but you can have one guess as to who society would expect to give up a portion of their career in order to raise a child. Or worse, if I did not cut back at work and hired help instead, I would be that terrible mother whose children are “raised by a nanny.” Again, not a word would be said about my partner’s work load as a physician who is male.

    Okay, if it wasn’t obvious, I’m being facetious when asking and answering these questions. Women can be, and are, accomplished, astute clinicians, who are leaders in their fields and at the bedside, all while wearing whatever makeup they choose and maintaining whatever work-life balance they desire. However, these are all challenges that they face daily. I attribute many of these challenges to the way women entered the role of a physician. Like all of our roles in male-dominated fields, women before me fought to obtain foothold here. They weren’t welcomed as physicians in their own right, so they squeezed themselves as closely as they could into the mold of a physician created by their male counterparts. It’s obvious, though, that we aren’t made to fit that mold. We have our own mold, but that does not preclude us from being excellent physicians.

    Recently, as I reflected on all of these experiences, I decided to make a change. I started small: I wore lipstick while on service. Initially, it was uncomfortable and awkward but when I assisted my intern with her first lumbar puncture while rocking my sassy pink lipstick, it was a tiny, but empowering, salute to my femininity. I had both worlds exactly as I wanted them. I wasn’t blending into my male-dominated surroundings. I was forming my own mold. It wasn’t just about lipstick anymore.

    So, to end this blog, I’m looking right at my co-physicians who also happen to be women. Remember, we aren’t female physicians or “lady doctors.” There is no need for that gender-defining adjective. We are physicians and, ladies, we are crushing it. We are balancing things our male counterparts would never dare to try and can never understand. However, we are still doing it all within the mold created by men. It’s time to break out of that mold. It’s time to show off our power and stop blending. It’s time to do things our own way.

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    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019

  2. Binita

    Binita Young Member

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    Same situation here in Nepal too.
     

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