A female friend, who is not a physician, recently asked me, “Do you find that, in your position, men treat you differently? Meaning, do they show you the same kind of respect that they show their male colleagues?”
The group of medical directors were seated around the table. The meeting was supposed to go on for six hours. While I was not the only female in the room, I was the only female medical director in that cohort.
Around hour two, the medical director seated to my right, a man with whom I had no relationship, made an emphatic statement to the group. While doing so, he leaned over and grasped my bare right arm with both hands. One hand gripped my bicep; the other hand wrapped around my forearm.
In my surprise, my eyebrows furrowed and I turned to look at him. Before I could ask him to let go, though, he had already released my arm, and his palms were flat against the tabletop. The large gemstone on his left ring finger reflected the fluorescent lights overhead.
I smirked to myself. Did that just happen? Should I say something now? Maybe he won’t do that again. That was weird.
Around hour four, he used the back of his left hand to deliver a brisk tap to my right tricep.
“Hey, what does [acronym] mean?” he whispered as the group continued its discussion.
With urgency, I pulled my arm into my lap. After murmuring my answer, I scooted my chair away from him.
It’s too late again for me to say something. Boo.
Around hour five, he rested his bejeweled left hand onto my right forearm while finishing his gallant comment, “… as Dr. Yang said earlier.”
Another man had already begun to speak as I yanked my arm away. Glancing at Dr. Handsy, I summoned forth the Ice Queen and hissed, “Please stop touching me.”
Oh, the look that Dr. Handsy shot at me! It was as if I had kicked his pet dog or spit in his beverage.
I smiled at my friend. “Do they show me the same kind of respect? Many do, but not all.”
Maria Yang is a psychiatrist who blogs at her self-titled site, Maria Yang, MD.
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