The perception of women being the weaker sex permeates every aspect of society, and it is shameful to admit that this also exists within the world of medicine. But this is no secret. It is not new. It has been a part of the culture of medicine that, unfortunately, has been long overdue for an overhaul.
Many female physicians have ignored these issues because we would be viewed as trouble makers, complainers, or too sensitive if we were to bring them to anyone’s attention.
But today, we no longer ignore that mentality.
While physicians are fighting to save lives during a pandemic that has claimed over 140,000 lives, our female physicians just witnessed a public display of misogyny from our colleagues. Not only that, but it was also published as research in the Journal of Vascular Surgery.
This article is a very interesting parallel to a recent situation that involved a male politician calling a female politician a derogatory name. There was no repercussion faced by that male politician. It was another example of how we have not only come to accept this treatment but to expect that there are no negative consequences for those who perpetuate such harassment.
The response to this cataclysmic failure of “research” has shown the true resiliency of women, especially women physicians.
This published paper had a very unintended ripple effect that has brought forth the issues many female physicians have faced for decades. We are not to be silenced. We are not to be shamed about our bodies and what we choose to do with them in our own free time.
Our bodies have been told we are not smart enough for medical school.
Our bodies have been told we would never be able to be a great physician and a great mother simultaneously.
Our bodies have been verbally assaulted by colleagues and patients alike more times than we can count.
Our bodies have persevered.
This is what we do with our bodies.
Our bodies have completed the same rigorous training and exams as our male colleagues. Many of these bodies have done so while starting a family, raising a child, or caring for other family members.
Our bodies have never asked for an easier path or made excuses.
Our bodies allowed us to do everything that was expected of us and beyond during our medical training.
Our bodies have given a shoulder to lean on for the mother who lost her child.
Our bodies have stayed with a patient for much longer than the allotted 15-minute time slot to help talk her out of a suicide attempt.
Our bodies have spent hours after clinic making sure that our notes were completed, prescriptions were sent, and then went to round on patients in the evening at the hospital, all while knowing we would not get to put our children to bed that night.
Our bodies have saved a young boy who was shot and bleeding out on arrival to the ER.
Our bodies have spent 15 hours in the OR doing lifesaving procedures.
Our bodies have had to tell family members that their loved ones did not survive.
Our bodies have saved the life of a mother who was hemorrhaging after delivering her child.
Our bodies saved your family member who was struggling to breathe due to COVID.
While our bodies have been a bastion of the heart and soul of medicine, a group of our peers thought it was acceptable to diminish the capabilities of our bodies to pictures on social media. They thought our ability to be exceptional physicians was inversely proportional to the number of pictures that showed us holding a drink or wearing a bikini.
Our bodies do so much more than just practice medicine. What we choose to do with our bodies in our own free time should not become part of an investigation that is packaged as peer-reviewed research.
Our bodies may have tattoos, ride motorcycles, or compete in pole fitness competitions for sport. None of that impacts our practice of medicine negatively. It’s past time we start celebrating the strength of our bodies and hold accountable those who try to negate our accomplishments with an ill-perceived attitude of sexism and misogyny.
Jessica Pearce is an obstetrician-gynecologist.
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