G and B for Girls and Boys
G and B for Gender Bias
A couple of weeks into my OBGYN run, I’ve noticed just how gender biased this specialty is. Now, let me explain. I know that obstetrics and gynaecology is all about women’s health. It’s about the miracle of pregnancy and the wonders of the female reproductive system etc etc. I know it’s a very sensitive topic to approach in general, but I feel bad for my male colleagues.
During our tutorials, the men in my class were told to ask questions differently. I found this a bit too much to be honest. They were taught that they must NEVER say things like “Please get on the examination BED for the examination”. Or “put your legs apart for the speculum examination”. While the girls, have none of these instructions. We’re told to be careful when doing the examination and making sure we’re being sensitive and that the woman is comfortable. But for the guys, there are words they should NEVER use, there are places they shouldn’t stand and topics they shouldn’t raise. I think this is pushing it a bit. Yes it’s a female heavy subject, and yes it’s important to make sure no mistakes or awkwardness is created that could potentially result in several ‘fitness to practice’ orders to be issued.
But come on.
Several of my male colleagues have also been denied the opportunity to watch such examinations or births because they are male, and so may make the whole situation uncomfortable for the patient. Yes ofcourse that is the patient’s choice, but it is a bit sad.
I’m not too sure what they are gaining by making the males very self-conscious and having to think twice about what they’re saying to the patient with the fear that they may offend or insult them somehow. I’d feel super nervous. How are they supposed to learn? I understand that there was an era of time when Obstetrics and Gynaecology was a solely woman’s specialty and all the nurses/midwives/doctors were women and no woman would be comfortable going to a male doctor with their “lady problem”. But I think we should have come past that by now with the whole gender equality business (see what I did there?).
I’m not saying they’re totally wrong about the whole thing because surely there have been some inappropriate health professionals in the past that have brought on this whole stigma, and that should definitely be prevented. But by acknowledging it so blatantly to the point where males and females are taught to approach the same patient differently, is it just fuelling the issue? Drawing more attention to it instead of making the whole thing more comfortable? It definitely feels like it to me.
Having said that though, there are quite a few male OBGYN consultants on my team. And being in clinic with them, I have found they do not follow any of the “rules” taught to the males. One of my consultants just told the patient to “slip everything off from the waist down, including your knickers and lie on the bed there” in a very blasé manner. And neither did the woman feel uncomfortable about that. Very weird. So does this difference in teaching even matter? Once you’re consultant, you make the rules? Or does the doctor -above-patient power dynamic come into play here? Or maybe this teaching differently for boys and girls is a fairly new thing. Or even scarier, they feel they are in a position of power and the rules don’t apply to them?
I do hope my male colleagues aren’t too turned off by the specialty because of this teaching thing. Or who knows, some of them may even become obgyn consultants