Gender Bias: Open Mouth. Insert Foot.
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As much as we would like to think that the world has become more progressive, there are still numerous examples where assumptions can lead you to the wrong conclusion.
A great example for gender bias in medicine can be found with the following classic riddle:
A young boy and his father were coming home from a sporting event when there was a tragic car accident.
The father was killed instantly and the boy, clinging to life, was rushed to the nearest emergency room.
The trauma surgeon on call, who was paged, ran into the trauma bay.
Upon examining the child the trauma surgeon exclaimed, “I can’t operate on this patient, this is my son!”
How is this possible as the father was killed in the accident?
The answer may (or may not) be obvious in today’s society, but when this riddle first made it’s rounds, the thought that a trauma surgeon could be female, and thus the patient’s mother, was a lot harder to grasp.
As my own daughter is still wishing to pursue a career in medicine, I certainly do not want her to be subject to society’s gender biases.
I particularly do not want my daughter to be pigeon-holed into a specialty solely based on her gender.
I hope that the walls of the “Good ole boys club” found in specialties such as surgery, continue to be broken down and busted through by female physicians who refuse to be held back by societal expectations.
The inspiration for this post.
As someone who writes content to be released into the blogosphere that hopefully will be read by a few readers (besides my close friends and family), I make a lot of effort to have said content be politically correct and gender neutral.
A lot of bloggers choose to always use the female pronoun to describe a fictitious individual in their examples.
I have personally tried to include both gender pronouns for descriptors in my own writing.
Even though it is a bit wordier to use the phrase, “he or she…” every time, I feel that this is the best way to maintain gender neutrality.
However, despite my best efforts, and much to my dismay, things do slip through the cracks and mistakes are made.
I feel awful when it happens.
Apparently I police my own comments a lot less stringently than I do my posts.
In the rush to reply to comments made by readers, I sometimes have momentary lapses of judgement.
My most recent blunder happened not too long ago.
The post in question was the”Food For Thought: Retirement Aversion.”
While the content of the post itself had no offending presumptions, I am sad to say my comment reply did not.
This was the original comment made by a new reader:
It always gives me a ton of pleasure reading a comment by any reader, but particularly a new one as it shows that I am slowly reaching a larger and larger audience.
So how did I respond to this individual who took the time to write a wonderful first comment to my blog?
Unfortunately not very well as some hidden gender bias must have bubbled up as evidenced in my response:
Not my finest moment as a blogger.
The offending phrase, “fellow frugally minded IR (Interventional Radiology) guy” revealed my gender bias in this particular specialty.
Interventional radiology, like surgery, is typically a male dominated field.
I thus made the (incorrect) assumption that this reader was male based on the comment left.
I could not even plead ignorance (not that this is an acceptable excuse anyway) to the fact that there are female interventional radiologists out there as I met a fellow blogger at Tired Superheroine, who just so happens to be a female interventional radiologist, prior to making this comment.
Even though I stuck my foot in my mouth, I was graciously let off the hook by my reader’s ensuing reply:
I nevertheless did apologize for my gender biased comment, concluding with:
As much as I like to think I am free of bias, there are times where I inadvertently have shown that this is not always the case.
I truly believe that gender does not play a role in whether or not a physician can be accomplished in a particular specialty or not.
You should not be dinged by the medical field, and society as a whole, just because you do not have a Y chromosome.
I am definitely a work in progress and I do ask my readers for their patience as I try to break my own apparent internal mental barriers and eliminate gender bias from my everyday life as well as in my blog.
If my daughter does indeed achieve a degree in medicine, I truly hope that she will be viewed on equal footing as her male counterparts.
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