Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Playing Doctors and Nurses

I think I first read the following riddle, which still seems to be doing the rounds, in the 1970s in the Reader's Digest :
A father and a son were in a car accident. The father went home to rest. The son was taken to the hospital for minor surgery. The surgeon came in and said: "I can't operate on this boy because he's my son." How is this possible?

Answer: The surgeon was his mother.
As children of the '60s we went through all sorts of lateral thinking solutions before we got to that one: he was adopted and the doctor was his real father; the man in the car wasn't really his father but his grandfather; his father had a twin brother; he'd been abducted by aliens. A woman surgeon was the very last thing we thought of.
I'm frankly dismayed by the number of women students of medicine who still automatically and consistently employ the personal pronoun "he" when referring to a doctor and the strange thing is that there are more young women studying medicine than men.
But perhaps it's not all that surprising really when one of the major publishers of medical textbooks is using the image on the front cover of its current catalogue:

The message is clear if stylized: doctors are intelligent men with square jaws who look down on admiring little nurses.
While we're on the subject, has anyone else been reading Dr Crippen's ongoing diatribe against specialist nurses? I don't live in the UK and I have no experience of specialist nurses and I'm more than willing to believe that the National Health Service is slowly being flushed down the toilet, and that the usurpation by specialist nurses of some of the power traditionally held by doctors is somehow part of that process. I refuse, however, to swallow his elitist guff about a group of specialist nurses:
This gaggle of well-meaning women have neither the training nor the intellectual capacity to understand what is going on, and are incapable of making judgements.
Despite Dr Crippen's protestations to the contrary, that to me is sexist language. What do you think?

Today, 8th March, has been declared blog against sexism day. That was my contribution.


Sarah Mackenzie said...

Speech bubbles:

Her: But what about last night? Did it mean nothing?

Him: Look, love, nurses are like speculums ... specula? Anyway - you plunge it in, waggle it around for a while as though you actually KNOW what you are looking for and then you rip it out. Get used to it.

or preferably

Her: You will clean out that bedpan, you lowly piece of crap!

Him: Please nurse, I'm begging you... please please let go of my testicles. Yes... yes... bedpans ... old people ... blanket baths ... anything

Jonathan said...

I'm glad to say that I work with a whole bunch of women geologists and geophysicists. The presence of professional women seems to me much more evident here in France than in the UK.

Lesley said...

Sarah: Ha ha. You should be writing for "Grey's Anatomy"

Jonathan: I think it has something to do with the social pressure women are under in GB to stop work as soon as they have a family.