So, obviously, I’m going to have to go back and look for another doctor. Again. And in light of recent events, not to mention historical ones, this time, I’m going to choose a female.
Before I get going on this rant, I want to say that many of the male doctors, professors, and dentists that I’ve come into contact with have treated me just like they would any other patient or student, regardless of my sex or gender. (Contrary to popular belief, those are two different things. Look it up if you don’t believe me.) This is in no way intended to paint all men with the same brush.
All of the doctors, professors, and dentists who have condescended to me rather than treating me like an adult capable of independent thought have been men. All of them. Now, in most circumstances, this is annoying, but otherwise not worth making a big deal about. I’m pretty sure the dentist is going to check my teeth no differently than he checks anyone else’s. The professor is willing to talk to any student in his office, and will pass any student with a passing grade.
However, now that I have a rare, obstinate, and extremely painful nerve injury to my right shoulder, with my left shoulder making noises about heading in the same direction, I can no longer afford not to be taken seriously, starting Day One, first appointment. This is, as they say, a big f***ing deal. I don’t have the time, energy, or patience, for sexist crap.
I’m a woman in her early forties who has never visited a doctor if she didn’t have to. I do not abuse pain medication. I do not exaggerate or engage in histrionics when it comes to my health. Moreover, I am about to graduate summa cum laude from a highly accredited university with one of the most challenging science programs in the state, if not the country. I have accrued an impressive store of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, physiology, genetics, and cell and microbiology. I’m no MD or PhD, but I am more than capable of reading and understanding primary research articles that pertain to those fields, and have in fact done so on more than one occasion in order to educate myself as to the nature of and purported treatment modalities for my condition.
In short, I am a far more educated and less credulous patient than 95% of the people that walk into a doctor’s office. And as such, not only do I not appreciate being treated like a teenager with neon pink headphones and a blow-pop sticking out of her mouth, I thoroughly resent the implication therein that I cannot be trusted to deliver unembellished facts about my injury and resulting disablement.
It takes an enormous amount of effort to retain my composure when speaking to practitioners about my situation. By the time the doctor walks in, I will have endured the car drive or ride to get there (sitting increases my pain), the filling out of at least a half a dozen forms (writing increases my pain), and waited either in the waiting room, the exam room, or both, for anywhere from fifteen to forty-five minutes (see “sitting,” above.) I am, therefore, in quite a bit of pain by the time the doctor comes in, exacerbated in no small part by the anxiety that arises as a result of knowing that what I am about to tell him or her is highly unusual, at best.
I know the words coming out of my mouth, taken out of context, sound crazy. I always endeavor to speak as explicitly and emotionlessly as possible when detailing my symptoms. I wear no make-up. I do not dress provocatively. I am unfailingly courteous to the staff and respectful of the doctors. I do all of these things while having to relive the crushing emotional ordeal that my life has been over the last several months without becoming emotional about it.
In response to all of that yesterday, I was ignored and dismissed by
an egomaniac a doctor who was probably about my age, although I’m sure he assumed I was much younger, as many people do when they don’t bother to take a good look at me. He was not the least bit interested in any information that would distract him from his conclusion that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, a conclusion he may very well have come to before he even stepped into the exam room. And not only he, but his staff as well (sh*t rolls downhill, as they say), treated me like a nuisance rather than a client, resulting in one of the most humiliating and upsetting experiences I’ve yet had to deal with in pursuit of treatment.
These are the facts: I am a woman. A pretty, young-looking woman, unfortunately. A certain subset of men, who seem to be concentrated in fields requiring extensive post-graduate education, see a young-looking, pretty woman, make an immediate assumption as to her [lack of] intelligence before she even opens her mouth, and then proceed accordingly.
I never had a chance with that doctor yesterday. I gritted my teeth in an approximation of a smile as he showed me all of the different muscles in the rotator cuff on his shiny little iPad (and misidentified a few of them before correcting himself), all the while speaking to me very slowly, as though I were a small child. I tried to divert him, explaining that those were not the muscles that were the problem. He brushed my explanations aside, of course, because he couldn’t have cared less.
For the record, the muscles that attach my humerus to my scapula, in a region known as the rotator cuff, are not at all weak. What prevents me from load-bearing with my humerus is pain, not weakness. It is the muscles that abduct and adduct my scapula to my cervical and thoracic vertebrae that have gone awry. And I happen to know (thanks to Dr. Black, my anatomy professor) that those are the levator scapulae, the major and minor rhomboids, the trapezius, and, to a lesser degree, the anterior serratus and pectoralis minor. The only muscles in that group that the
asshole doctor tested were the levators, of which the one on my right side is overdeveloped due to improper involvement in scapular rotation and adduction. He discovered that I don’t have any loss of muscle strength there. Really? You don’t say.
The whole experience was utterly obscene, and worse, it’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with that sort of treatment at the hands of men. In fact, I have stopped using the cleaners that is closest to my house – a non-inconsequential choice considering my condition – because I was tired of being rudely and aggressively hit on every time I walked in. (The owner would pick up my comforter when I brought it in and put it up to his ear, telling me it was talking to him, telling him my secrets. I am not making this up.)
Women with chronic health issues, many of whom did not reap the benefits of an in-depth course in anatomy with a lab using real animal corpses each week, should not have to deal with these dick-swinging troglodytes (no insult meant to troglodytes) in pursuit of medical care, particularly considering everything else we are going through. I myself cannot afford to waste any more of my time or insurance company’s money being patronized and condescended to. And so, the only course of action that remains to me is to just not see any more male doctors.
As I said above, I have not chosen this solution because all male doctors have treated me like a spoiled child. I have chosen it because all of the doctors who have treated me like a spoiled child have been male. (Anyone who can’t understand the difference will have their comments deleted. We deal in complex, grown-up concepts here.) I am not just a girl. Yes, I am anatomically female, and yes, I am also female-gendered, but neither of these disqualifies me from being a person worthy of trust and respect. I don’t care who you are or where you’ve been; it doesn’t give you a pass to treat women like small, furry animals. Ever.
Since trust and respect are essential to ensuring the correct diagnoses and treatments regarding my condition, I simply have to go where I know I will get them every time. And that is from another girl.
This is the ostensibly post-sexist world we live in. #YesAllWomen, and still waiting.