WOMAN DOCTOR OR JUST DOCTOR?

There was a serious car accident with father and son in one vehicle. Dad was pronounced dead by the paramedics, son was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
The surgeon looked down at the boy, in shock, and shouted – that’s my son.
Who is the surgeon?

During a graduate class at Florida Atlantic University the professor posed this puzzle. It got me going for a moment. Dad was dead yet the surgeon said, “My son.” It did not immediately come to mind that the surgeon was the injured child’s mother.

In that period of time, one would reasonably expect everyone to use the distinguishing term, woman surgeon. Such were the paradigms back in the day. Certain occupations were gender assigned and exceptions required a designation, even the polar opposite classification  male nurse. 

I found an extreme example for us to explore for a moment. Still standing in a South Florida town is this sign bearing a physician’s name on her office building: Mrs.  _______, M.D. This doctor was also a wife, and she saw fit to showcase her Mrs. domestic title. I have never seen a corresponding Mr. _______, M.D. 

Should we continue to qualify occupations by male or female this or that? Are the clarifying tags essential? My opinion, to eliminate them only masks the lack of diversity in those fields where women are blatantly under employed. Persistent  prejudice is evident in historically male dominated professions. Simply eliminating gender adjectives, which describe exceptions to the usual, will not erase the discrimination. 

Taking a tack to prove this point, look at how all African descended people bear the burden of racial addendums in every sphere of social operations. Black judge, black singer, black politician, and on it goes, subtly shouting that white is the norm, therefore European descents do not have to carry an extra word for identification. In America every ethnicity is hyphenated except White. Admittedly, some European descendents, like Irish and Italian were not included with White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) “True Americans” but today, because ethnocencism is distinctly color prejudice, the descendents of these countries are no longer Irish Americans or the like. Today American and White are synonymous. Of course media personalities and politicians who really think before speaking will remember that American citizens include diverse populations. But even though color blindness seems preferable, it only covers up color discrimination. 

In truth, we detest political correctness – on both sides? Can we just speak plain? Probably not, as this would lead to meaningful debate: either confrontation or conversation. Each provokes change – and we hate change. Therefore, pretending keeps our social persona on the surface like a tight lip smile. 

What is underneath and behind our masked comments and countenances? One summer I read about a thousand pages of Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar. State your viewpoint please if you see otherwise, but this mystical history found  the origins of male domination in the strong human attitude to covet what you lack – Reproductive Envy. Not able to conceive life, the men sought to control the ones who could, and he did. This seems an odd history – but this  is not HIS story, but HER story.

Men wrote the anthropology. As a man I don’t dare to intuit the missing artifacts, which might prove that gender was always separate but equal. This is beyond the scope of this post, and beyond my capacity to make an intelligent assumption. 

However, it is time for pause. I’ll follow up and come back to this. When?  The next time my mouth utters Female Doctor,  or even Male Nurse, because there is more to the expression. 

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