This is the end of the fourth month of my internship duty. And I could surely say that we’ve had experiences a lot of other civilians cannot fathom and might never go through. While the threat of being abused and accused by the patient party or general public looms larger than ever, the doctors soldier on. It is very difficult to be a part of a government hospital, and doubly so if you are a woman.
The under-representation of women in the medical field, or science for that matter is appalling. According to a Hindustan Times report, the percentage of women healthcare workers in Maharashtra had dropped from 49.4% to 44.8% in 2018-2019 in a matter of 4 years. Although more women are taking admission in medicine, lesser women doctors are seen to practice their profession out and about. A paper presented by Dr R.K. Chadda and Dr Mamata Sood in the Indian Journal of Gender Studies pointed out how these crucial career-intensive years collide with years allocated for women to marry, settle down, and build relationships. A senior resident becomes eligible for teaching at the age of 29-30, which is also seen as the conventionally ideal time for a woman in India to advance in her personal life.
Undeniably, nurses play a pivotal role in the running of a hospital ward, but that shouldn’t warrant anyone to assume female doctors are nurses the moment they lay eyes on them. There are thousands of reasons that can be listed for this, however, the preponderance of women in nursing and midwifery facilities inevitably is the most crucial cause for this bias. More often than not, the patient party is unaware of the concept of women doctors simply for the lack of it. Hence, when they see an onrush of female staff in medicine, they conveniently assume that they belong to nursing capacities.
Drawing from personal experience, there have been two instances of me being proud of myself for performing procedures that took me a while to grasp only to be called a “sister” at the end of it. And thousand other instances in between. I have never been from the ideal atmosphere, and have faced truckloads of sexism while growing up too. Even then, workplace sexism doesn’t become easy to handle.
The sad part is that sexism doesn’t end there. You’d expect your male colleagues to be better than that. Bequeathed with fancy degrees, most of them belong to the same cohort you would hope forthem to be away from. Now and then, I end up being witness to conversations about belittling women and their achievements. The doctors’ duty room often becomes a haven for men to exercise their daily misogyny. It becomes weird for women to stay in those rooms as the conversations are mainly patronizing. The “boys locker room” vibe makes women incapable of engaging in “meaningful” conversations, which are considered to be a barometer of intellect.
A lazy banter about a female assistant professor being less competent than her male counterpart is how the day begins. Their need to look after their family is used as the reason for their incompetence. Not for a second do they think how that could potentially be solved by more male involvement, can’t it? The duty of caregiving solely rests on women’s shoulders and the provision of maternity leave for only 180 days doesn’t help the status quo. Women have been historically penalised for anything that goes wrong in the household, and hence working women find it increasingly difficult to manage both. More women physicians are likely to get divorced than men. The humongous work hours of the former has a lot to do with it. In the event of a woman having to leave her job, no provisions or policies have been laid out for their seamless reintegration later.
Amidst all this, I see women doctors work through menstrual pain, misogynist jokes, irreverence from patients and colleagues alike and emerge out tired yet accomplished. Professors in positions of power are often heard to misuse their foothold. To them, their respective departments are their fiefdoms. And the female interns, junior residents, junior residents who belong to oppressed caste minorities and nurses are the subordinates of that. In those customary morning rounds, female interns and PGTs are continued to be picked on specifically and asked inappropriate questions about their figure, their choice of clothes etc. It doesn’t help that the majority of doctors are men in that round, as the woman is thought to be a nurse, even when they are seen to carry a stethoscope. I have heard countless anecdotes of women feeling uncomfortable during their stay in the hospital. One of my seniors told me once: “The only way to get around it is to work so hard that your residents can’t do without your involvement.”
The question is, why is that onus singularly put on us?
Anisha Roy works as a medical intern in a government hospital. Apart from that, she is interested in feminism, films and writing. Few of her articles got published in websites of Film Companion, Women’s Web. According to her, feminism acts as an able spectacle through which matters of the day are to be looked at. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.
Featured image source: IndiaToday