So I’m a med student, and some days ago I was reminiscing all the things that eventually led to my decision to become one. Somehow, I thought back to an episode which really hadn’t striken me at the time, but does now.
Once, while in high school, I went to a meeting about Women in History. I actually only went to the last one (because, long story short, no one bothered to deliver circulars to my class and I found out about it too late) which was a sort of wrap up of the whole course.
We were talking about the figure of women in our society, in politics, in entertainment, in all professional fields, when the lecturer (a woman, a seemingly badass-y, competent one) said “I would never be operated by a female surgeon. Too emotional”.
Now. That was a woman who was there to give a lecture about feminism and female empowerment and equality. Are you fucking kidding me?! You can’t say “women are the same as men” and then say “female surgeons are not the same as male surgeons”. That’s bullshit, bullshit you’re delivering to a bunch of teenagers who are hanging on your every word.
Maybe it’s something she said without thinking, something she didn’t even mean, but there might be someone in that audience that said to her/himself “That’s true. If a complication arises during an operation a female surgeon will panic and cry and pull out her hair. A female can’t be as good a surgeon as a male, who will clearly remain calm in every circumstance and heal you” (remember, we’re talking about fourteen year olds -very impressionable).
And what if she really meant it? What if she really was a feminist who believed ‘yeah sure, a woman can be a surgeon, as long as she stays far far far away from me’? Not that there is a ‘proper etiquette’ for being a feminist but that doesn’t sound very feminist, does it?
Men and women are different, I get that. We all do: it’s kind of difficult not to, when the concept is being shoven down our throats on a daily basis.
BUT they are biologically and statistically different, and that’s something which gets very misinterpreted very often. By myself as well, I might add, and it’s not my intention to get all preachy. Biology and sociology are bitches, even more when you can’t really tell where one ends and the other begins (are men and women different because of biology alone? Society alone, obvious anatomical differences aside? The answer to both these questions is -probably- no, but where do we draw a line between the two, then, if we can draw one at all?).
I emphasize biologically and statistically because the biology of every individual is different in itself (trivial example: on average males are bigger and taller than females but that’s certainly not true for all individuals. Not to mention that some biologically male individuals might identify as females or as neither and viceversa) and statistics, when applied to an already developed individual, means nothing. As the probability of your baby being born a male or a female loses all its meaning once the baby is actually born, the fact that the favourite color of 60% of girls aged 5-8 is pink (totally made up data) has no relevance when your child demands the green blanket and ewws when she sees the pink one. So the fact that statistically men are better at systematic thinking, or less emotional, or less empathic, or worse at communication skills, or more interested in sports, or less interested in pink things really has no meaning when you are on a table being cut open. The person with your life literally in their hands is not a statistics. She might be the less emotional surgeon in the hospital or he might be the most emotional. Or even! She might be the less emotional and still make a mistake and lose her shit and not know what to do. He might be the most emotional and make a mistake and still perfectly repair the damage.
Generalization is all well and good for idle chitchat and for making general decisions (another trivial example: if 99,5% of people work in Milan and 0,5% work in a whateverish town in the milanese hinterland, you’ll provide more extensive and better transportation for the 99,5%. Or at least you should).
Nonetheless, when you are talking about persons, about single individuals, you can’t treat them as statistics, because they are not (also you should always question what is said in a statistics, because the first thing they teach you about statistics is that it is, at heart, bullshit).
[also can we just erase the word ‘emotional’ from the vocaboulary, since it doesn’t really mean anything, please and thank you?]