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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Dr. Who?

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Author Topic: Dr. Who?
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Ten bucks says that this title gets the site a bunch of traffic from sci-fi sites. But seriously, what did most of you think about when you saw the title, other than TARDIS? Did you think about a male or a female? Maybe it would help if we specified what kind of doctor. When we talk about a medical doctor, do you think about a male or a female? What about when we say doctor to refer to a professor or other PhD holder not working in medicine?

I realized the other day that even though I've grown up in a family where both the women and the men have held high degrees, even doctorates, the first image that pops up in my head when someone mentions a doctor, medical or philosophical, is a male-bodied person. So when I'm reading about a Dr. So-and-so, I feel a tiny twinge of surprise when I discover that it's a female, despite the fact that female members of my family are also Dr. So-and-sos. As a feminist, this is an unpleasant realization for me to make, but it's one I must confront. This has made me wonder, though, how many of you have the same thought upon hearing the word "doctor." Any thoughts?

Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Heheh. I love Doctor Who. Best show ever, and the new Doctor looks like he's going to be fantastic. But on to your question.

I don't really think one way or the other when I think medical doctor. When I was little I had a male doctor (who I didn't especially like), so I thought of doctors as mostly males, but now I have a female doctor who's quite good. I don't know...Sometimes when I hear 'Dr ____' I think male, and other times I think female. I think my brain's mostly turned the honorific gender neutral.

It's a really good question, though. I just discovered that the first thing that pops into my mind when I see the word 'Doctor' is a virtually indestructible space alien with a crazy grin, and the second is a gender neutral person, who is wearing a white lab coat. I'm not sure why this is. The lab coat leaves a greater impression than the gender. How odd.

This is despite the fact that I'm in college now, with teachers who have PhDs and NO LAB COATS. We don't call them 'Doctor', though. We get to call them by their first names, which is still rather a novelty.

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For medical doctors, my expectations tend to vary with what they do. When someone talks about their child's doctor, I sort of figure that the doctor is female. Primary care physicians in my area are about 50/50, but when someone talks about a specialist, I tend to assume that specialist is male. And, that actually does appear to be the way things break down these days.

In terms of academic PhDs, I was lucky to have been taught by a lot of amazing women in college, despite the fact that I studied math and physics at a coed institution. I do notice that when I start a conversation about my math professor, people automatically ask, "Oh, so what type of research does he do?" and I have to be like "Well she..." I do think that the environment really helped me fix the "math or physics academic = male" thought that I had in my head, even though overall, a very tiny portion of math and physics professors in the country are female. I've also pointed out to younger women considering my college that the fact that women make up significant portions of those departments (and the engineering department) means that the male professors have more respect for women and anticipate a higher level of success.

But anyways, this as resulted in me associating the abstract "Academic PhD" with a middle aged woman who wants to give me a hug and go get coffee. And I think that's awesome.

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Executive Director & Founder
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You know, growing up where in the families of both my parents, they were the first in their families, historically, not just in their generation, to get any secondary education, I think my reactions with this term may be influenced by that. In a word, when it came to my family, anyone having been a doctor at all (we still don't have any doctors in the family) would have been a major shocker, and who was and wasn't educated in my family and extended family was unrelated to gender. It was pretty much all about class, and neither side was even middle class, so.

At the same time, when I wasn't at home alone, my daycare as a kid was a hospital in the 70's and early 80's. While by all means, at that time, the vast majority of doctors were male, I'm not sure I made a real distinction between the doctors and the nurses (who were all female), especially since hanging out in the nurse's lounge meant I heard a WHOLE lot about the arrogance of the male doctors and the expertise (and weariness) of the nurses.

And since, with so many of my friends in both medical work OR academia, I don't experience any expectations with gender when it comes to the term "doctor." More of my female or trans male friends than male-bodied friends have or are getting doctorates.

Thus the hilarity of this statement:

But anyways, this as resulted in me associating the abstract "Academic PhD" with a middle aged woman who wants to give me a hug and go get coffee.
...because that's actually a very good characterization of most of the folks I know with doctorate degrees. [Smile]

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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It's totally neutral for me, in terms of a Dr. someone with a MD, PhD, etc.

That said, I when I see a list of professors or doctors, I tend to analyze it for things like "male-to-female ratio," ethnic diversity, etc. I generally think the more diverse, the better because it seems more progressive to me although that's overly simplified. I am always happy to see female doctors, especially in fields that are traditionally male-dominated like physics or engineering. Even though I'm not a scientist myself, I am a strong ally, if you will of female researchers in those "non-traditional" fields due to growing up in a very feminist family, having friends who are, belonging to Girl Scouts, attending women's college, etc. [Smile]

I don't really have a preference for male or female physicians (although I probably lean a bit more towards women here), I did find it strange, for example, to see a OB/GYN office whose doctor roster had 7 or 8 male OB/GYNs but no women at all.

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