medical educationsexist

Sexist Medical Education

Helin Çakır

While a cis-hetero, middle-class, white male body is idealized in medical education and all other bodies are alienated, there is a women’s health movement in which we struggle to exist against all attacks!

Patriarchal capitalism, a masculine domination system rooted in violence, attacked every aspect of women’s lives and is systematically continuing.

The field of medicine, rooted in a misogynistic basis as its historical development, also suffers from these attacks. The male-dominated mentality has been attacking women’s health struggle since the murder of female healers in the witch hunts, a product of capitalism-patriarchy and the church alliance years ago.

The common characteristics of the women killed in the witch hunts were that they were healers, were involved in childbirth, abortion, and contraception, and they lived freely. The witch hunts, which were a big step in the usurpation of social health, it was aimed at taking the social power from the women; women’s thousands of years of filtered and transferred treatment knowledge was wanted to be usurped.

The masculine dominance in medicine, whose cores were laid by witch hunts, can be evaluated under two headings today: the sexism of medical education and the academic dimension of this context, and the sexism of attitudes in all practices of the medical field.

Masculine domination in medical education

Among these topics, medical education’s masculine and heteronormative institutionalization shows itself in every topic of medical education we receive.

The brutality that has been experienced from the roots of Medicine to the present is explained in medicine lecture halls and classes as follows: “70-kilo individual with 60 percent of water!” A cis-hetero, middle-class, white male body is idealized, and all other bodies are alienated.

In addition to doctors and academicians, many cells, animals, and humans studied in Medicine are also men. So the advancement of medical science is mainly based on studying male biology.

Since Medicine always sees women primarily as fertile bodies, women’s health is only evaluated under the title of reproductive health; The female body is not even represented in non-reproductive anatomy. Therefore, while describing the male body as the “norm,” only the differences of the “other” -female- body’s differences can be mentioned.

Thanks solely to the women’s health movement, recently, we have learned that many diseases can manifest themselves in the female body with other symptoms that are not seen in the male body. Dr. As Kate Young puts it: “Medicine sees male and female bodies as different, but never equal. When we examine medical texts, we see that throughout history, the male body has been constructed as superior to the female and as the basic template against which all bodies will be compared.”

As if all this were not enough, even the already existing nomenclature of female reproductive anatomy is referred to by men by their names. Fallopian tubes, Bartholin’s gland, pouch of Douglas, Gräfenberg point, and more: patriarchy is all over women’s bodies.

Sexism in medical practice

Aside from the lack of women’s access to health services for centuries, women who have access to health care have received health care through this sexism during diagnosis and treatment, and the healthy state of women state has been usurped. Moreover, sexist practices in medicine come up with many other topics, such as gynecological examination traumas that every woman experiences or listens to from the women around her.

Medical services which were institutionalized on cis-hetero men continue to ignore LGBTI+s. We see trans women cannot access health services and face difficulties and discrimination. Medical ethics and ethical principles are being disregarded. The principle of non-discrimination is one of the most violated principles. By violating the patient’s right to receive health care, this situation prevents the implementation of fundamental ethical principles such as not harming, providing benefits, and justice, which must be followed in health care.

The plainest truth told by this whole picture is that modern medicine, which has become a male physician-centered institution under patriarchal capitalism, is far from protecting the health of society.

We face violence in our homes, campuses, and in the hospital!

The domination of sexist information and the male violence fueled by it permeates every aspect of our lives, from the lecture halls to our internships and medical practices. We face violence in our homes, campuses, and in the hospital! Violence and mobbing in the health sector, which is currently a burning issue, is felt more by female medical students and physicians, violence is multiplied, and female healthcare workers are more exposed to violence in healthcare.

Since it is thought that women will be unsuccessful and cannot spare enough time for their “family” in surgical branches, which are seen as “male branches,” it is found chiefly strange for female students to be interested in surgery. There are faculties where female interns are employed in the outpatient clinic, male interns are employed in the operating room, and female interns cannot get into surgeries.

Cultural stereotypes based on gender inequality and male dominance, and masculine institutionalization in medicine are also reflected in the language used in relations with our classmates and professors; the homophobic language that degrades women and different sexual orientations continues to dominate in education and working environments, and this is considered normal.

With this whole picture, we see that female medical students lost their motivation and gave up on their dreams for many known and/or unknown reasons during their education in the spiral of violence.

Male violence goes beyond homes and campuses; our faculties and hospitals are becoming unsafe spaces for women where harassment and violence are increasing. Women are forced to live face-to-face with violence, harassment, and death in every space.

Let’s grow the legacy of the women’s health movement!

However, against all of these, there is a women’s health movement that we are fighting for existence against all attacks! The healer women, the public health movement in America in 1830-40, which rose with the first wave feminism, the beginning of women’s health studies with the second wave feminism, and the liberation of the female body in the 1960s, the Bread and Roses organization in May 1969 which focused on women and their bodies in many fields and its workshops…

Destroying the sexism in medical education and practice and being liberated from the patriarchal capitalist exploitation relations on our body and labor is only possible with the Women’s Health Movement!

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