“I think she’s a feminist…”
It was really hard to decide where to start. Behind Every Feminist has been years in the making. It was actually a gift from an ex-boyfriend who was making fun of a colleague. This colleague was well-respected by his community and really good at his job. He also happened to receive a lot of visits from extremely attractive and intelligent pharmaceutical reps. The “joke” was that this doctor turned the air conditioning up just before these meetings so that it was extra chilly for these women in their tight sweaters or blouses. I was appalled and the whole conversation ended with, “Behind every feminist is a male chauvinist pig checking out her ass. You’re welcome.” And so the seed was planted…
The purpose of this is twofold. I want to talk about the challenges we face and I would love to hear about challenges, struggles, and victories from other women. If it starts out as a rant, I feel like that’s okay. What I want is for the subject to turn into recognition, validation, and collaboration. Although I grew up in Portland and have done a little bit of global trekking, I now live in the mountains of Montana. What I see and what I hear is very different from Portland. When I heard someone whisper, “I think she’s a feminist…” about another woman a few weeks ago, I was overcome by the acknowledgment that we’re still struggling to solidify the definition of feminism. This is something we have to do together and it’s really exciting to see how many people out there are already on the ground working their asses off to make this a reality. Thank you!
The second purpose of Behind Every Feminist is to highlight what a feminist actually looks like in this world. There are women all over the world who call themselves feminists and a lot of women who haven’t even realized they’re feminists yet. I dream of traveling the world and interrupting women just long enough to snap a photo of them in action and ask them to complete this sentence: Behind every feminist is…? Ultimately, I want women, regardless of their profession or level of education, to consider themselves feminists because they value their self-worth and care about the future of their families, friends, and culture.
For today, you’ve got me. Behind every feminist is a body.
This body has been loved and judged, objectified and celebrated. My body is really important to me because I still have so much work to do in this world. I’m lucky enough to have healthcare and can afford to not only address acute illnesses but monitor for hidden illnesses as well. Lately, my breasts have taken the lead on this journey of preventive care. Getting a mammogram isn’t fun. Going in every six months isn’t convenient. BUT, I am grateful that I’m surrounded by nurturing women in warm rooms with subtle lighting and floral capes that make me feel a little less exposed and vulnerable.
I also find it striking that I go from a wonderful woman in registration to a wonderful woman in triage to a wonderful woman who tries to very gently take the best images she can without making me cry. Then she carries that work off to a male radiologist. Every time. Which seems surprising considering the fact that almost half of medical students are now (finally!!) women.
A study on women in radiology presented at the ACR 2015 annual meeting found that since 2004, women consistently made up 27% of radiology residency programs, while 46% of all medical students are women. Women in leadership positions rose slightly from 2004–2014, with the percentage of women in the chair role at 9.6% in 2014, barely over the 8% figure from 2004.
Some of the theories surrounding this phenomenon include the fact that radiology is competitive and the training takes a long time, radiologists typically have less patient contact, there is a lack of exposure to radiology while in medical school, and this big one: a lack of role models. “Female medical students may not see role models in radiology, the way they do in pediatrics, internal medicine, or surgery,” Dr. Stephanie Spottswood said. This article acknowledges the deficit but also touches upon ways in which we can increase the number of role models and mentorship positions for women. Yes, it’s specific to radiology, but what if we expand upon this idea? What does the world look like for a little girl who is asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now, what do you want this world to look like for all the little girls and boys dreaming of their future?
Here’s an interesting and fairly extensive chart on the percentage of women and men in each profession. No, they don’t have President of the United States on the list. But it’s an interesting list to ponder and perhaps you’ll find it inspiring. It may not feel fair that we have to work so hard for equality, but let’s do this. Together.