Not Just A Uterus With A Stethoscope: Gendered Discriminations At The Front Lines Of COVID-19 #CommunityBlogger

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This is an article written and contributed by a member of the Kool Kanya Community! We love it when our users engage with us, and strive to always encourage and empower them in their pursuits. If you wish to have your writing featured on the Kool Kanya blog, sign up and send in your article at the Kool Kanya Community! 

I am a young, unattached, female doctor, and a first hand witness to the fight against COVID-19. However, I am not writing this to stake my claim to the token appreciations being meted out to doctors on social media. Neither am I writing to bring to light the hard conditions that all doctors are operating in these days. Enough has been said about that. 

Today, I want to talk about things that are left bubbling under the surface, unheard, unseen and overlooked. Because they belong to the realm of the subtle, they show up in ways that are not always obvious and call for nuanced discussions rather than black and white opinions.

Women Healthcare Professionals Are Being Compartmentalized And Given Roles Based On Their Marital Or Motherhood Status.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic, as the UN notes, has exacerbated gender inequality for both formal and informal caregivers (most of whom are women) across the world. Women in the healthcare professions (doctors, nurses, therapists, and hospital assistants) are no exception to this.

Dr Migita D’cruz, author of the article

An added dimension to this in India, are the neat little compartments into which we have divided women in these healthcare professions. Married and childbearing women are kept away from emergency and ICU duties, and given less intense desk jobs such as handling helplines. In other cases they’re advised to work from home, to avoid exposure to their families. Postmenopausal women –usually senior faculty members –are also kept away and relegated to teaching and administrative activities. 

Single, and childless women – predictably – are considered more available, not having the risks and responsibilities of being wives and mothers, and are therefore put on duty in designated COVID-19 wards, emergency, and ICU facilities. They are more likely to get the high octane duties, and work the graveyard shifts too.

Unmarried Women Are Seen As More Dispensable, Expendable And Disposable.  

This isn’t just an aggravated protest against this compartmentalization from a young, unattached, female doctor. I’m glad to do more shifts, see more patients and help out my colleagues who have to work the double shift (formal caregiving at work and informal caregiving at home). Healthcare, now more than ever, needs more hands on deck, and needs to reach out and help as many people in the community as possible.

That is also not to say that I am unaware of the patriarchal, misogynist, heterosexist overtones of this distribution of duties. The implication is that the young and unattached are resources the workplace should extract the maximum value for money out of.

Dr Migita D’cruz, author of the article

It is also that it’s more acceptable to put a female healthcare professional’s life at risk if she hasn’t married or produced children yet. We are more useful and dependable, but also more expendable and disposable.

The worth of a woman’s life, even in hospitals during a pandemic, continues to be determined by the uterus.

Female healthcare professionals are unhappy with decisions made on the basis of their reproductive status.

 

Women like me aren’t the only people administrative policies are treating unfairly. The decision to keep childbearing and menopausal women away from the frontline hasn’t necessarily been appreciated by those under this ambit either. 

I’ve had a female professor and teacher tell me how devalued she felt when she was told that she’s too old to undertake emergencies anymore. Mark you, this had nothing to do with clinical competence – she’s one of the best doctors I know – but rather to do with a determination of work based on menopause. Ultimately, she decided to junk the advice. She chose to work at the frontline of the pandemic anyway, when she could have chosen to stay safe at home, and is out there now, doing excellent work.

The underlying theme here, for women in healthcare, whether put at risk or kept away safe, is that such decisions are taken based upon our reproduction, rather than based upon our choices, abilities, or autonomy. 

As we try to find our way out of this pandemic (and I hope we do), here’s to a healthcare system that respects a woman’s autonomy on both sides of the hospital table. We are, but also need to be treated as, more than just a uterus with a stethoscope. 

This is an article written and contributed by a member of the Kool Kanya Community! We love it when our users engage with us, and strive to always encourage and empower them in their pursuits. If you wish to have your writing featured on the Kool Kanya blog, sign up and send in your article at the Kool Kanya Community! 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Well said, doctor. The day this concept of gender discrimination and all the other negative movements end, then the community will be the purest version of itself. Otherwise, this will keep on passing to the next generations without certain changes.

  2. Dr. Migita,

    First and foremost, a very warm welcome to the Koolkanya community and congratulations on putting up a blog about such a sensitive topic. This gender and marital status based discrimination is spread across everywhere, but it is a pity that the emergency services like education, medical facilities, security and defence are also a target to this. Nevertheless, it is truly a commendable thing that all the frontline people are doing for the nation considering it as their moral and ethical duty. We can only pray that more and more brave hearts like you raise your voice to put up your point.

    Keep up the great work.

    • ?? Good to see someone raising their voice about such regressive behavior even among professionals and in critical areas where competence should be the only factor.

      It’s frustrating for the affected people and not easy to object because they can easily get labelled as difficult or unprofessional.

      End result is good people losing motivation and learning that shrewd politicking is more beneficial than professional skills to counter these things. Sad state of affairs.

      This, and overworked doctors, are the worst type of mismanagement in the medical sector, bordering on criminal at times. Not as bad as Pharma but close in terms of impact I guess.

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