Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gender Wars & the Patient Modesty Debate
Sowing Seeds of Alliance

Guest Post by Suzy Furno-Maricle

Gender wars can serve a valid purpose. Historically, socially, personally: Their seeds can grow into multi-colored displays of equity or germinate into dominant monolithic icons of power and control. It’s safe to say they will always exist, until we create a third gender to take our frustrations out on.
But are these battles expected to grow out of every situation? Can’t certain struggles simply take root in the duality of cooperation? When we find that we have a common struggle, will we always debase it to whose is worse before we agree to simply make it better for everyone?
The truth is that the “Medical Modesty” gender war has to end, or neither will reap benefits for very long. If we do not defend and help each other we will simply be considered a fad: a temporary and unique ‘genre’ in the medical arena.
A recent example: A few months ago I decided to investigate and collect data on male sexual abuse, the aftermath, and unique stress syndromes that male survivors may experience. Obviously this information would be useful in determining medical modesty preferences (if any), as well as avoidance in seeking care. It is no surprise that this problem is more rampant than generally believed. What is a surprise are the amount of people and sources who want to argue about which gender’s sexual abuse is more important. The issues of privacy, modesty, and respectful care involving abuse survivors quickly becomes a debate between genders: Why females would be/feel more threatened, why men would/wouldn’t have consideration, why would a woman investigate male sexual abuse and whose point of view was I intending to speak for.
And for this I have to ask……. “why”?
Do I really need to pick a gender side to be on? Do any of us really need to stop at the line drawn in the sand, or can we simply advocate for each other? Must we always first decide “who’s ahead” before leaving someone behind? Of course not. We need to stand together as a co-operative unit, support each other, and use our gendered talents for the benefit of each other and not for petty arguments.
*Remember: If the issues are not supported by both genders, then they become less valid for either.
It is not smooth sailing for anyone. Modesty in medicine stems from many reasons and has its unique struggles for each individual. With that, it is our responsibility is to speak up when encountering inequity or abuse. So I would challenge any woman who defends her ethical rights in healthcare to also defend those of the man beside her. And any man who stands up for his modesty/morals in healthcare to do so for the woman beside him as well.
Some issues are larger than gender. They are, instead, desperately human.

.Suzy Furno-Maricle blogs at Patient Modesty Solutions


Joel Sherman MD said...

Unquestionably these blogs have emphasized privacy and modesty violations that happen to men. But the reason for this emphasis is only that male abuses are less recognized than similar abuses that women have endured. Women in our society have a much easier time speaking out about abuses than men do. It is hoped that these blogs will empower both men and women to obtain respectful care.
It is not relevant to me which gender suffers more abuse. We all need help.

Anonymous said...

After being asked here to read this I have to say that I keep having the same arguement with a certain poster. When you are a male who has been humiliated by female staff and watch the females being treated better then the last thing you want is to make friends with those abusers. Dont ask us to be buddies. We are fighting for our dignity. For that you need to takes sides and fight for what you want. We can all be friends later.

Joel Sherman MD said...

Anon, that is not the point. No one asks you to work with those who are abusing you, though often better communication would help immensely as they may not realize what they are doing. We ask you to work with those who are trying to protect patient rights whether male or female.

Suzy Furno-Maricle said...

A few comments to ANON:
I don't think any of us have or would ever suggest that anyone befriend someone that they truly feel has participated in any abuse toward them, whether in or out of a medical arena. So let's let that drastic assumption go and move forward.

Consider for example that I am a woman who supports gender choices for both male and female patients. Consider also that I am well aware that gender choices for men are much more difficult and not currently a “politically correct” medical concern. Why would you not want to combine efforts to move the issue along in a swifter manner? It is not as if I am a minority: there are many of us out there. And…not to be flip but according to you the system is accommodating women in modesty issues more often than men. So…whose concerns are they (again according to you) more often listening to? Women. Therefore it makes perfect sense for:
A) Women to start voicing modesty concerns on the behalf of men. And
B) Men to align themselves with women of like concerns.
Quite frankly, if we can't even stop fighting amongst ourselves then the medical community will never respect the issues we are trying to move forward.

Anonymous said...

I believe that most non medical women in society are
essentially clueless as to the double standards that
exist for men in healthcare. After all their concerns have
already been met, they never rallied for this.

Consider some examples: In the U.S military and
according to mepcom all medical exams for induction
physicals for women will be performed in a private room.

Not so for men, the privacy abuses were so extreme
with non medical female onlookers that us mepcom
actually had to issue guidelines.

Women in society never stood outside of bases holding up signs. This was all done by those on the inside.

There are no male mammographers any where in the
united states. Again women never held up signs saying,
we want only women mammographers.

It was women on the inside who initiated these changes,
female directors of radiology, nurses and female hospital

You don't see male nurses in labor and delivery units
either. Surveys were never sent out to potential patients
about to deliver. "WOuld you be concerned if we had male
nurses on the unit.

This was all done on the inside by mainly one person and
that person was the director of labor and delivery. 99.99
percent of the time labor and delivery directors are female.

There are many examples of which I could cite,however,
my point is simply that I doubt you will get. A sympathetic
ear from non medical women in general society. Their
needs and concerns are met,why should they care.

These are worlds they don't even know exist, let alone
want to hear about. The mentality,not my problem and
not my battle. On the other side of the spectrum is the
other female side of the populace that are aware of these
problems. They are mostly responsible for it and no, they
don't want it solved, discrimination or not, unethical or not.


StayingFit said...

I have to admit that I am surprised by this article. I truly had no idea that either men or women viewed privacy as an “us vs. them” situation. It seems to me that we all want the same thing, which is to be treated with respect. Women can, and should, advocate on behalf of men, and vice-verse.

Ladies, if your husband had received the sort of mistreatment that we read about on this board, what would your reaction be? Gentlemen, imagine that someone did to your wife what has been described by some of the women here. What would you do? I suspect that, in both cases, “advocate for them” is a very polite way to describe your response!

I fully appreciate that some of those who post on this board have endured abuse at the hands of healthcare providers, which has led to trauma beyond anything that I can imagine. But, I think that they do their cause, and their own healing, a disservice by blaming an entire gender for what has occurred.

It would be better to accept help from whatever the source. Perhaps that assistance will take the form of advocacy. Or, perhaps it will be in the form of a sympathetic reader, with whom you can share your experiences. If you are truly fortunate, perhaps someone from “the other side” will trust you enough to share his or her experiences with you. By offering your support, your words of empathy and encouragement, and your wisdom born of a similar pain, you may find that you aid your own healing in the process.

Nor is it particularly useful to argue over “who has it worse”. You know what is the worst kind of abuse? It's that which you, or someone you love, experiences.

I'm proud to say that I fight on both sides of the gender war. Because, we're all in this together, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

- StayingFit

Suzy Furno-Maricle said...

Well said. When one is willing to listen to medical gender concerns from both male and female, then the issues become so vast that working together is the only possible solution.

PT: Nursing staff have their own attitude toward women who advocate for men. You will see the same patronizing and cajoling efforts on their part, and they step up the 'gender doesn't matter' concept to an even higher level.
Many female caregivers do not like females advocating for men.
The reasons are clear. Women know women. We know that most of them do not even believe in honest gender neutrality, they just do not want us to say it out loud. They know that modesty matters to them and almost everyone else. They just don't want to lose their jobs while admitting it.
Since job security is important to everyone, we find people do what they need to do to keep a job. And right now, it is keeping women away from the male modesty issue.
Perhaps they have you convinced that we do not exist as well.
On the other hand….some are starting to listen, and ask what they can do to help make facilities gender friendly. After all, nurses have fathers, husbands, brothers, sons: and the issue eventually comes to their door as well. These are the women that can influence others in the medical arena. They are potentially too important to ignore. And quite frankly, medical modesty needs all of the friends it can get.

Anonymous said...

I believe the issue of different treatment of patient modesty goes well beyond the issue of modesty itself. To a large degree what I have heard referred to as the feminization of medicine. While MD staffing is approaching 50% and current female students in medical schools out number males, techs and nurses are still overwhelmingly female. There is little being done to change this as it isn't seen as a problem. This is carried thoughout the medical system. Recently I was driving though Indinapolis and saw several billboards for an free advice line for women 4-her which featured a female NP from a major hospital, I heard several advertisements on the radio for it as well as it mentioned as a sponsor of some event. So when I got back to the office I looked up their wen site and emailed them saying I saw the billboards and asked them if they could direct me to the one they had for men. I recieved a single line reply. "we do not have an advice line for men". While this may be in response to the thought women make the healthcare decisions for the family, at one time men made all of the decisions for the family and it had a name, sexist. This is an indication of a bigger problem and modesty for men, or the lack of concern for it is but one indication of a much larger problem, we are outsiders in the healthcare system. alan

Anonymous said...

"Why would you not want to combine efforts to move the issue along in a swifter manner?"

A better question would be: Why do women think men would want to cooperate with them as they eviscerate us in the courts, falsely accuse us of rape and still think it's okay to take half our wealth?

Suzy Furno-Maricle said...

We are speaking of like-minded adults who see the need in working together in purpose. We extend our hands to see who takes them. It is entirely your right not to accept them.

But again: this is not a place for gender wars. That fight needs to be taken someplace else.