Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sexism in Surgery

I've started, and then stopped, writing this post about 15 times.  I've wanted to share some interesting ancedotes about how I have/haven't seen sexism in surgery- but it never comes across as anything interesting or engaging.  Why?  Because quite frankly I don't care that much.  I don't care if I'm treated a little different at times, I don't enjoy making a fuss about it or writing about it.   In general I have a million more pressing concerns that whether or not my breasts affect my brains and my hands.

Until now.

I'm SOOOOOOO freaking annoyed by the process of finding an "appropriate" outfit to wear to my surgery interviews.  First, I was told  I have to wear a pant suit, not a skirt.  Fine.  I'll give up the fact that pants make me look like Hillary Clinton (translation: frumpy) and skirts make me look like Sarah Palin (translations: stylish).  Second, I'm told that I have to wear a plain white button up shirt under my suit.   This irks me a lot.  I genuinly think a plain white shirt looks TERRIBLE under a suit.  I've been told by probably 10 people that it would be absolutly inappropriate to wear anything colored, silky, ruffled, or pretty.  I just feel like wearing a plain white shirt without a tie just makes me look like a sloppy version of a man in a suit.  To have a shirt open at the top like that seems so unprofessional looking.  Not to mention that anything button-up is likely to reveal more cleavage that I want.  I have toyed with the idea of trying to find a tie to go with the suit- but that seems like I'd be trying too hard to be manly. Third, I have to wear heels.  Fourth, I can't carry a purse.

Here's the message I'm getting from everyone I speak to:

 "Dear female surgery applicants, 
        Please dress as much like a man as you can, so that we can maintain our fanatasy of continuing to exist in an all-male world.  So pants suits only, and no purses.  Only white button up collared shirts are allowed (colors and  nice fabrics make us nauseous) but don't wear a tie (we reserve those for the Big Boys).  And please still wear heels- they are just so cute.  And we've heard they are very comfortable.    Sincerely, Everyone."

Below is my attempt to use Google Images to make myself feel better about white shirts without ties.  Thoughts?


  1. OK - I feel pretty deeply about this. Women shouldn't have to downplay the fact that we are women. Women love color. Buy a conservatively colored shell (perhaps a muted purple, pink, blue or green and wear it under a conservative suit. then dazzle them with your brain and all will be well. they will never know what hit them. From a successful woman that has alway embraced that fact that she is a woman (NOT a man)

  2. I'm horrified about the recommended wardrobe. I'm a female attorney and often interview law school students for summer internships. If I see a woman wearing a plain pantsuit and white shirt I dock a couple points for being lame. They look like high school debate nerds who you'd never want to introduce to a client. (But I guess surgeons always wear scrubs on the job . . .).

    Props to you for complaining, but no sense risking your career on a fashion stand. Go with the flow and change the policy when you're on the other side.

    Good luck!

    -Kate (Rachel's friend)

  3. This is just crazy!!! They want you because you are uniquely qualified to be in their program. They don't want clones so why should you dress like one? Your mother's ideas are perfect - play up your beautiful eyes with some color and make yourself memorable!

  4. oh, this is just silly. I wore a skirt suit to most of my interviews. I liked this because 1) i look a lot better in skirts and 2) i could save my pantsuits for cold or rainy days. Since I am somewhat boobalicious, instead of a button down shirt (which would make both revealing and top-heavy), I wore either a wool shell or a nice thin sleeveless top (blue, red, beige, etc) which came up high enough but didn't stifle my throat and make me look short. you obviously don't want to be revealing, but looking frumpy makes you look like you can't be a smooth professional either. and i ALWAYS wore high heels, what I did was to find a nice pair of leather black rounded closed-toe heels where the heel was a wedge instead of a proper heel, and with a height of 1.5-2". that way, I could handle walking on the hospital tours, but still look formidable (i am 5'2", and most other applicants were taller than me, incl other girls).

    honestly, any program director who looks down at you for dressing as a professional female is going to look down on you for being a girl at all. and in my experience, most surgical programs and attendings are reasonably progressive, so it won't be an issue. if they aren't, you don't want to be there for 5 years, no matter how much you think you'll learn. you'll really just learn to be bitter, and nobody wants to be that bitchy surgical attending.

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