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First, let’s everyone start by looking at a picture of me, taken just two weeks ago. There I am. See me? Got that image in your head?

Now let us consider my experience at the OB/GYN clinic today.

I picked this particular clinic because my health insurance covers it. I picked the particular doctor because he was available. I pride myself in not caring about the sex of my gynecologist. I’ll take any doctor who can get the job done. I am mature enough to accept males and females alike. And I’m really not picky about doctors, be they general practitioners or gynecologists or what have you. Just do the exam and send me out the door. I am easy to please.

After today’s experience, however, I think I’ll be finding a new gynecologist.

It started harmlessly. Prior to the pap smear proper, I sat through the routine Q&A with the doctor. We discussed my health, my health history, things like that. No problems there.

Until he asked me how tall I was.

“Five foot one,” I said.

“Okay, that means you’re…” he consulted his chart—“That means you’re forty pounds overweight.”

My jaw dropped. I mean that literally. My jaw dropped. I peered at him over the top of my glasses.

“Forgive my feminist objections,” I said, “but you can’t be serious.”

“No, this has nothing to do with beauty ideals,” he replied. “That’s what the chart says. You should be 105 pounds.”

I was incredulous. “I realize you’re the doctor, but look at me: Do I really look forty pounds overweight?”

“Yes,” he said.

Look at the picture, folks. I agree that I could lose a few tummy pounds, sure. And hell, it would be great to lose… oh, I don’t know, twenty pounds? I’d be really thin if I lost twenty.

But forty? He wants me to weigh 105? I weighed 105 pounds once, for about a day. I think I was eight years old. I truly do not think I am capable of losing forty pounds, not without developing anoerexia nervousa, and I have enough psychological problems as it is, please and thank you.

“My wife is five four,” he said smugly, “and she’s only 120 pounds.”


Fast forward to the exam room. He’d just finished doing the breast exam—I’m not exactly thrilled with having a stranger’s hands all over my boobs, but I’ll gladly take a little bit of discomfort for the sake of my health. (Hey, if I could handle having a skanky-ass greasy-haired weirdo pierce my nipple, I can handle having a medical professional help me prevent breast cancer.)

“Okay, no lumps here,” he said. “You can hook your bra back in place now. As a man I have experience in unhooking bras, but I’m not very good at hooking them back.”

What. The. Fuck?

Does he think that’s appropriate? Ribald humor is really funny when you’re joking around with your buddies in the bar. It is completely out of place when you’re practically naked, lying on your back, and alone with your gynecologist.

A female nurse did come in for the pap smear. He was a perfect gentleman for that.

Then the nurse left, and he somehow thought it acceptable to rest his hands on my knees while he chatted with my about our shared alma mater, UNC. Pardon me, pal: Just because we went to the same school doesn’t give you license to rest your filthy paws on my goddam knees while I’m lying in your office wearing nothing but an overlarge paper towel.

In hindsight, here’s what I should have done:

I should have completely ignored him on the weight issue. I tell ya, I was just about ready to cry. I tend to believe medical practitioners when they tell me about my health. That’s why I pay them lots of money: They’re the ones who have in-depth knowledge about medicine, not me.

But this guy? He’s a gynecologist, not my general doctor, and certainly not a dietician. If he wants to tell me my uterus is overweight, fine.* He can keep his fucking opinions to himself about my general weight.

And for the record, my regular doctor told me my weight was perfectly acceptable when I saw him in January. Since I haven’t gained weight since then, I think I’ll choose to believe him.

*Scratch that: It wouldn’t be fine if the gynecologist told me my uterus was overweight. Bad example. That is one body part of mine that must never grow larger.

When he made the not-at-all funny joke about his masculine skills in undoing bras, I should have told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t like his joke and that other women wouldn’t, either.

And as for his resting his hands on my knees? I’m angry at myself on this one, really angry. I have a motherfucking DEGREE in Women’s Studies, ferchrissakes. If *I* can’t recognize inappropriate touching when it happens to me, then who can? Who’s gonna fight the good fight, if not me? But—God, I’m mad at myself—even as I was sitting there in the stirrups while he used my available body parts as his personal arm rest, I was struggling internally to decide if it was appropriate or not.

NO, Jessica, it was NOT appropriate. What were you waiting for, the voice of God to clue you in? Flashing neon signs and a warning siren? Learn to use your brain and trust your instincts. And here you call yourself a feminist!

So I didn’t rise to the challenge when I should have. I didn’t call him on his bullshit there in the office. (Yes, it’s a bit awkward to yell at your doctor when you’re all by yourself and wearing nothing but a giant Kleenex, but it’s not impossible.) But I still have options, right?

I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what should I do now? Find a different doctor in the practice and let it slide? Write a letter to someone? Write a letter to the doctor in question?

Awaiting your responses.


18 responses »

  1. The angry feminist in me says HELL YES, WRITE HIM A LETTER. Although I’m not sure how much good that would do, since he seems very self-important and probably would chalk it up to you having a "little crush" on him or something. One of my college roommates was once complimented on her "haircut" at an appointment with the college medical office’s gynecologist. After hearing that, I decided I will only be going to female gynecologists as a matter of preference. I can’t help but wonder at the motivation of a man who chooses to specialize in the female reproductive system. (I know. Awful, isn’t it?)If I had that conversation with your gynecologist about myself, I think I would have vomited on him…whether out of shame or outrage (or both) I’m not sure. But it sure would serve him right for being an asshole.

  2. the lesbrarian

    Alexandrialeigh,This evening after yoga class, I asked my instructor what to do. In addition to being a yoga instructor (her most important role), she is also a medical professional and a former Women’s Studies professor. She says I should contact the local medical board and write them a letter. Sounds like a good start.But him? Writing him a letter? I’m really thinking about it. I’m going to wait a few days to give myself some perspective. I don’t want to be rash– I don’t want him to be able to discount my reaction as being impetuous or hasty. I want him to realize that I mean every word I say. Inga Muscio, author of Cunt, encourages women to seek women doctors and to shop at women-owned businesses. But Inga is more radical than I am. I’m just a garden-variety liberal feminist, one who tries to not let the sex of a person prejudice me. But assholes like this guy sorely tempt me into showing a bit of gender bias when picking a gynecologist.

  3. That guy sounds like a douchebag, Jess. You’re certainly not 40 lbs. overweight, either in that (quite lovely) photo or the last time I saw you. And even if you were, commenting on it might be appropriate coming from your general practitioner, but from your gynecologist, it’s completely unwarranted. The rest of it sounds creepy, too, making me think of the icky gynecologist in TEETH, which I saw recently.At the worst, writing a letter will probably make you feel better, so yeah, do it. And of course find a new doctor.

  4. Write a letter to whoever owns the practice (unless it’s him, of course, but either way write to the medical board too). You asking here tells me you know already that you can’t let this shit slide.You can’t fault yourself for not saying anything at the time. He clouded your mind with confusion right off the bat with the weight comment, so of course all those things you know and learned were pushed out of the way in that moment by putting the "WTF" thought about his weight comment at the front of your mind. So your mind was too fuzzy to be able to react to his other fucked up actions right then and there, but because you have the knowledge from your studies and you ARE so strong, you know what to do about it NOW, rather than let his comments and actions continue to make you feel like ass.Just for future reference, if your insurance works here, this is where I go:http://www.tpmgpc.com/locations/norge/and I have seen Lonna for all my girly checkups, but for other non-girly medical things I’ve seen some of the other docs in the practice and they’re all good, in my opinion. And I’m seriously super picky about my doctors. If they don’t respect me or listen to what I have to say and don’t let me ask questions or give me good answers to my questions then I won’t go back. My philosophy about doctors is: what’s the point of seeing someone who’s supposed to help you when you leave feeling worse?Is it sad that I recognize where you’re sitting in that picture? 😛 This town is so small…

  5. I just stumbled upon your blog today…glad I did. Writing to the Medical Board in your state sounds like a good plan. The guy sounds like an absolute creep; a smug and self-satisfied asshole who probably gets off on making women feel inferior and uncomfortable (good God why are SO MANY men like that?!). If he hears from the State Board, maybe he won’t take it for granted that he can continue to get away with treating his patients like that. I think it is also a fabulous idea to write a letter to him personally. Sure, you don’t owe him anything, but what a great opportunity to educate someone. No need to be rude (and won’t you look good taking the moral high ground!), but it is important for him to know why what he did was so inappropriate. Relate to him how it made you feel as a patient and as a woman, and why, as a feminist, you feel that his behavior has broader, political implications. Writing the personal letter will also give you an opportunity to let him know that you have contacted the Medical Board, a courtesy that will again allow you to bask in the glow of moral superiority! Again, explaining your choice to do this in the context of your feminism would be a wonderful opportunity to provide a man with a much needed feminist education. The man sounds like a complete ass, but a letter that doesn’t assume the worst possible intentions on his part will probably also be the most effective. Having said that, I know from experience that writing your doctor a letter after receiving disrespectful treatment is amazingly therapeutic and empowering….make sure he knows that you are angry!Good for you for standing up for yourself…who cares if you couldn’t find the certainty or words to express yourself in the moment…you’re a feminist, not perfect…what’s important is that you do what you can when you can!God Bless.Ruth

  6. I’m angry for you. I’m seething…some doctors are absolute pigs and very ‘high and mighty’. Sorry, a chart is one thing but using it only as the basis to tell you what he did, when you did not even ask, is out of line. The charts are old school. You look good. You exercise, you’re young….what’s his deal? Doctors have a lot of education for some folks are so educated they stop being smart. No matter what this dude had going on, bed side manners are very important. Certainly bring it up somehow. He may not mind, but the practice and adjusters my like to know one of their doctors has crappy bed side manners. GRRRRRRRRR!

  7. the lesbrarian

    Ian,Yeah. He’s a douchebag. Cara,Unfortunately the insurance only covers the one place in town. *After* I get my results back from the pap smear, I’ll follow up in… Newport News, I guess. I can schedule my gynecological exams on the same day as my hair appointments. Yay!

  8. the lesbrarian

    Ruth,Thanks for stumbling on by! Come back anytime– normally I’m not so angsty. You’ll be pleased to know that the letter to the medical board is in the mail. The letter to the doctor himself will be in the mail after I receive the results from my last exam.Contra,It’s sort of embarrassing that my most visceral reaction was not to the guy’s sex joke, and not to his inappropriate use of my knees as furniture, but to him saying I was fat. Perhaps I am conditioned to the point where sexual impropriety doesn’t faze me, at least not until I’ve let it stew; but calling me fat? When I eat right and exercise and look just fine? What an ass!

  9. Write the doctor a letter explaining why you won’t be using his services again. Keep it short, polite and professional. It may not change his behavior, but you will feel better for having expressed yourself.

  10. EwEwEw! I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sure the respectful, professional male doctors outnumber the types like this guy, but it’s fear of that sort of situation that keeps me going to female doctors, even for general medicine. Can you get your yearly pap smear and breast exam from your primary care doctor? Or do you have to see a specialist? My primary does those for me, and she’s a lot easier to get appointments with than the gyno. And obviously, as you know, you aren’t even overweight, certainly not 40 lbs! In fact, all BMI charts I’ve seen in medical offices put you in the normal/healthy category, especially considering your yoga-muscle-mass. 105 is the bottom of the healthy zone, bordering on underweight, though perhaps that’s how he likes his prepubescent women, the sicko. And his wife’s weight should absolutely not have entered the discussion at all. That’s beyond tacky – completely unprofessional. The medical board should be aware that he advised an unhealthy weight and the way the topic was addressed, in addition to the knee-furniture and bra comment. UGH.

  11. Heard on the floor of my uber major corporation just 5 minutes ago. A senior leadership memeber was speaking to others. They where bellowing as they do, they love to hear their own voices, and I heard "He needs to BE A MAN and admit what he did. Just Be a MAN"Naturally they are all white middle aged men of high income. Even I’m offended for all their assistants, secretaries and receptionists….all who are women. but I know, I can’t say anything if I value my job.

  12. Oh my god, I am so sorry about this whole experience. I dislike pretty much all doctors on principle so I’ll let others answer that question (which they have done with many good suggestions), but just wanted to say I’m glad it’s over and never go back to this person again.Also, emphatically:YOU. ARE. NOT. OVERWEIGHT. And my God, certainly not by 40 pounds. 105? That doesn’t even sound healthy. This guy and his stupid skinny wife can just go to hell.

  13. the lesbrarian

    Mom, Cathy, and Nonanon,Thanks for agreeing with me (though Mom, I noticed that you didn’t chime in with everyone else in saying that I’m not forty pounds overweight. I’m sure it was an oversight).Contra:I’d say it’s a very good thing I’m not employed at your workplace, though I’d like to think that maybe I’d change some people’s minds before I got fired, or fired and sued, or fired and sued and assassinated, gangland-style.If you weren’t picky about keeping your job, I’d exhort you to give ’em hell; as Margaret Mead says, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does." As soon as you become independently wealthy and decide to quit, THEN you can tell them what sexists jerks they are. Probably racist and classist, too.

  14. I don’t think he even realized it. Just like the other day when speaking about hillary it was brought up about her being seen as bitchy…right quickly the correction was made that no male candidate, ever, has been called bithcy. Sexism, racism and the like are so ingrained as to not even be noticed. "Be a man" I should have stood up and siad "What? Shallow, quick to judgement, short lived ill tempered, smelly two faced condescending baffoons?" Or I should have said "Why be like a man? Set your standards a bit higher" But that would have not gone over well. The man in question is the boss of my bosses boss. When I was in college a music fraternity BEGGED me to join. I said "Music and without women allowed? I’ll have no part of it." I was dead serious. To me, it was not a ‘professional’ group if women where forbidden to join. When the time is right, I’ll speak. But for a doctor, YOU pay HIM! SPEAK UP!

  15. wow. What an ass. And no, you are NOT 40 lbs overweight! Your post reminded me that I saw a commercial about a website that rates doctors – like restaurants! Warn others about this jerk. I searched and found: http://www.vimo.com/provider/index.php?module=Doctors but I think it’s only in a few states…

  16. I might comment on the huge, black bag you’re dragging, but I won’t comment on your weight. Yeah, that guy is a dick. What he should have said is, "This chart says you’re 40 pounds overweight, but you look fine to me, mighty fine, indeed (wink, wink)."Seriously, he can mention what the chart says and let you decide if it’s relevant, but his real job is to tell you if he thinks you are healthy. About the knee thing, maybe he feels that some "safe" touching is good to prepare you for the examination, or again, maybe he’s just a dick. The bra comment is definite dickdom. I guess his excuse might be that he realized he made such an ass comment about the weight, and thought he could try to be chummy and hope you’d forget about it. At this point, not sure what you should do; (I don’t think the letter is going to make you feel better). The best time to say something passed when you left his office.

  17. I’m simply… stunned. Definitely write a complaint letter to the board, and to the owner of the clinic if it isn’t him. That is intolerable. I’d look at filing a sexual harassment claim somehow.The only men that get into GYN practice that I would trust are those that focus on the OB side of things – wanting to bring babies into the world is OK, wanting to look at girly parts all day long is an odd specialization for a guy. I mean, what, he couldn’t get into the surgery track? It’s like podiatrists – I have a sneaking suspicion that none of them really went to medical school to be a podiatrist.It’s sad that there still exists such sexism in the professional world, but there it is. When I was married to wife1.0, I went to her first gyno appt. with her and went in, after much protests on the part of the nurse. I mean, she was my wife, I was interested in her care, and she thought it was OK – why not? But the nurse wouldn’t have it – it wasn’t proper. The OB/GYN (a woman) finally came out to see what the fuss was about, and said if I was brave enough to come in with her (my wife), that I was welcome to. Sigh.About the fat part – dear god, what was he thinking? Where did he get the supermodel/waif BMI chart from? If your regular doc tells you that you’re fat, OK then there might be something to that. Your specialist? Unless it directly relates to the problem, WTF? … BTW – aren’t your boobs like 10 pounds each? Aren’t most 5’ish women NOT terribly busty? What the fsk ever. I think you look great in the pic (although the stockings need to go – or wear tall boots with them). Yoga has been good to you.

  18. eleemosenary archivist

    your somewhat exasperated mention of the 40 lb nonsense comes back to EA,and now that he’s read yr full account the old protocol officer inside says: "by all means, write a well composed,superbly edited,10 times reread,letter stating dispassionate account. Send it to AMA,ethical practices board & cc every other official agency that might concievably exercise professional oversight or be able to issue "disciplinary’ letter of reprimand. Damn, guy seems like he’s got a problem.He should get brough up short though.lest he’s just lost his oen perspective..not to mention manners.


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