Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sexual Harassment?

When I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, I was a resident on an inpatient rehab ward. We were having a bit of a pre-holiday slump, meaning I had all of four patients on my entire service. Of course, as a resident, I had no complaints about this.

I was working with my attending, who we will call Dr. Massage, because of the way she sometimes reached out and started massaging residents shoulders for no particular reason. Dr. Massage was middle aged and did not look at all dissimilar to Coach Beiste on Glee. (Yes, I watch Glee. It's awesome.)

One day, someone (I can't remember who) was bemoaning the lack of patients on the inpatient ward and said to Dr. Massage, "Is there anything we can do to increase admissions?"

Dr. Massage replied, "Well, Dr. Fizzy and I could go out on the street wearing bikinis. That might cause a few accidents."

Considering, as you recall, Dr. Massage looked like Coach Beiste on Glee, I took this as an insult.

Granted, it was kind of self-deprecating as well. But I'm not sure why I had to be included in this. I was sitting several feet away from this conversation, quietly doing my work, and I was kind of shocked when I heard her say that.

What's the big deal, you ask? I guess it isn't really such a big deal. Except that I was only 27 and pregnant for the first time after being quite petite before, and I was not feeling fantastic about the way I looked at that moment. Every pregnant woman worries about weight gain and swelling and all that. OK, I'm sure some pregnant woman walk around feeling like they look fabulous all the time and never once feel fat, and that's awesome for you, really. But not me. And I certainly wasn't in the mood to hear someone making comments about how my appearance in a bikini might result in a serious accident. Of course, Dr. Massage never had kids, so maybe she didn't get it. Although I get the feeling if I had made a similar comment, including her name with mine, she wouldn't have appreciated it.

Would a man make a comment like that? Possibly, but I actually feel like men watch their mouths more than women these days. I feel like when women make insulting comments about another woman's appearance, you really can't do much (not that I ever would anyway). Another blogger recently said that a female she worked with accused her of having fake breasts (she didn't) and she just let it slide. Or maybe men are just as bad or worse, and I'm suffering from selective memory right now.

Anyway, I'm not sure if there's a moral to this story, but it's something that still sort of stings so many years later.


  1. I agree that women are worse than men. The men are afraid of a sexual harassment suit or something, but the women seem to feel as though they have free rein to comment on others appearances.

  2. I don't understand why this comment offended you. I keep re-reading your post hoping that I missed something... Perhaps you are overly sensitive.

  3. you just don't talk about a preggos body to anyone! it's a sensitive issue.

    a guy at work said he "thought something was up" when i finally began telling people i was prego. i was 14 weeks and had gained 6 pounds. i STILL wanted to deck him. where does HE get off telling ME i looked like i gained weight, prego or no!

    lol it's just a girl thing.

  4. Did she maybe mean that people would be so distracted and awestruck by your beauty that they'd double take and crash?

  5. Liana: I'm realistic enough to realize that it's probably obvious that's not what she meant :)

    Anon: I'm ultra careful about not saying anything to a woman I think might be pregnant until I'm 100% sure. And I don't know why finding out a woman is pregnant suddenly gives you license to tell her she looks fat (as my husband seems to think).

    Dannie: Yup, you're right. I'm just overly sensitive. Thanks.

  6. Where oh where is the string of 50 gajillion comments, most of which question your very fibre of being?

    I was once caressed and touched in front of a small ethics group by a female surgeon. She was demonstrating the importance of touching your patients and singled me out - rubbing my hand and leg the whole time - especially while giving me eye contact. The public aspect of it was freaky. I was extremely uncomfortable. She had a reputation for sexual harassment. I got a rec from her later down the road and got a very well-paying summer job, so I guess I got something out of it.

    I find men and women equally capable - it's the personality, not the gender. There was a very randy attending in my training program - I took it all as amusement and tried not to get all twisted up about it, but certainly didn't encourage it.

    I also saw it happen to men almost as much as women.

    It is hard to forget these things, isn't it?

  7. Yeah, Giz, I'm disappointed nobody got angry on behalf of men being worse than women or something. Maybe I need to work harder at fanning the flame :)

  8. Ugh. Those comments are the worst when you're pregnant. When I was getting rather round during my pregnancy, my scrubs were getting tight around my belly. One male coworker complained that I should go up in scrub sizes bc me walking around like that was akin to him wearing pants that were too tight. I said I didn't understand how my pregnant belly had anything to do with his penis.
    Sounds like your attending just didn't think. It's too bad that thoughtless comments like that stick with us as long as they do.

  9. It is especially hard during pregnancy to shake off the comments. I always felt "large" which was my answer to every question about my health. I do not know if your attending was mean or just thoughtless, but maybe it is time to let it go...

  10. I don't know... I've never been pregnant, but I've spent about half a decade overweight, almost obese at one point, and fought hard to bring it back down to a healthy level. I don't comment on weight gain to people, particuarly if they might be/are pregnant, because I know they're likely sensitive, but sometimes I think they just need to get over it. For god's sake, your pregnant, that tops the list of good reasons to gain weight! At least you can (or could've) comforted yourself with the thought that in two more months you would no longer be pregnant, but she would keep looking like coach beiste for the rest of her life. Then again, I've never been pregnant, so my opinions are easily dismissed.

    As for women vs men, I find that women tend to be more likely to say something rude about another woman's body to her face, but that when the woman isn't around, men will make equally cruel or hurtful descriptions. Like Gizabeth said, it's the personality.

  11. I think her statement was harmless, maybe a tasteless joke but not sexual harassment status...I was preggo until 2 weeks ago and let me just say that people take liberties with pregnant women and not always maliciously PLUS we have a case of hormone overload so that we overanalyze everything said to us..BUT let it go. Gizabeths example definitely sexually inappropriate

  12. Well, it's not like I'm sitting around obsessing about it on a daily basis. I was just kind of irked by it, plus all the statements she made about being able to see my bra, the latter of which I probably deserved because maternity shirts are very prone to wardrobe malfunctions.

    Anon: As irritating as her comment was, I think I definitely would have been a lot more insulted if I weren't pregnant at the time.

  13. Sorry but I think you were being oversensitive.

    I wasn't the most fit preggo person either but seriously....perhaps if you'd both been outside in bikinis you WOULD have caused an accident...not because you were so unappealing looking but because of the shock value!

    Take a joke...geeesh...

  14. Anon: It's a mistake to have that attitude. I know an attending who recently got reported to the patient advocate and got a letter in his file because a patient couldn't "take a joke" he made. In this day and age, you have to be sensitive about what you say, and what might not bother you might bother someone else, and vice versa. Or else you might find yourself fired. If you think about it, in terms of being sensitive to another person's feelings, it's probably not a great idea to make a joke that involves them being in a bikini.


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