It's been ten years since my book When the Personal was Political was published. It was a frantic summer, trying to put it together while the publisher, iUniverse, was merging with another online publisher. To say that they were not focused on my book was an understatement.
Ten years on, my central thesis, that the experience of a woman doctor is different from that of a man doctor, is hardly disputed. People are familiar with the concept of implicit bias and women are fighting again for wage equality. But at the time, there was a lot of push-back from men and women who felt that we women doctors should just be grateful to be in medicine at all. It was unseemly to draw attention to our less-than-equal status. I have always been susceptible to this argument, which in one sense is practical advice. Assertive women are judged pushy and aggressive. The "angry black woman" is an enduring stereotype. On the other hand, nothing changes if we don't speak up. There's a wonderful essay by C.L.R. James where he addresses the accusation that he is showing poor sportsmanship by pointing out the discrimination against black cricket players. He says, "What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?"
As I near retirement, I am proud of my years as a primary care doctor and my later years in the disability program of Social Security. We were an altruistic generation and many of us shared the goal of treating every patient with dignity and fairness. We advocated for our patients because that felt comfortable in our doctor role. It still does not feel comfortable to speak to our colleagues about fairness in the workplace.