You wish Dr. Kate were your gynecologist. She’s an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in Boston who lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. She regularly (and generously!) answers your health questions here on EMandLO.com. Today she responds to the question of whether women should have a female obgyn. To ask her your own med question, click here.
I remember reading The Game by Neil Strauss — he went undercover into the pick-up artist scene and gave away all their secrets: how they think about women and manipulate them. One of the lines has stayed with me for so long, even 10 years later: he basically said this is all straight men; all men think this way about women; they think about how hot (or not) women are and how they would like (or would not like) to fuck them — and this includes even your doctors.
For this reason — along with the idea of wanting a doctor who can truly empathize — I only feel comfortable with female gynecologists and have only ever had female gynecologists. Do you feel that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for women or do you think it really shouldn’t matter?
Honestly, I think that’s going too far. That’s a really nihilistic way of looking at men. Yes, we haven’t had a major scandal with a doctor who’s a woman — I’m thinking of the ones who carve their initials on people’s body parts or photograph them surreptitiously. But part of that is just due to the fact that such a high proportion of medical professionals are male, so I think the odds are that if there’s a scandal it’s going to be a man, not necessarily because they there’s any biological predisposition but because there are so many more of them in the field. Similarly, as we see more female politicians enter the arena, we are starting to see more female politician scandals — because absolute power corrupts absolutely, no matter who you are.
These days, the men who go into to ob-gyn are a really special breed. And they’re not all straight.
An anecdote is not data, I know. But my first two pelvic exams were by female physicians and they were horrible: they were brisk and efficient and painful. And their attitude was very much “Suck it up — I have a vagina too, it’s not that big a deal.” And I left the gyno’s office weeping, in both cases. I think the seed was planted early on that it doesn’t have to be like this. It probably sent me down the path of choosing ob-gyn later.
Both of my obstetricians that I chose for my kids are both men. Of course, I have the insider benefit of getting to know a whole bunch of ob-gyns really well and hand-picking mine, but they’re among the most beloved obstetricians at their respective institutions, the kind of doctors who right before a cervical check apologize. Like, “I know I don’t have a vagina and don’t know how bad this is, but I’m sure it’s no picnic.”
I hate to say just being with female doctors protects you from bad experiences because of complete anomalies like Larry Nassar. Do we not have male teachers for kids? Let’s not paint the whole gender with one brush.