“Be a bitch– to the Administrators, the corporate greed, the straightjacket of the insurance industry, and current corporate culture; a protector for the patients, and a love with the nurses.” Robyn Alley-Hay, MD
My definition of a bitch…inner power and courage. I wrote a whole Bitch Manifesto and that is what I discovered my inner bitch comes down to – power and courage.
The third wave refers to the third wave of feminism. This is a scholarly thing, nothing else. It was a time in history when the younger generation of women coming of age was redefining sexuality, self-expression, rules, and mores. The previous decade had seen the tragic death of so many friends, brothers, and loved ones due to HIV; due to the neglect of a nation and the politics of the day. It was moving into IV drug users (male and female) who were starting to spread it in the female population, particularly the poor and uneducated. Some women were at the mercy of their male partners who passed it to them through unprotected sex. Other women were passing it to their infants, most had no access to medical care because of the panic and prejudice of “AIDS” in the general population.
It was upon this reality that many women woke to consciousness to the imparity of underrepresented and repressed social groups, such as people of color, the LGBTQ folks, indigenous population, and including women- the 50% of the population that was actively repressed, silenced, harassed, and discriminated against. It was in these circumstances that women rose up against the judgment and condemnation delivered by the hetero, cis-gendered, white patriarchy, and their allies. Sex, being sexy, dressing any way a woman wants, power over their own body, the naming of sexual harassment, and testing the previously written mores. Multiple pop icons were birthed from the movement, like Madonna and Beyonce’. Anita Hill spoke up about her sexual harassment at the national confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. The patriarchy reacted badly. “Why not throw our sex and our sexual power in their face?” was the bitch response. In the Third-wave, feminist issues included race, class, and LGBTQ rights as women’s issues.
In the business world, workplace issues included rights for maternity leave, supporting single mothers, protecting jobs of career mothers who decide to stay at home to raise children for a certain period of time. The concept of “glass ceiling” was introduced as a way of referring to the barriers, many times hidden barriers, in the careers of women that prevent them from reaching the top of the hierarchy. Barriers were in place to handicap women who were advancing their careers and their home life. Other terms were “glass escalator, referring to men who went into traditionally female career roles advancing much faster than the women who had to “take the stairs” to get there; sticky floor describes the phenomenon of women being less like to even attempt to climb the corporate ladder; ending up in middle management at the pinnacle of their career is coined the “frozen middle. All of these terms, describe barriers to women living a life fully expressed and fully developed to her potential.
I am a woman of the third wave. Call me doctor.
“Western medical education is firmly rooted in biomedicine. Biomedicine itself is rooted in male dominance, which […] refers to a dominant cultural form […] that embraces, heroism, rationalism, certainty, the intellect, distance, objectification, and explanation before appreciation.”
Malika Sharma. Applying feminist theory to medical education, Lancet, 2019
When friends or family talk about something that happened in the late 80s and 90s, I always say “I missed the 80s and 90s”. That is not true. And, this was one of the most difficult times in my life as a young woman and a feminist; a feminist stuck in a man’s world that was telling me about my body from a male perspective; telling me about my hetero future; my psychology; my preferences; my future aging, and hormones. Very little of the biomedicine knowledge was derived from direct studies of women unless it was about reproduction and sex. It came with judgment and a price paid for anything but status quo and silence. I felt like I missed this third wave, but really, the feminist bitch was working her hardest, having babies, learning, living, and loving inside the hierarchy of the medical system, trying to find her way and voice in the world. It was bliss and it was torture at the same time.
I have a son that loves the pop icon Divas. I think I had something to do with that! I have a daughter who works for Planned Parenthood. I think my journey through the third wave of feminism had something to do with that too! The third wave was a tsunami in my life. I have just now recovered my inner power and courage – my inner bitch. It is my hope to continue to empower women in medicine to find their own inner power and voice so that together we can affect cultural change in medicine.