You Don’t Always Get to Choose

We are our own worst witnesses in so many ways. Cognitive bias wraps a coat of many colors around our worst impulses, insulating us from the cold reality of how we look to others. Moreover, good deeds in public do not erase our private hatreds or contempt for others, although it is a step in the right direction, a way to honor a social contract.

“The reports surrounding my resignation as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons lead readers to conclude that I represent an old-guard generation that represses women in surgery,” Lazar Greenfield, MD, wrote in an email to MedPage Today and several other news organizations. “Since nothing could be further from the truth, I can no longer remain silent in an attempt to protect the organization.” —Surgeon Rejects Sexism Charge

This is a man who wrote a ha-ha-only-serious editorial that boils down to “gals think they like chocolate, but here’s something that’ll really cheer ’em up!”

I don’t actually care how he feels about women in the depths of his thoughts, but as titillating as it must have been to him to pen the piece de resistance at the end of that editorial, it junks [yes, I went there] any claim he might make of great sensitivity to women’s lives and experiences, no matter how many women he’s mentored and trained and treated respectfully in the hospital.

How tired are actual live women of being told there’s nothin’ wrong with them that gettin’ laid can’t cure? It’s classic, common or garden sexism. It’s a textbook example. Out for a drink with friends, it can easily be said ironically—or, in the hands of people with exceptional social aptitude and an excellent sense of humor, surrounded by sympathetic listeners, even unironically—and cause mirth to all. The editorial page of a publication by and for a society whose female members have struggled for respect and recognition is not the place.

Too long? Didn’t read? Memo to men in leadership positions—especially in traditionally male-dominated fields in which women have been treated with hostility and open lack of respect: Do not try this at work.

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