November 8, 2016.
Eyes glued to the television around the world. Emotions running as high as the stakes for every American, the tension palpable as vote counts start to come in. Some hearts elated, some sinking at the history that was transpiring before us on that fateful day.
In my own home that night, I was overcome thinking about the incredible ramifications for the country as a whole, my career in medicine and what a Republican monopoly on the government might mean for my ability to treat my patients, and most importantly, the depth of how greatly the impending result was affecting me beyond what I ever thought politics could. I normally take a back seat, so far back I am almost in the trunk, when it comes to anything political.
That night, despite being so well practiced at controlling every aspect of my own self in life and death situations in the Emergency Department, I could not believe how profoundly I was experiencing a multitude of unexpected deep emotions. The shock, the hurt, the letdown, the loss of hope, the unfairness of the whole situation. The incredible feeling of helplessness. I couldn’t even have the television on. It was the most poignant demonstration of what every female professional experiences throughout her career on a global scale, but this time with consequences so far reaching I can’t even begin to imagine. I was watching the most qualified, experienced, prepared candidate that may ever have run for office being beaten (albeit by electoral votes only) by someone with zero qualification, experience, or preparation, against all expectation and logic. Why? How?
I am sure I am not the only one, despite the risk of sounding like an angry misandrous militant feminist to some (because that is what feminism is about, of course) who felt absolutely certain that the answer lie in large part in the fact that she is a woman, and he is a man. America simply, and sadly, was not ready for a female president. I am sure many people believe that sexism is no longer a major problem in our country, that it was not a factor in this election. My experience as a female physician, which has been shared by every female colleague I have ever spoken to about the subject, however, has taught me otherwise. Therefore I was unfortunately not all that surprised by the outcome.
Each of us has been called nurse over and over despite multiple introductions, white coat, name tag, doing invasive procedures, giving life changing news. We’ve all felt that we have been treated differently at times than our male counterparts (attendings, residents, even medical students), by patients and families, even female ones. We’ve all had to work harder to gain the same respect and trust in our ability to practice medicine. All of the hurt, the ignorance, the continuing struggle for equal treatment, it made the events of election day feel so personal, and therefore so difficult to watch, and even more so, accept.
Soon, we will witness the inauguration, another historic event, and another day that will no doubt bring much emotion. I hope that whatever the future brings, we can band together, support each other, and remember that we are not alone, we are strong, we are qualified, we are experienced, and we are prepared for anything.