When FemInEM launched in September 2015 we knew we were going to touch on some sensitive topics. Gender equity, medicine, profession roles, parenthood, equal pay – we looked forward to tackling these issues as a community. We thought an easily accessible platform with open communication we could help mobilize women and men to meaningfully contribute to difficult conversations.
And that’s basically what happened. As soon as the website launched, we received incredible submissions from authors all over the world, many writing publicly for the first time. Some discussed gender based bias. Others reflected on personal stories of parenthood or wellness. We had expected FemInEM would eventually serve as an “advocate” for gender equity in the workplace and equal pay for women physicians, but I don’t think any of us expected to get more “political” than that.
And then the tides changed.
Ahead of the 2016 Presidential election, we started to receive articles on the possibility of a female president. One of these articles Hillary and My Mom was about Dr. Liz Mitchell’s relationship with her own mom and what Hillary’s nomination meant to her; as a woman, daughter and doctor. Personal, yes. Political, maybe. Controversial, definitely not.
November 2016 noticeably shifted that landscape. Immediately after the election, we received numerous submissions from women physicians on healthcare politics, women’s health and the historical women’s marches. Our content was evolving, reflecting the energy (and anxiety) of women physicians around the world.
And they’re not just talking, women physicians are doing something. During attempted repeal and replacement of Affordable Care Act, Dr. Kathie Allen announced she was running for congress in Utah’s 3rd District. Jason Chaffetz, that district’s incumbent congressman was quoted as saying “Americans have choices… rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love…they should invest that in health care.”
Dr. Allen’s response to his statement was clear. She declared her candidacy to unseat him. According to Dr. Allen: “More medically trained people are needed in government. We can critically examine symptoms, synthesize them, and render an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Congress is ailing and we have a prescription.” Dr. Allen raised nearly half a million dollars in the first days.
Using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, women physicians are coming together and making a difference. The group Women Physicians for Humanity was created to bring together “a community of humanitarians who can work together for a better world! As physicians we are more privileged than most to advocate and raise awareness.” They are currently raising money to commission a plane of food to be sent to South Sudan in response to the severe famine in that country. (Here is the donation link.)
The Facebook group “Physician Women for Democratic Principles” has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for groups like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are likely scores of stories like these to report.
Regardless of our own personal political affiliations, it is impractical and, in my opinion, irresponsible to remain apolitical at a time like this. There are too many issue on the table that affect our patients, our families and ourselves. At FemInEm, we expect and respect diverse views on topics, like women’s reproductive rights and health care reform, but we want to facilitate open conversation and active engagement.
We will advocate for positions that are central to our mission promoting gender equity and women’s professional development. We understand that some of these positions may not be shared by ALL FemInEMs. Our support of Dr. Willie Parker’s memoir “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice” was an example of that advocacy. Safe and available access to women’s reproductive services is important for our patients, our peers and ourselves. Protection for a woman’s right to choose, and that a woman’s reproductive decisions should be between that woman and her physician, are central to our mission at FemInEM. We firmly believe that continued, safe and available healthcare is critical for our patients and ourselves. We expect this view will not be shared with everyone in the FemInEM community and we hope those with differing viewpoints will share their perspectives as well.
These first 100 days have been eventful to say the least. We don’t expect that all FemInEMs will agree with every position we take, or with every article we post. We hope that everyone understands we want this to be a place of engaged and respectful discussion. We are inspired by the activism of women physicians across the political landscape, and consider ourselves lucky to be able to highlight the work they are all doing. If you know of a women physician running for office or you are working within your community to address important issues, please consider letting us know. We welcome any contributions, from all political perspectives, as facilitating open and engaged communication around difficult topics is really what FemInEM is about.