She looked at me, incredulously, her blonde hair all tousled up around her grimy face. She had attacked her brother in the sandbox and was now with me in the bathroom explaining how big kids used the potty. I was explaining back that “big kids” were her brother and that she was not able to use the potty the same way he did.
“No!” Her eyes flashed with anger. “Tell God to give me a weewee! I want to grow a weewee!”
I remember myself how unfair it had seemed. Boys got to pee standing up and I could not. There was no one to turn to for justice. I had felt angry, hurt, betrayed, and trapped in a body that was substandard. Worse, no one had asked me what I wanted when all if this was decided for me. Who doesn’t want to just point and shoot?
“Sorry, sweetie, you can’t.”
“Why?!??!” my daughter screamed at me, big fat tears rolling down her face.
“That’s just the way things are…”
I got over the penis envy eventually. We all do, right? Though I resent people thinking that because I am discussing women’s issues that I automatically hate men or still envy the penis.
After years of questioning the order of things I am at peace with the fact that I am who I am. In fact, it was when I held my newborn son for the first time that I realized I really liked being a woman after all.
I brought that cute little guy to life…
So what does that mean for equality?
It means that I am not a man. I don’t want to be treated like one.
Perhaps I don’t speak for all women in medicine but I don’t mind getting paid less. I like fewer patients, taking my time, having some flexibility to take care of my kids if needed.
I also love being able to hug patients and hold hands and relate to their physical ailments (periods, breast feeding, pregnancy) in a way that I never could if I were a man.
When my kids are sick I enjoy the fact that they run to me for comfort.
And so I want to be treasured and protected and valued. Most of all I want to be respected. Not respected as a man. Respected for my unique role as a caregiver to patients, family. Not equal. I don’t want to be equal.
I am better than that.
I am different. I demand a different kind of respect.
People ask more of me as a woman than they would of a man. My role is as a nurturer. They are more likely to call me, get upset with me, make demands of me. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It is not having the understanding and support of male colleagues that makes this so difficult.
Click more buttons on the electronic health record. See more patients. Work more hours.
I want flexibility and understanding from patients and my employer for my role as a caregiver to my family… accommodation for ailing elderly parents and sick children. I want an end to the guilt of being torn in so many directions.
I want respect and understanding for my physical limitations. Working while 40 weeks pregnant was HARD and like so many women I had no support at all from my employer during that or during my brief maternity leave after having to rush back. It does not have to be that way.
I want my opinions to be heard and not mocked or discounted, labeled as bitchiness or penis envy.
I am worth it.