We were closing the incision, and the surgeon was trying to teach me how to close properly. After he finished, he commented, “Don’t worry, it’s just like sewing. You know how to sew, right?”
“No, I don’t actually.” It was a half lie– I could sew buttons on shirts, that was simple. I could hem my pants in a pinch, albeit creating a new design of slight diagonal one centimeter threads all around the circumference of my pant leg. But no one’s paying attention right?
“Oh well, fine, give it a try and I’ll watch.” I took the needle driver and forceps from him, and began to suture. I kept my focus on each stitch, knowing he was watching intently. “It looks good so far…” He paused. “Can you cook?”
I wasn’t sure what the relevance of this question was. Too focused on the task at hand, I quickly replied, “No.”
“You can’t sew, you can’t cook… What can you do?”
I nearly dropped the surgical equipment. I immediately looked at the nurse with a gaze that read, “You have got to be kidding me right now” which she mirrored. My face grew red behind my surgical mask. I cleared my throat and said, “I don’t know what I can do, but you can check your gender roles.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Then he brushed it off his own words, saying it was a joke.
I knew that society had engraved this mindset into him without him even realizing. I knew that this was not a rare occurrence in his OR when the nurse gave me a high five after we scrubbed out.
At this point I knew that even in medicine, elements of sexism are still thriving. And that is just a shame.