As a Woman in Cardiology, I am rather immune to inappropriate comments by colleagues about me, nurses, or women in general. Good, or bad, it became a mode of survival in a male-dominated profession.
One particular morning, I was charting at the nurses station. A cardiothoracic surgeon, much my senior, stated “Is that a new lipstick you are wearing”. “Yes,” I replied. “I would really love to taste it.” I immediately wiped it off, feeling violated. I never wore lipstick to that hospital again.
I have a reputation for being “feisty.” I am good at what I do; I don’t tolerate bullshit, and am a hard worker. At that moment, I said nothing, NOTHING. I wilted like a flower. If I could have, I would have melted into the generic beige hospital walls.
Why did I remain silent? Why did I cower? Why wasn’t I true to myself, to whom I thought I was?
I have asked myself these questions repeatedly. I suppose I was shocked. Shocked that those words were spoken, shocked that I was not respected as a true equal. When I am really honest with myself, the truth is that I thought I was one of them. I thought I was part of the “boys’ club.” I had put in the hours as an intern, resident, and fellow. I did compressions just as well as the men. I did procedures just as well as the men. I did shots with the men. I didn’t cry, I didn’t whine, I showed up EVERY SINGLE DAY.
The reality is that, in his eyes, I was just a woman, a woman who was wearing pretty lipstick. Just writing those words stirs up feelings of failure. I truly believed that I had proven to my colleagues that I was in some way genderless. I believed that I was moving the needle farther to the right.
Why did I start wearing lipstick again? I found hope, strength in numbers. Social media has joined together thousands of women, from across specialties and regions of the country. My story is not unique. My story stacked upon other stories, from thousands of women, is not a whisper; it is a loud, commanding voice. The voice of these women has inspired me to be true to myself. Yes, I am feisty, but I am also feminine. I don’t have to act like a man to be effective. I can run codes in a dress, put devices in while wearing stilettos, if I so choose. I am equally effective, competent, and commanding.
I ask you to wear your lipstick and show up every day proud to be a Woman In Medicine.
Lipstick and Life Lessons
by Dr. Suzy Feigofsky
Dr. Feigofsky is a guest blogger for InCrowd this month. You can learn more about her here. This is a part of a series of women in medicine sharing their experiences when we asked, “What does it mean to you to be a woman in medicine?” Check our blog for upcoming pieces and you can find our previous pieces here:
Interested in participating? Reach out to us via firstname.lastname@example.org.