Emilie offered to let me guest post on her blog, because I had something on my mind. I apologize in advance if this post isn’t up to Emilie’s high standards. You see, I had surgery today. I’m doing fine, if a little tired. But the important thing is that the surgery made me think about how completely normal it was. Don’t worry, that strange statement isn’t the result of some left over anesthetic muddling my brain function. And I’m not talking about how easy it is to take all the amazing medical technology that allowed my doctor to root around inside my innards and fix my broken heart. I’m talking about how much I took for granted that everyone on my medical team was a woman. I didn’t even realize that until I was describing what happened to Emilie. It is wonderful and amazing how normal that is.
If my father had undergone a similar surgery at my age (he is 39 years older than I am), it would have been extraordinary if a woman in the operating room had been anything other than a nurse. Go back barely more than a century before that and it would have been amazing if any of the nurses would have been women. Of course there probably would have been more saws, more leeches, and terrible hygiene problems as well.
I would like to take a moment and give our society a collective pat on the back for how far we have come in such a relatively short time. Attitudes about women still have a long way to go, and it is important to remember how deeply ingrained some of our sexist attitudes still are (as common responses to this appropriate riddle often show). Sometimes, though, when we focus on where we are headed, it is easy to forget just how much we have accomplished.
I want to thank my amazing doctor, the kind and skilled nurses who assisted her, and the resident who will one day be an amazing doctor herself. I don’t thank you because you are women, but because you are excellent at your jobs. While I’m at it, thank you Florence Nightengale for making nursing a respected and professional occupation. Thank you Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from a US medical school. Thank you Anna Howard Shaw who was not only a pioneering doctor, but also a tireless suffragist. You and all of the other women who have worked so hard to get us to where we are today have saved my life. Thank you.