Friday, June 29, 2007

As a little girl growing up I always wanted to be a nurse or a marine biologist, basically wanting to do an occupation that as a female was expected of me by society. As I got older I began to move away from these stereotypical occupations and finally when I entered college I realized I wanted to be a Medical Examiner with specific training in clinical forensic pathology.

"A medical examiner is a licensed physician with particular expertise in investigating violent, sudden and unexpected, suspicious or unattended deaths... A forensic pathologist is a branch of medicine that deals with diagnosis of disease and cause of death by means of laboratory examination of body fluids(clinical pathology), cell samples (cytology), and tissues (pathological anatomy)" (1).

Many people when I say medical examiner they think of a coroner. A coroner on the other hand is someone who is basically in the same profession, but they are not medical physicians and are not alloted the same amount of responsibility and don't make as much money. A medical examiner basically performs autopsies and takes samples of bodily fluid, cells and tissues to determine the cause of the person's death. They are also expert witnesses and can be called upon in court to provide a reasonable explanation to how the death of the person happened, especially in murder cases. Most people stereotype medical examiners as being very morbid people who are overly fascinated with death and in reality they are normal people who have such a love for life that they want to study death and the causes of death so that they can help prolong the lives of others.

To become a medical examiner with specific training in clinical forensic pathology the person has to first graduate with a four year Bachelor's degree in almost any major of their choice. Once they have attained this degree they must then attend a four year medical school and earn either a M.D. or a D.O. degree. After medical school they must then spend four years training in anatomic pathology and an additional year training in forensic pathology. These five years training are like a residency where they work under a medical examiner and get paid a reasonable wage. Once they complete these five years of training they are then eligible to take the test to become certified by the American Board of Pathology (1). So basically they spend thirteen years in school/training, nine of which they are actually focusing on medicine and pathology. I know that seems like a long time in school, but in the end it is worth all the hard work, because not only are they using a detective style of science/medicine and determining someones final story of their life, but they are helping prolong the lives of everyone in society.

The salary of a medical examiner ranges from about $87,812- 216,265 as a practitioner to way more than that if they hold a managerial position in the field. (2) I wasn't able to find specific salary ranges for men and women in this particular occupational field, but I was able to find statistics regarding the salary differences in the medical profession as a whole. On the Feminist Majority Foundation page dealing with Women in Medicine they stated that "by 1988, female doctors earned 62.8 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned" (3). This means that women on average are making about 37.2 cents less than a man who has the same amount of education and the same about of occupational experience. 37 cents may not seem like a huge difference, but when you do the math this equals out to be thousands of dollars difference between men and women. To conceptualize this difference you can go to the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation that has a State-by-State data listing of the differences between men and women's educational attainment and earnings. (4) This data list isn't specific for the medical field, but rather for all occupations on average. These salary differences are attributed to a variety of factors. First and foremost, as we have seen in our Women's Studies text, these differences are attributed to social constructions of our society. Men, in general, are valued more in our society and because of this our society believes that they should represent that through men and women's salaries. (5) Secondly, men in our society believe that they hold more power and prestige over women and if they were being paid the same wages as women then they wouldn't feel like they had more prestige than a woman in the same occupation. (5) Basically it is all about a power trip for men. Thirdly, I think that some of these salary differences can be attributed to the fact that the medical profession is a predominately male profession, with 84% of physicians being male. (3)

These differences in the number of women in the medical field can first be seen in the enrollment of female students in medical school. The American Medical Women's Association stated on their website that "women comprised just over 45% of applicants and new students at U.S. medical schools in 1999-2000. The proportion of women medical residents increased from 28% of all residents in 1989 to 38% in 1999, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges" (6). These statistics also show that the medical profession is also becoming more and more female oriented. Women are slowly becoming more interested in the medical profession and deciding to attend medical school. The difference can also be seen in the proportion of female professors in medical schools compared to male professors; Assistant Professors- 15% women and 25% men, Associate Professors- 6% women and 15% men, and Full Professors- 4% women and 20% men. (7) I also use these statistics to show that their is an under-representation of women in the medical field and it is hard to fight for equality with there isn't a large population fighting for the same cause. It is also hard to encourage other women to enter the medical field when there is such a small percentage of women who have actually gone through all the hard work and have made it to the level of a professor.

In the medical field not only is their a huge disproportion in salary between men and women, but there is also a huge disproportion of men and women in different subfields. First of all I already stated that 84% of physicians are male, but 97% of nurses are women. (3) This statistic shows the biases that surround the medical field. It shows how our society believes that men should be the doctors and women the nurses. Of the 16% of women who are practicing physicians, many of these "women cluster in the four lowest- paid specialties: general family practice, pediatrics, psychiatry, and internal medicine. Together, these specialties account for 70% of women physicians. Surgery and its various specialties, which not only command the highest incomes but also the highest public confidence, are comprised of only 8% women" (3). One of the reasons that women make less money in the medical field is because the fact that they work in the lower paid subfields. For example, Family practitioners make about $156,010 a year, pediatrics make about $161,331 a year, psychiatrists make about $180,000 a year, and internal medicine makes about $166,420 a year. On the other hand surgeons make about $282,504 a year. (8) So when more women become surgeons and other higher paying physicians the average salaries may begin to even out between men and women in the medical field.

These differences in women and men being in different subfields could relate to the fact that many women are considered nurturers and good listeners and that is why they choose to do pediatrics and psychiatry while some men are more oriented toward fixing and repairing things like what surgeons do in the body. A lot of the time women are viewed as enable to perform the same jobs as men. For example, many men believe that women wouldn't be able to perform surgeries, because of they would get sick at the sight of blood. This bias is going to be the same bias that I myself will probably have to face as I head farther in to my occupational field. I myself have always been considered a tom boy and have never been scared to participate in the same activities as the guys. I'm one of those people that can sit all day and watch the surgery channel and eat lunch and not be bothered one bit. I just think that it is a very unfair bias to believe that females, because they are supposed to be delicate and sweet can't handle to see and deal with the same situations as males. There are all kinds of biases and barriers surrounding women entering in to the medical profession. Everyone needs some sort social support to make it easier to attain their goals and when men all around them, ranging from their father to their teacher or their intimate partner, it makes it hard for them to have faith and confidence in themselves.

I obtained information from a number of valuable organizations that were working to make it easier for women to better themselves and to become more represented in the medical field. A few of the major organizations were the Feminist Majority Foundation and the American Medical Women's Association. The Feminist Majority Foundation are working to get women on the board of association like American Medical Association. They basically want women to be able to move up in rank and not be held down by the glass ceiling that our society has constructed. The American Medical Women's Association is working to help women get in to the medical field by providing scholarships and grants to women who want to pursue a medical career. They also provide and develop leadership, education, mentoring and strategic alliances. With providing leadership, education and mentoring it is helping break down the barriers that are holding women back from entering the higher paying subfields and also making it possible for women to attain the same salaries as their male counterparts.

I plan on helping make a change to these barriers and biases by showing men that women are just as smart and are just as motivated as men when it comes to attaining the goals that they set their eyes on. I'm sure along the way that there will be a man who will try to put me down and tell me that I can't do it, in fact I have already come across a few here at Virginia Tech, but I'm not going to let them stop me. I also want to be a role model for other young ladies who may want to be a medical examiner. I think that it is important to get out in the community and make your presence known and make a difference in people's lives all around you. By participating in organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, I can mentor a young lady their and make sure that she knows that anything she sets her dreams on can become a reality as long as she stays focused. I also want to become a leading member in the medical field. You can't expect changes to happen if you just sit back and wait till someone else makes a stand. Talk is cheap and until you take action for yourself very little things will get accomplished.


(1) Career Guide to Medical Examiner

(2) Department of Human Resource Management

(3) Feminist Majority Foundation

(4) American Association of University Women Educational Foundation

(5) Women's Studies Text

Shaw, Susan M., Lee, Janet. (2007). Women's Voices Feminist Visions. New York, NY: McGraw Hill

(6) American Medical Women's Association

(7) Association of American Medical Colleges

(8) U.S. Department of Laboratory

Friday, June 22, 2007

Critical Response Journal #3

In the beginning of this Women's Studies course we began by discussing the social construction of gender roles and expectations and then slowly moved in to much heavier topics regarding violence against women. In Chapter 3 of our textbook in the reading, The Social Construction of Gender, by Judith Lorber, she discusses how gender is a process of creating distinguishable social statuses for the assignment of rights and responsibilities (142). She also goes on to say that, "As part of a stratification system, gender ranks men above women of the same race and class.... When gender is a major component of structural inequality, the devalued genders (femininity) have less power, prestige, and economic rewards than the valued genders (masculinity)" (142-143). I use these examples from Judith Lorber to show that gender is a social construction of our society and that in our society certain genders, men, are valued more and hold much more power over the devalued genders, women. The readings on science and technology, that were assigned, also help to further make the point that gender is a social construction. Men have continuously throughout time worked to make it known that men are superior and should have much more power and rights over women. Basically leading men to believe that they can control women and take advantage of them in any way that they see fit.

These aspects of gender really tie in to the issue of sexual violence against women. In Chapter 10 of our text, we begin to address the issues surrounding violence against women. The authors state, "Violence against women must be understood in the context of socially constructed notions of gender. If boys are raised to hide emotions, see sensitivity as a weakness, and view sexual potency as wound up with interpersonal power, and girls are raised to be dependent and support masculine entitlement, then interpersonal violence should be no surprise" (556). They also go on to say, "Violence by men is a power issue and must be seen as related to masculine dominance in society generally as represented in interpersonal relationships and in control of political systems that address crime and create policy" (557). The authors here are showing that boys are raised to believe that they have power and control over women and are entitled to whatever they want from women, including their bodies.

These readings from the textbook and other handouts have lead me to believe that the social construction of gender roles and expectations go hand-in-hand with sexual violence against women. Our society leads men to believe that they can have and do whatever they want to women and women should just give in, because men have more power and control and are entitled to it. Our society has made men believe that they should have power and control in all aspects of their lives. The men that are committing these horrible crimes are doing so to show that they have power over something or someone in their lives, where they may not in other aspects of their lives. It's all about dominating someone and having full control over them. It is a sad thought to think that our society is partially responsible for these horrible acts being done to women. What makes it worse is that our society and court system, both designed by men, make it even harder for women to press charges against their attacker and move on with their lives. Society places blame on these women for what has happened to them and forces them to relive the horrible event. These women are made to believe that the way that they dress or the way that they behave made these men act in a certain way and these men are not completely at fault for what they did. If society wasn't constructed in this way maybe some men wouldn't find it necessary to be in control and take advantage of women and commit horrible sexually violent crimes against them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Violence against Women

I obtained some very interesting statistics about violence against women from the National Organization for Women website (NOW). I used the statistics that follow to conduct my four interviews:

“Murder: Every day 4 women die as a result of domestic violence totaling 1,400 women a year.

Battering: 572,000 reports of assault are reported each year. 170,000 of these are serious enough to require hospitalization, emergency room care or doctor’s attention.

Sexual Assault: 132,000 women report being victims of rape and more than half know their attacker. Two to six times that many are raped and don’t report it. Every year 1.2 million women are forcibly raped by their current or former male partners, some more than once.

Women are ten times more likely than men to be victimized by an intimate person.”

I interviewed two of my close friends, one female and one male, my boyfriend and also my mother to get their opinions and reactions to women being victims of violence. After I read these statistics to these four people they all had the same first general reaction to the statistics. They were all very surprised by the enormous numbers of women that were victims. A few of them were even more surprised by the number of women who are actually raped and never reported the incident. Thankfully none of them had any personal stories that they could share about their experiences dealing with this issue. I went on to ask each one what they believed was the cause of all this violence against women. Most of their answers were the same, but varied slightly. The females felt that it was because the men that carry out these acts were insecure with themselves and felt like they needed to show that they could control someone in their lives, basically to show that they have some power over someone that they view as weak. The men on the other hand kind of felt that women who are very flirtatious kind of bring on the negative attention, which leads men to believe that they are loose and they are entitled to their bodies. They weren’t saying that women were at fault for this happening to them cause most of the women that are beaten and battered do nothing to bring it on, but the women that go out to bars and wear really skimpy clothing portray the wrong idea. Both groups, male and female, felt that men who have very little social interaction with women, maybe because they are shy or not as attractive, rape women because that is the only way that they can get any kind of intimate relationship with that particular woman. Most of the people felt that if women felt more comfortable reporting what happened to them then more women would be more likely to tell the police and press charges against their attacker and maybe that would cut down on the number of rapes. There is such a negative stigma surrounding the court system when it comes to when women have to go to trial to have their attackers charged. They also felt that if there were stronger punishments for rape and murder of women then it would decrease the number of men who actually commit the crimes. The murder and battery of women should also be considered a hate crime and this also goes along with the stronger punishment idea. The men felt that maybe women should dress more conservatively and not give off the wrong persona, again they weren’t blaming the females but they just felt like it leads men on.

I thought that this was a valuable experience, because it kind of brought to light the different perceptions that men and women have about why these horrible crimes are being committed. Men are more likely to try to put some fault on the women involved instead of realizing that men are fully in control of their own actions and reactions. I myself was pretty surprised by the statistics that I found on the NOW website. I mean I knew that women were being murdered, battered and raped, but I had no idea that the numbers were that large. I agree with what the interviewees were saying about what should be done to eliminate these problems, but I think that it will take a long time before any drastic changes are made and by then millions of lives will have been wasted. I just hope and pray that these issues never hit me close to home.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Distortion Of Beauty

I truly feel that the "Evolution Film" should be aired on television and played in all schools across the country. I know that there are a lot of people in society that know that models are masked in a lot of make-up and edited on computer, but I really don't think that people realize how much they do to make them look perfect. The woman in the film wasn't a bad looking person to begin with, but she definitely didn't look like the same person when they were all done with her. I mean no wonder young girls and full grown women have such distorted images of what they should look like. The media portrays these glamorous pictures of women who seem so perfect in every way and in reality those pictures don't resemble the person at all. I guarantee that the women in the film doesn't even recognize herself when she has all that make-up on and after they edit her pictures.

This film just shows that the contemporary idea of beauty is a complete fake! I really just don't understand why the media and magazines can't just put a little make-up on someone and just leave the pictures alone after they take them. Why is it necessary to make her seem "perfect?" Is it their intentions to destroy so many young ladies self-esteems and distort the idea of what beauty really is? Magazine ads and billboards are the reason why so many young women in society make themselves sick and kill themselves to look like that and then don't understand why they can't. Well it's because it is literally impossible, unless you can edit the way people see you. I honestly believe that the media is responsible for the distortion of the beauty idea. I just really find it ridiculous! I mean I see so many young ladies walking down the street that don't have any make-up on and I find them way more attractive than other young ladies who obviously have a whole lot of make-up on. I personally don't wear any make-up at all, except for a little eye-liner and eye shadow occasionally, but I think that women look so much more gorgeous when they are natural looking than fake. I just really wish that people could see the beauty inside of themselves and realize that men find it way more attractive to see a woman wearing little or no make-up than another woman who is fully masked with the stuff. I mean they are eventually going to have to see you with out all that make-up on and in the end they are going to feel cheated, because that isn't really who you are.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Critical Response Journal #2

Gender is what it means to be a man or woman in today's society. The textbook defines gender as a social characteristic of individuals in our society that is only sometimes consistent with biological sex. Society has created behaviors and attitudes that reflect whether a person is perceived as feminine and masculine based on "norms." The difference between sex and gender is that sex is a biological aspect of determining whether some one is male or female, where gender deals with how society perceives them as male or female. Some one could be biologically male or female, but could be put in to the opposite category based upon their behavior, the clothes they wear and their sexual orientation. A good example of this a flamboyantly gay male who has a high pitched voice, has good taste in fashion and has feminine mannerisms. This gay man is technically male, but to many people in society they have a hard time considering him a man solely based on his "feminine" characteristics. Using this example you can see how closely gender and sexuality go hand-in-hand. Homosexuals are divided in to two genders, masculine or feminine, whether they are gay or lesbian. I say that because even in a homosexual relationship one of the partners is still considered the masculine person in the relationship and the other the feminine person, no matter whether it is a gay or a lesbian partnership. In a heterosexuals relationship, on the other hand, the male is the masculine figure while the female is the feminine figure. In the end the person's sexuality leads society to pass a gender assignment on them whether that gender assignment fits their biological sex assignment.

I've basically explained the aspects of how gender is socially constructed by discussing how society passes judgment on a person based on their behaviors and mannerisms. These expectations of how a male or female should act are taught at an early age and if you don't display these mannerisms you are considered not "normal" and automatically categorized in to the opposite gender. Besides the social construction framework of gender there are other frameworks dealing with how gender is defined. Two other frameworks of gender that are defined in the text are biological and sociobiology/ evolutionary. The biological framework of gender mainly focuses on the role of hormones in the body. These theorists believe that the levels of testosterone/ estrogen in a person can lead to why a person is said to be one gender or the other. For example a biological female may have high levels of testosterone in her body which could cause the female to behave in a more masculine mannerism and the opposite goes for a biological male who may have higher levels of estrogen causing the male to behave in a more feminine mannerism.

The other framework of gender, the sociobiology/ evolutionary displays why a large part of society are heterosexuals. This theory, as defined in the textbook, says that people innately work to spread their genetic material to further their species. This theory correlates to why men try to be seen as a member of the masculine gender and why women try to be seen as a member of the feminine gender to attract members of the opposite sex to reproduce and further spread their genes.

In "Gender in the Transitional World" science and technology were discussed regarding sex and gender. The author discusses that sex and gender are constructs of science. Science mainly focuses on the differences between the sexes which further pushes men to believe that they are superior, because women are different than they are. Science is a very biased subject with men mainly leading the fore front, so it is very easy for them to make biased opinions about how men are better than women. The thing about science is that it is all about theories. Men can easily come up with some random off the wall theory about how they are smarter or some other BS and unless some one takes the time to disprove it people are going to naturally believe it. Technology, on the other hand, basically makes it much easier for people to fit into their gender roles. For example, technology allows people to change their gender and allows people to have better chances at successfully reproducing. Gays or lesbians can go and get a sex change so that they can feel more comfortable in their own skin and finally feel like they fit in to their "gender." Then the whole allowing for people to better reproduce falls under the "normal" gender role that society sees fit for a man and a woman. We discuss science and technology because they hit both sides of the gender biases, one creating gender bias and the other trying to make it easier for some one to fit in to these expectations that are placed upon us by today's society.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Gender Aptitude Test

First of all, wow that test was something else! I had a score of 109, which concluded this: "Gee, it's like you have one hand in respectability and the other hand someplace where both of you like it. You're not always taken for 'normal', are you? In fact, you probably get an infrequent but regular bout of the gender willies from time to time, don't you? And a lot of this gender stuff is probably kinda new to you ... a little scary and a little thrilling, right? Maybe it's time to explore exactly what scares you. Go on ... you know how to be gentle with yourself." I really didn't feel like this explanation of my score really made sense to me at all. I feel like I'm very comfortable with myself and with my gender, whether I fit into a particular mold or not. I personally like to feel comfortable with myself with out fitting into the norm.
Like a lot of the other students were saying I really had a hard time relating to the questions in the Aptitude test and a much harder time trying to find an answer that matched how I felt about each question. It really seemed like the test was designed for a particular set of people or maybe it really didn't apply to anyone at all. I don't know, all I know is that as I read each question and answers I became more and more confused and more and more inpatient with the test all together. I also agree with some of the other things that students were saying dealing with the test seemed to deal with people on the edge of a gender line. Which kind of makes a lot more sense to me as I think about it. A lot of her questions were very odd and I could see how someone who was confused about their identity could responde a lot easier to some of the questions.
I personally don't see how that test could really fit anyone whole heartedly. It was too off the wall for anyone to relate to, especially when it came to the answers.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Gender Equality

One theme that is constantly seen in today’s society is the belief that gender equality already exists and that there is no need to further strive for these goals. These beliefs are shared by a relatively large group of people in society. This group of people mainly consists of upper class White men and women. They tend to feel that gender equality exists, because the problems felt by many others in society are invisible to them. This group of people have no problem with getting a job, for example, or getting what they want out of life. There is no one holding them back or stopping them from pursuing their hopes and dreams. There isn’t anyone standing over their shoulder telling them they can’t succeed and should just stop trying while they are ahead. They have every opportunity in life simply because of their race and their socio-economic status. Where as if you were to ask a Black woman she would whole heartedly say that there are so many gender inequalities present in our society. She would say this because she has to experience these inequalities everyday in her normal life.

I myself am half Black/ half White and come from a middle class family. I feel like gender inequality definitely still exists here in today’s society and it is definitely something that needs to be continuously worked on to achieve. I feel like the more women begin to show that they can do what men do and earn the same level as respect, there will be a greater level of gender equality seen in society. I mostly experience the Black “situation” because of my skin-tone, but at the same time I experience the White “situation” because of the way that I talk and carry myself. When I say the Black “situation” I mean the way people look down on me when they first meet me. They see my skin-tone and think oh she is just some non-intelligent ghetto girl who isn’t going to survive as a Biochemistry/Psychology double major. Then when I start to talk and excel in my area of study people start to make statements saying oh you are the Whitest Black girl that they have ever met, which I think is an unfair stereotype. So I definitely feel both sides of the gender inequality issue, and it is definitely something that I would like to see change about our society.

The concepts that are taught in Women’s Studies definitely fit in with what I’ve said here, that people who have positive experiences in life tend to be oblivious of the gender inequality issues. This can be seen in Patricia Collins’ article, Toward a New Vision, when she addresses some of the points about how White upper class men and women experience different aspects of life when compared to lower class White men and women and Black men and women. The concepts that were addressed in Collins’ article lead me to believe that there is still a tremendous need for Women’s Studies classes. I believe this because some people are just so closed minded and Women’s Studies is all about keeping an open mind and listening to other’s views whether or not you agree or disagree with them. Feminism on the other hand, I feel is a dead or dying race. Feminist are seen in such a negative view and I truly feel that carrying that label is only holding back the men and the women who are fighting for gender equality.