Like the air we breathe

I read the following paragraph and had an interesting reaction: If you had a brain tumor being cut out you would want it done by the brain surgeon who had the best reputation. If a particular surgeon was head of surgery at your city’s best hospital, highly experienced, and would give you the best chance of a positive outcome, she is who you would want doing the surgery. And if she charged a bit more than the competition, you would be happy to pay.

My reaction was a little jump of surprise when I realised that the head of surgery being referred to was a women.

That’s especially interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my mum is a highly successful and celebrated doctor who has headed up a unit in a major hospital, so I’m not exactly foreign to the idea of a female doctor in a senior position.

But even more interesting I was reading my own writing! When I read that paragraph I was proofreading my own book, and reading something that I had written a couple of months earlier. And I was still surprised that the doctor in question was a woman.

I think my reaction is a reflection of cultural sexism that is almost like the air we breathe – we can’t see it. I’m not boorishly sexist. I don’t wolf whistle. I’m respectful and will actually go into battle when I see women being disrespected.

And yet sexism is so deeply ingrained in our society, and consequently in me, that even when it shows up in a paragraph that I wrote myself, I’m surprised to see a women in that role.

It’s something that I’ve become hypersensitive to having my own little girl.

I’d love to hear your thoughts– what do you think of this whole issue? You can leave them below.