Just as the women of the world (and some men too) made their respective remarks on International Women’s Day, commenting on how far we’ve come in terms of feminism and how far we’ve still to go, along comes one vascular surgeon to arguably take us back a considerable number of steps.
Surgeon Gabrielle McMullin, formerly educated at Trinity College Dublin, has been on the receiving end of a whole wave of backlash after ‘advising’ women in the medical profession that they’d be best off bowing down to all manner of sexual requests put forward to them by the men in their field for fear that saying no would do them out of a job. Yes, in so many words, this is what she said. After the launch of her book Pathways to Gender Equality – The Role of Merit and Quotas, she stated:
“What I tell my trainees is that, if you are approached for sex, probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request; the worst thing you can possibly do is to complain to the supervising body because then, as in Caroline’s position, you can be sure that you will never be appointed to a major public hospital”
Is this really the ‘worst’ thing you can do?
Strange that a co-author of a book with the words ‘gender equality’ in the title would utter such words.
Now clearly, if it is true that women will be sidelined in the medical profession for saying no, then it’s a major problem that needs fixing. Obviously and no doubt, McMullin knows that. But this, in our opinion, is not how you go about remedying a totally sexist, abuse of power. You don’t say ‘well now, if you want that promotion you’d better get down on your knees.’ (she didn’t say these words exactly, we’re paraphrasing, of course). You discuss how this needs to change, how it’s absolutely not okay and how women deserve to be treated as equals in the medical profession.
Dr McMullin referred to a woman called Caroline, who took a case against a surgeon accused of sexually assaulting her while she completed neurosurgical training at a Melbourne hospital. She said: “Her career was ruined by this one guy asking for sex on this night. And, realistically, she would have been much better to have given him a blow job on that night.”
Was McMullin’s message muddled in a bad choice of words? Do you take what she says as ‘ironic’ (as she explained later on)? Do you think these kinds of statements are helpful? Are we taking her up the wrong way entirely?
Since making these comments on Australian radio, McMullin’s comments have been labelled ‘irresponsible’ and ‘appalling’ by those companies working to combat sexual assault and domestic violence. The TCD trained doctor stands by her words, however.
“Of course I don’t condone any form of sexual harassment, and the advice that I gave to potential surgical trainees was irony, but unfortunately that is the truth at the moment — that women do not get supported if they make a complaint,” she has since told the ABC.
What’s your take on the whole thing?