Like most women, Jen* needed to go in for her annual exam with a gynecologist.
Due to positive reviews, she found online, she chose an OB/GYN practicing in NYC, the city she resides in. It was supposed to simply be the typical routine annual exam.
She went in. She sat down and filled out her paperwork. She was called in, and she put her feet in the stirrups. They did the routine check-up exams such as a Pap smear, STI check, check for cancerous/precancerous cells, etc.
She had no qualms about this appointment and saw it as a regular exam.
But two weeks later, shit hit the fan.
She received a frightening phone call from the doctor’s office claiming that her test results had come in, and she needed to come in for a follow-up appointment. As per regulations, the receptionist could not give her any information over the phone. Completely stressed out (as any woman would be upon hearing this ambiguous news), she made a follow-up appointment immediately.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
The day of the follow-up, Jen and Mark* arrived early for Jen’s appointment.
She was nervous and had to wait an excruciating 70 minutes before she was called back for her appointment – despite showing up early. When she was finally called back, she indicated to the nurse that she did not want to be told what her weight was – she has, after all, struggled with an eating disorder for many years.
And after six years of not knowing her weight, this particular nurse made sure that Jen finally found out – despite Jen’s requests. In this instance, a medical professional did not respect her wishes and was completely inappropriate. This blatant disregard, Jen has stated, was “emotionally traumatizing, ignorant, and insensitive. This oversight was careless and incredibly damaging to me.”
After her weight was taken, Jen was sent back to the waiting room for another hour before being called in to speak with the doctor. In a statement shared with The Tempest, she shared the details of the experience.
“When we were finally called in, I told him how upsetting the interaction was with the nurse and how unprofessional I found her bedside manner. Instead of being apologetic, he made light of the situation and belittled my feelings.
When I tried to change the direction of the conversation to discuss what the issue was with my test results, he continued to talk to me about the nature of my eating disorder, pressing me for information I was not comfortable sharing, like what my weight was at the height of my disorder and when I was at my heaviest – all this after I had just finished explaining how difficult it is for me to discuss my weight.
He then inquired about my psychological care and insisted that I must have unresolved issues that I should address with regular counseling sessions. I politely indicated that I do have a good system and various coping skills in place for myself after being in recovery for so many years and that asking not to hear the number on the scale when being weighed while at the doctor is one of them. My boyfriend even tried to jump in and help clarify why this was so upsetting to me, but we were both brushed off and not listened to.
Again, I tried to steer the conversation toward my test results. He reluctantly began walking me through each result one by one – all coming up negative, but he paused occasionally to ask what I thought the problem was. Frustrated at this point and near tears, I told him I did not know and begged him to let me know at last what was wrong. He then told me there was no issue and that I was in the “top 5% of Americans with such perfect test results.”
Dumbfounded and confused, I asked why it had been necessary for me to come into the office in the first place since customarily, negative results don’t warrant a phone call or a follow-up with the doctor – only problematic/positive ones do. Completely ignoring this fact, he reverted and spoke some more about how he thought I might benefit from counseling and acknowledged how supportive my boyfriend was as we got up to leave.
He ended the meeting by turning to my boyfriend and stating “don’t leave her, the poor girl” – as if I wasn’t standing right in front of him.
Completely dumbfounded, our only response was to wander down the hall while our rage at his chauvinistic attitude and comments started to push our shock aside. As we were making our exit, the same nurse who violated my request for a blind weight informed me the visit would be a $25 copay.”
Jen was completely undermined and ignored throughout this entire process. This is problematic because a gynecologist is a doctor that specifically works with women and should listen to his or her patient, but that obviously didn’t happen.
Hell, even Mark got a handshake while Jen was the one who was put down, even though she was a complete badass for beating her eating disorder.
Unfortunately, this is the reality many women face when confronted with men in positions of authority.
Men are constantly trying to create laws governing women’s bodies and accessibility to contraceptives. A man may feel comfortable walking home alone at night while a woman does not have that option, or if she does walk and gets raped, then it was her fault for walking alone – and we see this countlessly in our justice system!
Men can wear their clothes differently while women are scrutinized and blamed for being a distraction for the boys. Men always seem to have the upper hand in this world and assume that they know everything.
And well, this doctor did not know everything here. He hurt Jen and caused her suffering that was completely unneeded. He could have even set her back on her recovery path from her eating disorder and causing irreparable damage.
You are a woman of the world. Do not wait for Jen’s story to become yours as well.
*The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the subjects interviewed.