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Old 18 April 2014, 04:31 PM
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Default Does motivation matter in bigotry?

So the other day I was talking with a co-worker and the topic of gender of your doctor (or nurse or whomever is going to be working with you) came up. I commented about how even today there is this weird concept that women should not be doctors, perhaps not held outright but a general distrust about them even if it's unconscious.

We also talked about how, in our experiences, it was very uncommon for a male patient to request a male doctor over a female doctor, but very common for the reverse to happen (a female patient to request a female doctor over a male one). Looked at in isolation this seems like run of the mill bigotry, you are rejecting a provider for no other reason beyond their gender; however, of course, there is more to it in the real world. There may well be issues this particular woman has with a male provider, particularly if it's a more intimate procedure or examination, that is helping to modulate her thinking. She didn't hate men, or think that men would make bad doctors necessarily, but she was uncomfortable with a male doctor at least in certain cases.

So that seemed pretty reasonable, her action was at face value bigoted but her motivation changed the perception.. But then we started coming up with other hypotheticals; does your motivation 'count' if you reject a black doctor, or an asian one? What about a young one or an old one? A handicapped one?

What about elsewhere in life? A while back there was a thread about a police officer who felt his career in law enforcement had created a bias against black people (as, in his words, they were the majority of the violent criminals he dealt with in his area). If bad experiences with men is an agreeable motivation for bigoted behavior in women, would the same not be true for race relations?

These are just a few hypothetical (and a few real world) examples, you could come up with nearly an endless list; the main question is should bigotry be something that we look at on it's own (you are either bigoted or you aren't) or should the motivation for that bigotry be considered (if you are bigoted for a reason that is socially acceptable it's ok, or at least less wrong)?

Obviously the former is a bit 'black and white' (excuse the pun) for such a complex issue, but the latter really creates some big problems as it turned the idea of bigotry (which already has a lot of gray areas in it) into an issue which is basically only gray areas as 'bigotry' is in the eye of the beholder and now 'motivation/excuse' is in the eye of the beholder as well.

Just curious what people think.
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Old 18 April 2014, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
We also talked about how, in our experiences, it was very uncommon for a male patient to request a male doctor over a female doctor, but very common for the reverse to happen (a female patient to request a female doctor over a male one).
That women are more likely than men to request a doctor of the same sex does not necessarily mean that they women are more likely than men to prefer a doctor of the same sex. Until relatively recently, it was a pretty safe bet that a man would get a doctor of the same sex without having to request one.
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Old 18 April 2014, 04:47 PM
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I am reaching a point in life now where even if I wanted a doctor who was older than me it's not terribly likely to happen - or at least they won't be all that much older than me . However I do remember back when I was in my 20s asking the doctor who was helping deliver my child how old he was. I was somewhat, but not completely, reassured to learn he was 2 years older than me. I guess that was bigotry on my part but on the other hand I don't think it's completely unreasonable to expect your doctor to have some experience under his or her belt.

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Until relatively recently, it was a pretty safe bet that a man would get a doctor of the same sex without having to request one.
Remember that old riddle about the man who dies in an accident but the son survives and when rushed to the hospital the doctor can't operate because "this boy is my son"? I was appalled a few years ago to hear that riddle and there were people in the gathering who couldn't figure out the answer. It was one thing 40 years ago but now?

Last edited by Sue; 18 April 2014 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 18 April 2014, 04:49 PM
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Lainie, that's an excellent point.
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Old 18 April 2014, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
That women are more likely than men to request a doctor of the same sex does not necessarily mean that they women are more likely than men to prefer a doctor of the same sex. Until relatively recently, it was a pretty safe bet that a man would get a doctor of the same sex without having to request one.
Just to clarify, I have no idea if this [women preferring same-sex doctors over men] is true or not, just in our experience we found it far less common for men to request a male doctor when they got a female one than the reverse; these are contemporary anecdotes based on our single place of work and isn't meant to imply this is the truth worldwide - however while I haven't taken a count there are not a significantly different number of male vs female doctors at least in our unit. So that particular issue would not be significant for our single data point.

But yea it was more a jumping off point for the idea, even i they were even (or heck even if it was more common for men to ask) it wouldn't change the central question; does the motivation for the request matter, and if it does does that logic carry to all forms of bigotry?
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:00 PM
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I wouldn't say that a woman who prefers a female doctor because she is more comfortable with a person of the same sex examining her is bigoted. "Bigotry" generally involves strong negative feelings towards a particular group, and our hypothetical woman doesn't necessarily have anything against male doctors, she would just prefer not to have her doctor be male. I wouldn't say it necessarily involves any stereotypes or prejudice, either.

However, it is clearly gender discrimination. So for me the question is more "Does motivation matter in discrimination?" And to me, clearly the answer is yes.

Most of the time, discrimination on the basis of gender or race is bad. Much of this is because such discrimination usually involves bigotry, prejudice, stereotypes, or other problematic attitudes. Another part is because such discrimination often has harmful effects.

But if a person's discrimination is not born of harmful attitudes and does not have harmful effects, then I would say such discrimination is not necessarily bad. I think the case of a woman preferring a female doctor is often in this class, and often perfectly fine.
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:33 PM
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For discrimination, intent and reasons totally matter. There are times that it is perfectly appropriate to discriminate. Acting is an example; if I am casting someone to play Martin Luther King Jr, then discriminating against non-black, non-males is fine. Unless you are making some larger point, it is a good thing. There are probably other examples, but this was the first, most obvious I could think of.

Now, if your reasons are "X group makes better/worse doctors", that is bad. If it is "X gender doctor might get a thrill from seeing my naughty bits" it is harder to say. I doubt most do, but a doctor is a person first, and training cannot completely wash away purient urges. So there is a low but non-zero risk that a doctor who is attracted to your gender might get a thrill from the exam.

As to the difference in rates, it may be that males care less (although they may care more if the doctor in question was gay; as a society we seem to expect men's interest to be more aggressive), or it may be that females are considered less likely to be sexually interested so the risk is less. Or it may just be the aforesaid idea that males are more aggressive in their interest. The motives behind choosing or not choosing a doctor are more complex than for most other instances of discrimination.
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:40 PM
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The possibility of sexual interest isn't the only reason a woman might prefer a female doctor, of course. Women may be more strongly socialized to be modest about exposing their body to the opposite sex, for example.
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:51 PM
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But isn't the root reason of that sexual interest?
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:55 PM
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Not necessarily, IMO.
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Old 18 April 2014, 09:57 PM
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They might also want to explain certain issues to a woman because she has the same reproductive organs and can understand in a way a man cannot. Just a woman cannot understand, say, prostate issues the way a man can.

I'm not saying the other doctors can't do a good job. I'm talking about personal intimate experience.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:01 PM
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I remember as a teenager already embarrassed to be purchasing feminine hygiene products vastly preferring to do from a female shop assistant. That wasn't about either bigotry or sexual interest.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:08 PM
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I'm also not sure how perfect we should expect people to be when dealing with the intimate details of their own health. Is it more important to show no signs of discrimination, or more important to be comfortable enough with one's doctor to be able to obtain the care one needs? Obviously there should be limits, but I'm not sure that perfect nondiscrimination is where that limit should be when it comes to, say, one's primary care physician.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:14 PM
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I meant isn't the cultural norm of female clothing and how much must be covered at root about sexual interest? That motivation is obvious when the norm is a full burka, but isn't the norm that female nipples must be covered while male nipples are fine the same thing?

Now, some of the reason might be that a woman may have had the same issues themselves. I imagine many men find it easier to discuss erectile issues or other strictly male complaints with a male doctor. That is not based on sexual interest, of course. And there may be other considerations that are also not. I didn't mean to imply that my theories covered every possible situation. I still think it covers a lot of them, even if it is on a subconscious or cultural level.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:23 PM
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I don't think it is sexual. I was more embarrassed to have to show a female doctor a skin infection in a very intimate area than I was to show a male doctor an infected cyst on my breast. I think it is a cultural taboo about baring one's private parts. Our doctors get a pass because we build a relationship with them and trust them.
I wouldn't be thrilled if I had to go to a male gynecologist but I would deal. However when an ER doctor tried to look down my underwear, ostensibly for a stent, I slapped his hand away.
Sexual thrills wouldn't be my concern. I honestly think that if you are looking at female bodies all day, every day, that any sexual interest doesn't last very long.
It's the same way you look at children differently once you are a teacher. When it is your job, day in and day out, it affects you. It has to.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:39 PM
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I meant isn't the cultural norm of female clothing and how much must be covered at root about sexual interest?
I knew what you meant when I answered the question, FTR.

My mother socialized me not to be unclothed around my brothers. I don't think she did that because she thought they'd be sexually interested in their baby sister.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:55 PM
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To answer the original question, I'll give you an experience I had that made me very uncomfortable.

When I was doing research on sexual assault for my dissertation, I transcribed interviews of women's experiences after sexual assault. One woman came right out and said that because her attacker was Black, she was prejudiced against Black men.

I'm glad I wasn't the interviewer because I think I would have been totally stumped about how to proceed. Our training is very specific in not blaming victims for the reactions that they have as a result of sexual assault. And I doubt that anything I would have said to her would have changed her mind about Black men. I would have probably frozen up. The interviewer did not and probed her answers non-judgmentally and completely, but I couldn't help but dislike the interviewee for the racist things she said during the interview. I still sympathized with her, but I disliked her. I also never personally interacted with her, so my dislike of her never affected her in any way.
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Old 18 April 2014, 10:57 PM
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A similar example to mine and the one above I thought about later is the issue I've heard about people coming home from war in the Pacific and having an ingrained aversion to Asians.
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Old 18 April 2014, 11:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellestar View Post
To answer the original question, I'll give you an experience I had that made me very uncomfortable.

When I was doing research on sexual assault for my dissertation, I transcribed interviews of women's experiences after sexual assault. One woman came right out and said that because her attacker was Black, she was prejudiced against Black men.
Maybe it's because in both of those situations that cultural group is "the enemy," the one to be scared of. There also might be elements of PTSD.

Ellestar, I can't put myself there so I don't know. But what if she said, I got referred to a gynecologist a while after and I had to go to someone else because it was a black man? Would that have been okay? Just curious.

It's also worth wondering whether that was her first - I don't know how to put it - introduction to a black person. There are still areas that are very white. If she didn't grow up personally knowing people of other races all her life and then the first one she meets rapes her...but that idea seems pretty farfetched.
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Old 19 April 2014, 12:14 AM
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My memories are fuzzy about the exact words she used, but she was pretty upfront about not liking Black men. She also talked about other stereotypes about them that didn't have anything to do with violence or feeling unsafe. She didn't use epithets, but I remember feeling ill at some of the things I had to transcribe her saying. I do think that she said that she was not prejudiced before her assault.

IIRC, there is no way that she would have had a male Black doctor. As I said, part of me is sympathetic. But the extent to which she took her reaction, falling completely into a racist mindset, just seems too far.
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