Medical students against male supremacy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Zahra Awaly and Rim Chehab, two third-year medical students in the Lebanese University. They are affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Women’s struggle, intersectional it is but is also very particular. This subject is surrounded by taboo, disregard, and petrified within a system of male supremacy. Thus, advances in this matter need liberated, revolutionary, open-minds; it needs youth. With the physiological scientific scope of this fight and the noxious inequality in health care providence, it seems that a particular group of youth must be on the frontlines: medical students.

According to feminists such as Karen Levy, “women’s medical treatment is connected to very deeply-held ideas about the inferior and deviant nature of women’s bodies.” (1)Thus, as medical students, it is essential to disseminate unbiased scientific facts about female and male bodies: normalizing sexuality in females, demolishing rape culture, tackling puberty within respect to individual differences , and fight stereotypes and high standards that are especially distressing for teenage girls, trans women, and menopause women.  As future doctors, we should keep in mind that women are now entering the medical system as ill no matter how normal their conditions are.(2)

Secondly, supporting females to hold more leading positions as well as forming future female medical leaders is our utmost priority. As stated by the 2014 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 46 percent of residents are female, nevertheless women only make up 16 percent of medical school deans, and 15 percent of department chairs: in the field of surgery, this number goes down to 1 percent. Therefore, with proper inclusion being key, it’s important to have multidisciplinary females included in policymaking, to reduce privileges’ impact and diminishing tokenism; as Angela Davis cleverly put it in words “Feminism will be anti-racist or won’t be.” Moreover, fighting myths “medical notions of women’s frail, delicate, and emotionally unstable nature that have been used to confine them to the home and hearth, is empowering for all women. (1)

Furthermore, medical services are not user-friendly for women. (3)  Raising awareness remains our responsibility: sanitary pads should be free (noting that they were subsided from the backed basket in Lebanon), infertility treatments, STIs testing, surgery for septated hymen, and pap smear for non-married women are not covered by health insurance in Lebanon for example, access to safe abortion is prohibited in a lot of countries hence enforcing the traditional social role of procreation. Also, medicine disregards how a lot of phenomena and diseases – such as pain perception and cardiovascular diseases- are presented in women since many studies and clinical trials have explicitly excluded or unrepresented women. (4) (5)

Power dynamics pave the way to increase compromises regarding women’s health as contraceptive methods mostly neglect males. Nonetheless, preventive medicine is a key element for women’s health but remains a social privilege. (6)

To sum up, cis-heterosexual-white-male supremacy is a system that has been building up for centuries modelling the medical curriculum: radical change must be adopted through our contribution as medical students in healthcare and politics. Finally, poverty, racism, and all discrimination forms are detrimental to women and all societal groups: all struggles are interconnected.

References

-Edwards CD, Mcclave A, Breast YJC. Health , Illness , and use of Care : The Impact of Social Factors Article information : 2000;

-Doyal L. The politics of women’s health: Setting a global agenda. Int J Heal Serv. 1996;26(1):47–65.

-Killien M, Bigby JA, Champion V, Fernandez-Repollet E, Jackson RD, Kagawa-Singer M, et al. Involving minority and underrepresented women in clinical trials: The national centers of excellence in women’s health. J Women’s Heal Gender-Based Med. 2000;9(10):1061–70.

-Ahmad WIU. Policies, Pills, and Political Will: a Critique of Policies To Improve the Health Status of Ethnic Minorities. Lancet. 1989;333(8630):148–50.

-Laurence, Leslie, and Beth Weinhouse. Outrageous practices: The alarming truth about how medicine mistreats women. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994.

-Levy, K. B. The Politics of Women’s Health Care: Medicalization as a Form of Social Control. Las Colinas, Texas: Ide House, 1992.

-Killien, Marcia, et al. Involving minority and underrepresented women in clinical trials: the National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine 9.10 (2000): 1061-1070.

About the author

Zahra Awaly, a third-year medical student in the Lebanese University, is also a social and intersectional-feminist activist. Her work in the “LU students’ Union” include a broad scope of activities aiming for better quality of education, defending students’ rights, especially the right for free education, and collaborating  with eco-clubs in the university. In LeMSIC, as part of former SCOME team of officials, she worked on tackling problems in the curriculum of Lebanese medical schools, in addition to participating in several events about sexual health, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. She’s currently starting the Lebanese association of “La Marche Mondiale des Femmes”.

Rim Chehab is 20 years old and she courses the third year of medicine in the Lebanese University (LU). Currently, she is the Public relations and communication representative in the Lebanese Red Cross Youth Sector, local officer of SCORP-LU in LeMSIC, and member in several other NGOs in Lebanon. In addition, she constantly participates in social actions, aimed at serving vulnerable populations and collaborating with humanization in the streets and hospitals. Her objective is to combine graduation with scientific and artistic development, constituting a formation of solid and essential pillars.

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