The Gender Question, Revisited
I hadn't heard from my friend and colleague, Dr. Natty
Bumpo, of Finster, N.J. for quite a while. When I saw his email notice on my computer I knew he had something on his mind that was as irritating as a wound from an optical screwdriver that missed its mark and pierced a finger.
My modem was smoking with flashes of fire as he took up an issue that was burning and troubling to him and had need of expression in the most vehement of terms. Namely, he was discomforted by the discovery and realization that women in professions, particularly optometry, have become the new standard bearers, having wrested the honor from males who have suffered the indignities of such nefarious activity.
The subject comes up in our conversations from time to time and has always been a hot potato. The majority has felt that an easy peace now remains and ill will has been left behind. But there are some men who are diehards. Dr. Herbert Fingles (deceased), a Philadelphia optometrist, was the leader of a small group in the 1980s opposing the idea of women optometrists. He was vociferous on the subject and received a good deal of negative notoriety and angry calls for his trouble. He was stopped on the street and castigated publicly for his views. In the eighties, women were starting to realize their ambition in optometry. At that time, the concept of meeting financial demands required that both husband and wife join the work force.
This is where my friend, Natty, takes issue. “At one time the male was considered the backbone of the nuclear family,” he said. “It was his income, for better or worse, that fed, housed and clothed the family. Soon, females were competing for seats in optometry schools with the usual male entries. This deformed approach to an increasing problem was also seen in law, medicine, communications, business, education media and other venues,” continued Natty. “The strong, confident male always associated with delivering important news to our homes has been replaced by strong, confident and beautiful ladies. It also exists in our practices. The male practitioner has always been seen as knowledgeable and the experienced person of choice. That man has been replaced and his hopes for the future are now in jeopardy as a female has taken his seat in optometry school.”
Natty continued on his diatribe. “To add insult to injury, the female tends to accept lower wages plus maternity leaves and time taken off since her husband can provide the monies she may have lost. On my way to my office I often gauge the number of women drivers on or near my route of travel,” said Natty. “Over 50% are women and I must conclude they are traveling to their own offices. In the meantime, the male who has been superseded has taken on a second job to maintain his role as the bone and sinew of his family. The final nail in the coffin of male dominance was the aggressive and skyrocketing push of government and private sectors as they forced the approval and acceptance of females in the domains that males once held. Elmer, I am sorry to be such a crab but I compare my attitude of yesteryear to today’s slick, sophisticated, big business methods. I have shared my feelings with some who threatened to sue me if I put my feelings in print. You wouldn't believe the hate mail and calls I have received. What's this world coming to?"
But the gauntlet had been thrown and womanhood was surprisingly adept at expressing her views and her rights. Male opinions changed as female education and expertise rose to heights not heretofore imagined. It took a cigarette company to take note of the changes and gave birth to a slogan that said it all, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby." Pressure from both females and males removed the condescending phrase from use at that time. Schools, fraternal orders and clubs that were once the mainstay of male dominance are now peppered with female members; many of them serve on their board of directors and hold high leadership offices. May I point out to my fellow optometrists that the President of the A.O.A. is Dori M. Carlson. O.D. Jennifer Smythe, O.D. is the dean of Pacific University College of Optometry. I will add that the female speakers ready to appear at the 2012 Convention of the Academy of Optometry constitute approximately half of that group.
They are occupying important positions in optometry as professors, research specialists and clinical chiefs. Females are now in command of some of the most successful offices in the country. Have you noticed the heavy concentration of women at or near the top of school administrations, CEOs of important companies and entrepreneurs in every field? Women in sports have built enthusiastic fans to a level unheard of. At one time a career in sports for a female was short lived. Today they receive salaries that are commensurate with men players.
My wife, Lillian, grew up in the era when newspaper want ads were labeled Male or Female Help Wanted. There was a definite demarcation between jobs that were only suitable for one sex. When she enrolled at optometry school, there were five females in the class and 26 males. In the clinic the patients referred to the females as "nurse." By the time she graduated there were only two females left, the others having dropped out of the course. Looking for a job took a daunting effort, and after many trials and tribulations she was hired by an optometrist who was the sole practitioner in the practice. He gave her a white uniform and seated her at a desk where she could greet the patients as they came in. She never participated in the examination, but had to remain in the reception area. Of course, she came in handy when it was time to run to the lab to pick up the day's work. This was the extent of the opportunities available to her at that time.
She decided to drop out of optometry and concentrate on raising our two daughters. Later, when she made up her mind to enter the field once more the whole landscape had changed. Employment opportunities were available, and there was no problem in obtaining work. Of course, at that time women were not paid on the same scale as men. Today she envies the female graduates who are so well educated, and working side by side with their male counterparts with equal opportunities in all realms. She sighs, "I was born 40 years too soon."
And so, notwithstanding the attempts by the likes of a Natty Bumpo or Herb Fingles to make male chauvinism credible, the ladies have survived. They are stronger than ever and achieving their goals on the road to success.
“A guy is a lump, like a doughnut. So, first you gotta get rid of all the stuff his mom did to him. Then you gotta get rid of all that macho crap that they pick up from beer commercials. And then there's my personal favorite for a guy to get rid of, the male ego."