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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Being A Man In A Woman's World

For those of you who aren't intimately involved with the veterinary profession you may not be aware of how much this is a female-dominated profession.  In the US women make up just over 50% of the practicing vets, each vet school graduating class is 70-80% female, and our support staff is normally around 90%+ female.  As a man, I am decidedly in the minority and even that minority is shrinking with every new crop of veterinarians.

A significantly mostly female profession means that things run a bit differently than many might expect and conversations are certainly different.  Now before the feminists start to jump on my case, I'm not saying this is a bad thing.  There are inherent psychological and emotional differences between men and women which is going to come out in how they behave and what they talk about.  There is nothing "good" or "bad" about the differences and I'm certainly not saying that one is better than another. 

Let me give an example from today.  I walked into the treatment area to hear my all-female staff (yes, I'm the only male here) talking about cosmetic surgery, discussing  people getting boob jobs, butt transplants, and fat moved from one part of the body to the other.  These and other topics are things that most women might not talk about freely when men are around but feel the freedom to do so when they're with other women.  I have heard just about anything you could ever imagine about a woman's bodily functions and relationships.  This includes menstrual cycles, menopause, pregnancy, breasts sagging, leg shaving, boyfriends/husbands, EX-boyfriends/husbands, and so on. 

But I've gotten used to it, having heard about these topics for 28 years now.  One of my doctors or staff talking about tampons vs. maxipads is old hat to me and doesn't phase me anymore.  It is interesting to me, though, because if I started a conversation with a male staff member about our testicles, penis, prostate exam, urinating habits, crotch sweat, or our girlfriends/wives I'm sure we'd make the women feel rather uncomfortable and make them want to leave the room.  Heck, I'm sure there are women out there who would consider it sexual harassment if I even mentioned that I had testicles, let alone talked about a problem with them!  But a woman saying that her "boobs are hurting" because it's "that time of the month" is perfectly fine.

So this is a warning to any men considering being in veterinary medicine.  The hardest part of your job isn't going to be the animals, science, or's going to be getting used to the "girl talk".