Third Wave: Think Again About Emulating the Men
I am a very privileged guy. I got to
watch up-close the evolution of the women’s movement during its second wave
from the 1970’s to the present.
When I went to Duke in 1966, women
lived on East Campus, men on West Campus. All women had to wear skirts when
they went to West Campus and that included for football games. Men wore jackets
and ties to the games, usually under blue blazers or tweed sport coats with
patches at the elbows. The guys from below the Mason-Dixon line had tassel
loafers and brightly colored alpaca sweaters. This was the site of feminism’s
first wave and soon women wore jeans on West Campus and now women actually live
My entering medical school class of 86 had exactly three
women in it and one of those left after first year to get married and follow
her new husband to Boston to complete her medical training. The entering
medical school class of 114 two years later had 14 women in it. One became Dr.
Kleinerman and Mrs. Zwelling. When I return to speak at Duke now, half of the
class members are women.
Obviously, Genie has lived the women’s movement since then.
She was discriminated against in medical school, even by my friends who would
not ask the women students on their in-patient services to midnight coffee to
discuss the patients. By law, Genie had to use my name in North Carolina
despite the fact that she was and is Dr. Kleinerman. No need for her to be tainted by my
reputation, besides, her father paid her medical school tuition not me.
The discrimination never stopped even among the pediatricians
at DC Children’s Hospital where she was a resident although she did meet some
powerful women in her residency class and on the staff. The NIH was even worse.
Being small, soft-spoken (hey, we all change), and a woman was not a great career
path for Genie as a fellow and when Genie and Josh Fidler wanted to perform the
first trials in humans with MTP-PE in Building 10 in Bethesda, the male
hierarchy at the NCI wanted her to do an oncology fellowship first despite her having
already completed three years of clinical training in pediatrics and a three years
as a fellow on the Metabolism Branch of the NCI caring for immunodeficient
patients. Fortunately, Josh got us to Texas and it all worked out.
But please remember, MD Anderson has had a total of two women
senior executives and one woman Division Head in its first 75 years despite
there being women college presidents, department chairs and CEOs everywhere.
Medicine in general and MD Anderson in particular are way behind the curve when
it comes to taking women and their issues seriously (stop with the 7:30 AM
meetings. Someone has to get the next generation to school. You don’t want it
to be the men. We will forget the lunches).
This has all been a privilege to watch, but at the same time
I am very glad I did not have to put up with all the nonsense that Genie has
simply because she is a woman.
But perhaps we have reached a new point in the women’s movement
the past few weeks. Perhaps the third wave has begun.
In hearings before the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
first CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and then HHS Secretary Kathleen
Sebelius were grilled about the outrageous and fouled up roll-out of the
website that was built to allow Americans to gain access to health insurance
under ObamaCare. Some of the fiercest grilling of the two women was done by
When the women can begin to act like men in Congress, I guess
progress has been made. Of course, I had hoped this might occur by having the
men ascend to the civility so often shown in the past by women, but I’ll take
the little progress made with two women leading prominent government agencies being fiercely interrogated by their sisters in Congress. Both executives acted
like their male bosses in being accountable for nothing, having no new
information, being previously unaware of any potential problems with their
President’s signature legislative achievement and occasionally getting riled up
at questions from petulant, elected women, often from Red districts. The only
common denominator between questioner and questioned was the total lack of
useful information from either side. Congress people of both genders did not
bring impressive IS credentials to the web site discussion and generally
sounded loudly uninformed while spouting talking points written by staff young
enough to actually understand the problem but too imbued with the Kool-Aid they
drink to be informative themselves. Tavenner and Sebelius brought no data which
must exist as to how many people actually made it through the web site and
signed up. The first day total has been reported later in the week to be 6,
even trailing the 123 who signed up for RomneyCare in Massachusetts on its
I think the women are all starting to sound like men. They
used to say nothing and make everyone wonder if they were ill-informed. Now, at
least in Congress this week, they speak up and everyone knows they are ill-informed.
The third woman who has made a “small step” for womankind is
Dr. Chin. Unlike Neil Armstrong’s, this step may have been backwards. In the
roll-out of the IBM-Watson collaboration with MD Anderson she managed to
perfectly channel her husband’s grandiosity and hubris, including the requisite
high production value video, to tell us absolutely nothing about what has got
to be a huge expenditure of dollars for research and no certainty of any return
as the clinical faculty are driven harder to pay for it. And, like her husband,
she appears to be conflicted as she sits on the board of the company (IBM
Watson) that just wangled $15M out of the institution (according to the Houston
Chronicle) that pays her and her husband in excess of $2M per year. And this is
over and above their earnings from stock holdings in companies that they
started, a behavior that is against Anderson’s conflict of interest rules and
given the performance of Aveo stock, not all that beneficial to the DePinho Family
It sure has been great watching the progress women have made.
They have almost gotten to the level of the men. Unfortunately, they had to
descend to do it.