Preparing for Surgery (again) and Toxic Masculinity in the Waiting Room

On Monday, I’ll be having surgery #6 at M.D. Anderson. This is the second surgery this year! Luckily, it’s a small one again–this time to remove two tumors on my left hand. Recovery should be pretty quick, overall, but I’ll be unable to use my left hand for about two months, all-in-all.

During the preop appointments this past week, I overheard parts of one particularly interesting and problematic conversation.

An older man was with this wife and daughter. They were talking about Matt Lauer, and the older man exclaimed:  

I don’t know of anybody I haven’t made a pass at! 

He laughed and laughed.

They laughed and laughed.

Such a comment reveals a complete disregard for decency and shows a perfect example of rape culture. I also think his words are interesting because he did not mean “anybody” – he meant people he read and he deemed: young, attractive, and female.

He also effectively confessed–in a room full of people knowing their would be no consequence–to being a bully, at the very least. Now, I’m wondering what else he did to all of these people. What happened if they rejected his advances? How often did he cheat on his wife?

(Well, he didn’t know I would be writing an article about it!)

At some other point, his wife suggested that the women accusing Lauer of sexual misconduct and rape knew what they were doing/what they wanted and only wanted to get money.

People–across the board–can perpetuate rape culture. 

This family also complained about the wait. They hadn’t even been waiting 30 minutes. I’ve waited 4-6+ hours for an appointment many times. M.D. Anderson is full of medical doctors and nurses and others who dedicate their energies to saving other people. I can wait.

Anyway, their daughter went to the check-in station to complain.

They were also complaining about patients who “would get offended” if the nurses checked vital signs and whatnot in the waiting room.

Always remember: Toxic masculinity and privilege/oppression exist every where. bell hooks would remind us that men are also victims of patriarchy. Men cannot be blamed without also blaming–and reforming–culture everywhere. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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12 replies

  1. This man’s comment makes sense to me as a member of his generation (probably). My perspective is that none of that family’s behavior is unexpected. People are like that. Life was very different for men of a certain age, and it was expected of them to flirt with women, and even to violate their personal space (though only expected of them by their male friends). The social pressure by one’s cohort is that big. Women knew their objections would fall on deaf ears, that pressure is so great. It would be interesting to compare a list of what each age group would call social pressures on their genderhood.

    I remember thinking about this back when I was in my 20s. It occurred to me then that acceptable male behavior fell into extremely narrow ranges, compared to the range for women. But that was back in the caveman era before gays could “come out,” and certainly a very long time before trans could. And I thought to myself, for many men who declared that they were gay, or bisexual, their reasons may have been because they felt more comfortable outside that narrow range, and not necessarily because they were “truly gay.” No one even questions that of declared gays today, but the thought clearly reflects that the change in attitude about acceptable behavior is more gradual than it may seem to be today. It is the kind of change that doesn’t make it into print, sound or sight until a large number of people realize that the change has occurred. It gives a kind “saltatory” feel to change when it really isn’t that abrupt. It is a sign that the range of “acceptable male behavior” is expanding, even as that third, or fourth category of gender/sex/choice … is developing.

    It is still not expected of men to take women of any age seriously and a cause of a lot of anger in women throughout life. It may cause enough trauma in life to explain the gender difference in behavior of dementia patients, and that women are more likely to get Alzheimer’s. My theory is that the greater the trauma you have in life the more likely you will suffer from Alzheimer’s because it reflects the “overuse” of trauma pathways in the brain (which operate on much higer voltages than other pathways and thus explain how talking about past trauma makes it worse).

    But now, it seems, some people are being brought to task for showing in their behavior that they do not take them seriously for anything other than sex. The real test will come if women finally can break the barriers to promotion, wage caps, and become held in as high esteem as men are (in general). Shankar Vedantam’s ‘Hidden Brain’ podcasts tells us about many studies that show how the barriers continue. One of these points out how female faculty will talk about women leaders in their field more than male faculty will, and how little discussion of women in history occurs in any field.

    Things happen so fast sometimes it is difficult to keep perspective. If you look at the men who have been accused of sexual assault, all fall within a group who did not grow up with the internet, and certainly most of their growth was without social media. There will be a stark age line between those accused and those not accused. Of course such behavior as these men have been accused of is really demeaning and rude, but it was not considered as such when they came of age. Humans live long enough for very abrupt expectation changes to occur for everyone. So when you reach the ripe old age of 50-75, you will also be shaking your head when you hear what younger members (maybe not women, but maybe yes, but probably of certain ethnic groups or LGBT or some other minority as yet to appear) accuse the elderly of.

    Garrison Keillor said something that may have sounded inappropriate at the time when a woman accused him, but which may have a lot of truth in it. He said that many people press against him for a hug and a selfie, and maybe his hand landed accidentally on a spot that some might object to today. However, he says some women had touched him inappropriately, but he is not accusing those women of sexual assault. He makes a good point, accidental violations of personal space can occur, especially in today’s idol-worshiping trends. Think about how much a student needed a hug and you wanted to supply that hug. When did you choose not to give that hug because you might be accused of sexually assaulting that student? The woman who is accusing Keillor may be guilty of just wanting to jump on the band wagon. Or maybe not. It is difficult to tell with just accusations and no court ruling to depend upon. Or when the case is settled out of court and under non-disclosure rules, like Sen. John Conyers cases. I strongly think there will be a spreading backlash from some men so accused.

    What women were forced to put up with in the past are not what they feel compelled to do today, for the most part. But there are probably many exceptions, as well. It is extremely difficult for me to be that angry with what a man did 20 years ago. However, the behavior has become more and more objectionable since then. When a 75 year old man is accused of such behavior today for something that happened within the past 10 years, one does have to question whether he ever “grew up” (I am thinking of Charlie Rose, and if he behaved as accused at even 50, that would be a clear sign that he had not developed the social skills expected of a 50 year old man. His objectionable behavior occurred as recently as 2010).

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, I forgot to mention: having to have so many surgeries must take a big emotional toll on you. I am truly sorry that you have to have them. I feel the pain way too easily. I am already extremely nervous about doctors, having been hurt by so many of them because of all the toxins running under my skin all my life, without having to subject myself to their painful procedures now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I always worry what my brain will be like after surgeries. It always take at least a month for me to “be back.” Maybe if the advanced in medicine continue as they are they’ll be able to fix things without toxic surgeries and medications one day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • There have been many discoveries that fix things without surgery, but MDs seem to ignore that valid published research. I have seen how powerful mind-body medicine techniques are and think that a lot of surgeries could be obsolete when they realize how they can use these techniques.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish you well in surgery and recovery.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. First off, I hope the surgery went well! But what an interesting post, crazy how he had the confidence to say such a thing in front of his wife. However, birds of the same kind flock together, her comments on the sexual harassment victims drive in her outdated views. Very toxic masculinity indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks! I seem to be recovering pretty quick right now, considering! 🙂

      Glad you liked this post. His wife and daughter just laughed when he said that! We’re all victims of toxic masculinity in some way or another. I try to get my students to realize that we’re all at least a bit racist, sexist, homophobic, etc because culture has shaped our minds to such a large extent.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I saw a clip on the morning news of a panel discussion about the sexual assault behavior of a lot of men (especially the elder population. They had about 5 men from various professions, including Judd Apatow. One of them, I just remember his first name was Leland, said that he remembers beginning at the age of 5 to treat women as inferior, mainly because the men needed to “protect” their dominance, to prevent the women from competing with them. Leland looked to be in his early 50s. CBS only showed a tiny clip from that interview. I have no idea if the full length of the panel discussion will be on 60 Minutes on Sunday, 17 Dec, 2017, or some future program. They did not say.

      We keep getting tidbits of the cultural dynamic of a couple of generations ago. We women have been wondering why men treated us the way they do for all of our lives, so this discussion is just beginning to reveal things that we all really need to know.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I strongly suspect that some of the problems for women because of the treatment of them by men stems from many other possible influences. In fact, there has been a strong hatred in the US (and probably in other countries) toward women, similar to the hatred toward anyone in the LGBTQ community, and certain religious or ethnic groups. I mean HATRED, not just discomfort by some men, but clearly not all men. There is a fascinating paper written as a senior thesis (Alice Wu) about the comments about men and women at an online forum which attracts people from the college economics community (fascinating review at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/upshot/evidence-of-a-toxic-environment-for-women-in-economics.html [but the NY Times usually removes their sites from time to time to make room for new news]). Many different people of all ages and genders have posted comments about women. The range of points of view are clearly from rather benign comments about a woman’s sexuality to enormous hatred toward women. But these comments are not made about male economists. Wu is referring only to the comments made about professional behavior or related to these people as economists.

    There also has been some discussion (I think in the ‘Wall Street Journal’) about an article which did a similar analysis on email comments elicited by search committees from from economist faculty about candidates for a faculty position. The comments in these emails are similar to what Wu found in her forum paper. In other words, most comments about women by male faculty were entirely unrelated to them as economists, but comments about men by both male and female faculty were.

    We have to conclude from these two papers, and from comments by many others in other professions these days, that the majority of people seem to treat women as a category, as either 1) irrelevant to them or their profession, or 2) competition, or 3) something dangerous to the commenter.

    Misogyny is rampant, but does not necessarily become sexual abuse, and is not necessarily only found in men. Women have been dodging the attacks for many generations, and all have to deal with it as they know best. Some have learned that to adopt the same attitude of the men around them is often the best way to avoid getting attacked by these men. Most of us, male and female, have grown up with the sexist behavior of men being talked about as reflecting “male biology,” that you can’t change them because they are born that way. (Regardless of the fact that you do not see the beginnings of that behavior in little boys until they reach the age of 4, and only after they have seen it in their role models). I see in many comments by people, that, just because many women voice the same view as the men about a person, that the comments can’t stem from misogeny. I hope that people come to realize that this conclusion is dead wrong.

    But the fact of enormous hatred toward women is a real surprise to many. I suspect it surprisingly stems from real emotions about the commenters’ own mothers. Our culture is so strong about loving our mothers, that even if the mothers have failed us at any time in our lives, well beyond what anyone should expect, we would say we still loved them. The culture requires us to say that, despite what we really feel. This still works despite the typical teen rebellion years, etc. The mother has been traditionally and biologically programmed to be the one who is supposed to not just feed and attend to our needs, but also to protect us from harm. The father in human societies is also supposed to take on this role, but has failed us many times in history. This history includes relatively recent times when cultural pressure on men to avoid child care had become a part of the assumption of “male biology.” This explains how hatred toward men is not nearly as rampant as hatred towards women.

    Now, women have failed us as mothers mainly because many have not been given the benefit of a strong self-esteem which comes from being wanted by their own mothers and fathers. But obviously, there are many other qualities that may be missing as well that lead to a mother’s inability to protect us as babies. Society’s effect on women is a major reason. The lack of support for women, in the economic, medical, social and psychological forms, is probably the main reason for women to be considered as not important enough in national policy. That attitude will most certainly affect her behavior and the feeling of her children that she did not protect them. The hatred is clearly misdirected in many cases, and as such, may be interpreted as stemming from an early childhood brain’s experience. Many attitudes we have stem from the incomplete logic of a young child’s brain. They form in our brains at the wrong time, when we have not llived long enough to develop perspective. You learn to recognize the origins of these thoughts by doing some very deep self-reflection. We tend not to be able to find that kind of time until we are senior citizens with a very deep perspective.

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