When your gynecologist calls you kitten

About 3 million Polish women have had negative experiences at the gynecologist, according to a new survey by Wysokie Obcasy magazine. Not only is this belittling, but it also discourages some women from having regular checkups.

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
When your gynecologist calls you kitten - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

I also had this experience in Poland. A few years back, I decided to try to use my usual state clinic for gynecological care (until then, I had gone privately). I have seen all three of the elderly men employed as gynecologists there. All were insensitive. But the last one was the worst -- not only did he refuse to give me the referral I needed (he suggested that maybe my problem was wearing my bra too tightly) but he systematically addressed me as "kitten".

"Calm down, kitten." "You're exaggerating, kitten."

After I left his office shouting that I am no "kitten" and that I would submit a complaint, I wondered whether this was his generic name for all patients. Probably. "Kittens", an undifferentiated mass of silly women who don't even realize their bras are too tight.

In my case, after this, I went back to private. It is expensive, but I go to a doctor I like and avoid such treatment. But there are many women who cannot afford private gynecological care. There are also women, as the article suggests, who are discouraged to do regular checkups because of this -- risking delayed diagnoses for serious conditions.

Details from the story:

  • Wysokie Obcasy asked its female readers how many of them had had a negative experience at the gynecologist. About a fifth of the women filling in the survey replied positively. The most numerous were among the 25-34 age group (potentially because this is when women are both more often treated as sexual objects and when they become more conscious of mistreatment).
  • This percentage equates about 3 million out of all Polish women.
  • This is especially important because a large proportion of these women say that the bad experiences discouraged them from going regularly to the gynecologist. This means missing the chance for early diagnoses of some serious conditions, among others.
  • Male doctors were most likely to mistreat female patients, though it happened among women doctors too.
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