A tweet about the gender of dentists and doctors sparked debate yesterday, after writer Alissa Nutting told her followers about her daughter’s trip to the dentist.
While most children are concerned about having someone poke around their mouth with metal instruments, Nutting’s daughter was much more concerned by the fact that her dentist was a man. When she asked for a woman dentist, the man told her there were none at the surgery. The little girl then proceeded to ask an important question of her mum: “Why did we come here?”
Many, including writer Roxane Gay, replied with their praise of Nutting’s daughter for calling out the fact that no women dentists were employed by the surgery.
Some Twitter users asked why Nutting’s daughter would care whether her dentist was a man. “Why does it matter what sex your dentist is as long as they are competent and steady handed?” wrote one man. But this misses the point.
Nutting and her daughter were asserting the importance of gender representation, not about whether women or men make better dentists. In the wider world of healthcare, women doctors can also be more empathetic to female pain or illness simply because they understand the female body more intimately. Other women may feel more comfortable discussing their health with a doctor of the same gender. Many people replying to Nutting’s story highlighted the particular example of choosing a female gynecologist, with one tweeter explaining that her female doctor asked her more questions than the male doctors she had seen before.
The moral of Nutting’s story is the importance of choice – the more women represented by the healthcare industry, the easier it is for patients to receive the help they need.