A Valentine’s Day editorial in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons has set off a firestorm of controversy that has divided the largest professional organization of surgeons in the country and raised questions about the current leadership and its attitudes toward women and gay and lesbian members.
The editorial, written by Dr. Lazar J. Greenfield, an emeritus professor of surgery at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and president-elect of the American College of Surgeons, extols the mood-enhancing effects of semen on women. It begins with a reference to the mating behaviors of fruit flies, then goes on to discuss studies on the menstrual cycles of heterosexual and lesbian women who live together. Citing the research of evolutionary psychologists at the State University of New York, it describes how female college students who had been exposed to semen were less depressed than their peers who had not, concluding: “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”
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The organization has more than 75,000 members (I am one). Roughly 10 percent are women. There are five women on the organization’s 22-member governing board; this month, they issued a letter requesting that Dr. Greenfield step down as president-elect. The entire board is set to vote on the issue on Sunday.
Seriously. Re-read those paragraphs again. Especially the part about how this was published in the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons. And click on the link, too, to be informed by the headline “Sexism charges divide surgeons’ group.” That’s right: sexism charges are dividing the group, not the disgusting sexist behavior itself.
The only interesting angle of this story is that the offending author Greenfield is regarded by a few women quoted on the record as an ally of women in the profession:
Dr. Diane M. Simeone, a professor of surgery at the University of Michigan who was a co-author of a recent article on barriers faced by women in academic surgery, agrees. “There still is a lot of gender bias in surgery, and I have seen it myself on multiple fronts,” she said. “That was never evident from Dr. Greenfield. I think it’s important to know that this is one event and to weigh it against a long career where he has always been completely above board and a role model for supporting women in surgery.”
It is less clear what attitudes Dr. Greenfield or other leaders of the organization have toward the college’s gay and lesbian members. “I think race and religion have made a lot more progress in the college than women, and particularly gay women or men,” Dr. [Colleen] Brophy said.
Well, I rather think that it’s more important to reflect on why a man who has been regarded by some as an ally of women in the profession can 1) think an article like this is a really terrific idea, and 2) why the profession’s newspaper would find it worthy of publication. I’m left wondering that if this is something that a so-called ally would do, then what do the enemies of women and gay and lesbian surgeons do–smear their j!zz all over their colleagues’ lockers and mailboxes?
Someone needs a massive shipment of used tampons in his in-box, which is apparently accepting deliveries at Office of the Emeritus Faculty, 1327 Jones Drive – Suite 201, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. Just a suggestion! Don’t tell them I sent you.
And while we’re on the subject of sharing, can we talk about the word “seminal?” I can barely bring myself to use the word “seminar,” let alone the word in the previous sentence. It’s just so sexist and creepy and corporeal and, well, sticky that I never let a student use it without comment. I just don’t think we think hard enough about the language we use, but seriously friends–is it that difficult to figure this one out?