When fat hatred and misogyny collide

ModernElinor writes:

I think my experience is what happens when misogyny and fat hatred collide…
When I was in my early 20s and in my first sexual relationship, my then-boyfriend and I had a contraception bungle – I had taken the pill late on the Thursday, forgotten completely on the Friday morning and the condom we used that night broke. As having a baby in my early 20s with a man I had only been dating for about six months wasn’t part of my plan, I decided to take the ‘morning-after pill’, at that stage only available by prescription in Australia. I was probably being over-cautious, but as I had been diagnosed with PCOS (wrongly, as it now turns out) and my ex had been very explicit about not wanting children, I was a bit paranoid that if I got pregnant it might be my only chance to have a child and that complexity was not something I was ready to deal with.
I tracked down a doctor who could see me on the Saturday of a long weekend and told him the story – forgotten pill, broken condom – and asked for the morning-after pill. He first of all quizzed me about why I ‘had to have’ sex the night before.
He then asked whether I had had sex since my last period. I couldn’t remember as the ex had been travelling so much. And, quite frankly, I’ve never diarised my sexual encounters.
He subsequently went off on a rant about how he couldn’t prescribe the morning-after pill because if I was already pregnant I could sue him if the baby was born with a birth defect. When I protested, trying to explain the situation, further, telling him that I was monogamous and this was a one-off glitch with our usual ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to contraception, he interrupted me, accusing me of lying about my sexual history. And where this becomes a story for this site is that he went on to say, ‘I know what chubby girls like you will do for male attention.’
I felt like he had physically hit me. At the time I was an Australian 12-14 max (I think in US sizing that would be about an 8-10?) and noone had ever, ever made a negative comment like that about my body before.
He did end up writing the prescription but insisted I take a blood test to make sure I wasn’t pregnant beforehand. He also gave me what appears to be the standard lecture about losing weight (except for the nifty diet tip that drinking beer when I went out with my friends would be better for me than wine or cocktails because women’s bodies didn’t convert beer to fat).
So, I emerged from his office in tears, hearing the unsaid words ‘fat slut’ ringing in my ears and because I was so used to doing exactly what the doctor told me, no matter how ridiculuous, dutifully went and had the blood test. They promised to rush the results back to the doctor that afternoon before closing down for the long weekend, so I could definitively know whether I could take the morning-after pill while still in its window of effectiveness. When I rang the doctor’s office back that afternoon at the time I had previously arranged in order to find out the results, the receptionist told me he had ‘gone on holidays’ and she ‘wasn’t authorised’ to read me the results that the lab had rushed through and wasn’t prepared to ring the doctor.
Despite the best efforts of both me and a very riled ex whom I’d stopped from storming into the doctor’s office (today, I wouldn’t have stopped him – maybe that doctor would have listened to an irate 6ft 120kg bloke – or given him diet advice) she wouldn’t budge but did say he would call me first thing on the Tuesday morning. So, the ex and I talked about it and agreed it would be incredibly unlikely for me to already be pregnant, given our usual contraceptive hyper-vigilance, I peed on a stick (negative) and took the morning-after pill that day. Roundabout seven years later, I am still waiting on a call from that doctor to tell me if I am pregnant.
I did look into reporting him, but a dear friend who works in public health laid out for me exactly what would be involved and I decided that I had neither the time nor emotional energy to enter into what would ultimately come down to ‘he said, she said’. I do sometimes regret this.
I still to this day have trouble believing that someone who is paid to care for people nearly denied me the help I was seeking, based on his assumptions about women in their early 20s who aren’t thin – and that despite having a fair amount of self-confidence I was so easily felled by someone judging my honesty essentially on the basis of my size. I would like to think now I’m in my 30s, I would just tell him to get stuffed. But who knows? Fortunately I have had pretty good doctors for the most part, so this sort of thing hasn’t happened again, despite being quite a bit bigger now.

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  1. Meems

     /  June 25, 2009

    I’m lucky that I’ve never had anything like this happen to me (that I can recall), despite being the same size you were, or a size bigger, but just reading stories like this makes me want to scream. I’m still in my 20s, and I’d like to think that I’d tell off any doctor who implied that I’m 1. fat, or 2. that being fat implies that I’m a slut because I need to prove to myself that men find me attractive. I don’t need to prove anything to myself, because I know that there are plenty of men out there who like women who aren’t skinny.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. Doctors like that are a disgrace to the profession.

  2. Georgia

     /  June 26, 2009

    My 19-year-old sister came back from the doctor’s office the other day on the verge of tears. She had gone in to get a checkup (this was a new doctor) and to get medical advice regarding her high cholesterol. She’s 5’6″ and 140 lbs. Instead of trying to find a hidden reason as to why her cholesterol might be so high, the doctor told her to come back after she’s lost 10 lbs and they’ll do another test.

    I can’t decide if I’m more angry that the doctor could be dismissing a serious medical condition (inflamed arteries have been known to cause high cholesterol, regardless of weight or eating habits, and can cause cardiac arrest) or heartbroken that now my once carefree and bubbly sister, who could enjoy a good bowl of icecream like the rest of us, has just wasted $120 for ONE WEEK of jenny craig food and is constantly fretting over her appearance.

    I’m 17 and I’m already cynical about doctors. No one should be treated like you or my sister were.

  3. Charlotte

     /  June 26, 2009

    Oh dear. That whole “I know what chubby girls like you will do for male attention” reminds me of this conversation I had with my mom, where she told me guys use fat girls for sex because they know how desperate for attention they are. And this is after she told me she was glad I was fat, because that meant boys would leave me alone! I was so confused.

    Sorry to derail. I’m so sorry this happened to you. That doctor was extremely rude to you. Making assumptions based on your weight and gender is just awful.

  4. lilacsigil

     /  June 26, 2009

    If fat girls aren’t slutty, they’re sexless virgins! I work in pharmacy in Australia, and there are a (fortunately small) number of doctors and pharmacists who are absolutely obsessed with the Incredible Dangers of the morning after pill. There are risks, just like any medication, but that’s what patient counselling is for! This doctor sounds like an abusive asshole and I hope he’s not seeing patients any more.

  5. Melissa

     /  June 26, 2009

    Wow I’ve never heard of anything so crazy.
    I mean this doctor is supposed to be an educated man?
    I’ve never had my doctor say anything like this to me.

  6. Also, there are situations that the risks for the morning after pill are a better trade off than the risks of pregnancy.

    I am in such a case. I cannot permit myself to be pregnant because it will destabilize my ADHD and I may lose my remaining hearing (I am stone deaf from one side, and I don’t want to lose it. Sorry for people who judge me as “being selfish because she refuses to lose hearing, as losing hearing is nothing major”. WTF ?!).

    Well, being told that pregnancy is too risky was not as difficult as people imagine. There is the dream, and after, there is a more trivial reality that if I want to take care of a child, I need to be healthy even with a bf, a housing, a job.
    Money will not cure neither my ADHD nor my hearing loss, no matter what doctors can say. Cochlear implant can help, but it is not a miracle cure for deafness no matter what doctors can say.

    The problem is people thinking they are allowed to judge me because I don’t want to risk my health for a child, jumping to conclusion that I can only be a heartless-good-for-nothing-lady-who-deceits-people-because-she-fakes-excuses. They don’t know what to invent to judge and deceit themselves on their true issues, but never mind, it is not my problem any more.
    For them, hearing loss is nothing and unstable ADHD is absolutely not important to care about when we have a child. Ho. Ly. Crap.
    A child has every right to ask a mother healthy enough to take care of her, not a mother who has to place him because she is too unhealthy to take care of him !! Father or not father, money or not money, it does not change the core problem for me.
    Amazing that those people who consider me as “heartless because I don’t want to lose my health by being pregnant” will have enough nerve to ask me how did I dare endangering my health by being pregnant and not taking care of my baby !!!! They show to judge and vanish when it’s time to actually do something to help. A.Ma.Zing !

    Being pregnant is actually NOT an option for me. At least, in the current state of medicine. If research says otherwise in 5 years, 10 years or so, I’ll assess my decision and I will decide based upon those new data. I cannot know what research will say in 5, 10 years or so, and I can decide only on information I already have right now, not on information I may be able to obtain in 5ish years, 10ish years and so.
    But I won’t be pregnant to please people, because I will be the only one who deals with the consequences on my health after. They won’t deal with the consequences on my health, no matter what they try to make me believe. They try to convince me based on rubbish because they have issues about the fact that people live their live no matter what they can think.

    I am open on adoption, or sponsor a child in his country to go to school, or help a child by spending my time and giving him a positive role model. In a sentence, I am open with being involved in a child’s life by being his mom or not being his mom, I will decide when it will be the moment.
    I don’t know yet if I will adopt or be only a positive role model for a child who is not mine.
    But endangering my health for a child does not absolutely worth the trade off.

    For me, the morning after birth control pill worthes more the trade off a pregnancy or abortion (I already know the difficulties to stabilize my ADHD, it would not be wise to become unstable only to please people and their judgments. BTW, you will never please everyone in life, no matter what).


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