I had my first pelvic exam in 2001, at the university health centre. The doctor was fast and brusque and no-nonsense, and though it hurt and I did a lot of flailing around, I came out thinking it wasn’t that bad. Today I just went for my second pelvic exam (please don’t yell at me! I move a lot) with the doctor who delivered me; he’s prestigious and hard to book appointments with. My mom actually pulled some strings to get me a booking with him in less than six months.
He seemed like a pleasant enough older fellow, European, polite and calm; he reassured me that his prestigious fingers wouldn’t do any walking till I told him I was comfortable. I gave him permission, he got in there, and we proceeded to have a conversation about… my weight. He’s touching my ovaries and talking about my gut. “Does diabetes run in your family? Ah, I thought so. You know, that’s mostly weight related, eh? You must cut out refined starches, all refined starches. And potatoes. Ha ha! It seems you have eaten many potatoes over Thanksgiving.”
I was a bit breathless from the pain and being tensed up at this point, and he’s got one arm apparently up to the elbow in my hoo-ha, and he’s using the other to palpate my abdominal area, all the while going on about how yes, ha ha! There is a little too much of you, my dear, a little too much, too much belly here. What could I say? It’s hard to come up with a sensible, body-positive, or even logical response with that going on. He winds up, and as he’s washing his hands he says, again, unnecessarily, “So you will do as I say, eh? Cut out the refined starches. Lose some of that gut, yes, at least twenty pounds you could stand to lose. Ha ha! Goodbye!”
Finally I said very meekly, “So, my periods. Uh. And them being heavy. What do you think about that?” He blinked at me as if he’d forgotten why the appointment had been booked in the first place, then grudgingly discussed my birth control pill for a while, did my medical history, mentioned the possibility of micro-fibroids, and he gave me a prescription for a different brand of pill as well as blood tests. I left feeling pretty violated in a couple of different ways, and sore in a couple of different ways. First, my gut should not in the least affect my pelvic exam. (Does it? Someone please back me up here!) Secondly, is the sliding scale of fat discrimination still sliding? What’s it greased with, Olestra?
I weigh a hundred and thirty-five pounds.
And I had to coax this man to talk about my pelvic exam.
I have never encountered a doctor whose fat stigma started at so low a cutoff weight. I hope to never encounter one again. Next time I go in for a pelvic, I’m going to see if I can book with one of the other doctors. I think the worst part is that I agreed to do everything he said and even thanked him on the way out.