GENDER AND THE BODY OF MEDICINE OR AT LEAST SOME BODY PARTS:

(Re)Constructing the Prestige Hierarchy of Medical Specialties

Authors


Direct all correspondence to Susan W. Hinze, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106-7124; e-mail: sxh3@po.cwru.edu

Abstract

Understanding the disproportionate location of women physicians in lower status medical specialties necessitates knowing how women and men view the prestige hierarchy of specialties. Previous research on status ranking has been largely quantitative and based upon male respondents. Using narratives from face-to-face interviews with male and female resident physicians, this study finds that, although residents are fairly consistent in their rankings, women were more likely to resist the concept of a prestige hierarchy. In addition to explicit dimensions conferring prestige are implicit justifications grounded in the physician's body. Specifically, high prestige is associated with active interventionist hands and “balls,” body parts that I argue are not gender neutral. The findings shift the focus from individual-level gender differences toward a gendered examination of the medical specialty hierarchy. The physicians interviewed here give voice to the silent, symbolic, embodied work of gender that shapes the structure of medical specialties into a ladder with a masculine top and a feminine bottom, regardless of whether male or female bodies occupy the rungs.

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