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The pleasure of the gods
March 19, 2012 10:40 AM   Subscribe

French hospitals have rooms where medical students (internes) can rest, lunch and vent off steam between calls, but these salles de garde are not your usual staff room. They are brightly decorated with lively mural paintings showing the current internes, the doctors and other hospital staff engaging in very (very) explicit sex acts. The frescos are done by the students themselves or commissioned from local artists, and are replaced on a regular basis. Here are some choice examples (sorted by hospital): Ambroise Paré, Cochin, Widal, Louis Mourier, Saint-Louis, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Institut Gustave Roussy (ibid) (ibid), Lariboisière, Robert Debré, Saint-Cloud, Tenon. Many other images can be seen on the website of an association of former internes. [Totally NSFW unless you're a medical student training in France]

The name of the website Le plaisir des dieux (the pleasure of the gods) is also the title of a ribald song that is part of the internes' largely pornographic musical repertory (amusing Google attempt at translating the song in English). Not your usual anatomy lecture: Professor Bargy sings the Plaisir des dieux in the Descartes University amphitheatre.
posted by elgilito (203 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are hospitals, right?
posted by jsavimbi at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2012


Oh ...France
posted by The Whelk at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Bound to affect how you view your snack-break banana.
posted by Abiezer at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


I noticed a couple have some kind of roulette-wheel thingy. Can anyone explain what that is for?
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:48 AM on March 19, 2012


I tried to imagine that being done in your typical American hospital, and my brain exploded. Pretty wild. Widal is my favorite so far; it has the most obvious "sense of fun" style.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2012


Wow! Saint-Louis has an orgasma-tron! Gives a whole new meaning to "When do you get off?" (That IS an orgasma-tron, right?)
posted by Mike D at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2012


That's really quite something.
posted by cell divide at 10:51 AM on March 19, 2012


And to think that not long ago we were clutching pearls over the Frenchant for perineal re-education...
posted by chavenet at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2012


Médecins Sans Frontières, indeed.
posted by gwint at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2012 [57 favorites]


Oh humanity, you so crazy! <3
posted by The otter lady at 10:53 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I ♥ France. LOL
We should do this for metafilter regulars. There are lots of you guys with considerable artistic skill. The Whelk?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


not with a ten foot clown pole jeff
posted by The Whelk at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


so you want a 10" clown pole ? Isn't that "The Jeremy" treatment ?
posted by k5.user at 11:00 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been looking for a new photography project.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And to think that not long ago we were clutching pearls over the Frenchant for perineal re-education...
I think you need something larger than a pearl for kegel exercises.
posted by modernserf at 11:11 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is also what the metafilter breakroom looks like.
posted by empath at 11:11 AM on March 19, 2012


None of those people are using condoms.
posted by spicynuts at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


So that's why no one ever goes in there.
posted by griphus at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2012


Sadly, I'm at work and can't view this. *sigh*
posted by Vamier at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank God they didn't post something really offensive like a headscarf.
posted by 4ster at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2012 [34 favorites]


Better than watching Greys Anatomy.
posted by zaelic at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


wow, i just became conscious of the fact that i am american

you don't usually notice it but it just slammed into me
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:24 AM on March 19, 2012 [35 favorites]


I think this is quite funny and am not offended in the least, but I do have to ask: So what, exactly, does qualify as sexual harassment in the workplace in France? Just in case you weren't on board with having a naked, lascivious caricature of yourself on the department's break room wall.
posted by mosk at 11:27 AM on March 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


I was like, "How NSFW could this be at a hospital? Puritans." Hahahaha... what? No. Twelve year old boys with access to their father's porn collection, a marker, and a bathroom wall are in awe of this work. Larry Flint would be impressed. France wins. I don't know what it wins, but it can probably be inserted with enough lube. Damn.
posted by FunkyHelix at 11:29 AM on March 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Stuff like this and the giant train layout with the red light district, naked couple frolicking in the grass, etc. really drives home the point of how Puritan the good old USA is compared to much of Europe. Relax and have some sexytime, America!
posted by Ron Thanagar at 11:29 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I wonder how French women feel about this. I also wonder what they did before women were doctors. Gay orgies? Generic women? Nurses? Or was France quicker to be egalitarian in the medical arena than the US?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:29 AM on March 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wow!
posted by zarq at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2012


Gross.
Glad to be an American.
(Are you sure this isn't some practical joke? Because. Really. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:30 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are hysterical and fun. I'm trying to work out how important it is that this is specifically for medical professionals, in a private part of the hospital. Would it seem as charming and amusing in an accounting firm? A factory? Something about the context of being doctors with a necessarily utilitarian view of the human body seems to make this funny instead of offensive.
posted by Nelson at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can't click any of the links right now, but based on this article and associated anecdata, it isn't all orgy frescoes. (Warning: French)

A French doctor friend had sent me the above article when she learned that I had never heard of these rooms. One of the rituals in these salles de garde, is for women to expose their breasts to a room of men when the men chant, "des poumons."

When I asked the sender if she ever felt ashamed about having to do that, she replied that it was just part of becoming a doctor in France. When I asked her what would have happened if she hadn't wanted to participate, she told me that she just would have decided not to become a doctor.

If you think this is cool, well... you shouldn't.
posted by weinbot at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2012 [65 favorites]


One of the rituals in these salles de garde, is for women to expose their breasts to a room of men when the men chant, "des poumons."

And men have to show their wangs, right?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:36 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I asked the sender if she ever felt ashamed about having to do that, she replied that it was just part of becoming a doctor in France. When I asked her what would have happened if she hadn't wanted to participate, she told me that she just would have decided not to become a doctor.

Okay, so this has now gone from funny and entertaining to revolting and obnoxious. Ugh.
posted by elizardbits at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2012 [35 favorites]


What the actual fuck France? You cray cray.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:38 AM on March 19, 2012


Yep, there's something about this whole concept that sort of creeps me out. Remind me not to get sick in France...wait, no, remind me not to GO to France.

/ and, I suspect that French doctors don't have dicks that long, breasts that large, or are that good looking, tanned, and in shape as is depicted in those murals.
posted by HuronBob at 11:39 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb, I don't know any male French doctors, but based on the article I linked, men show their asses.
posted by weinbot at 11:40 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yah, that's pretty out there. Next time I run in to one of my French friends I'm going to have to ask them about this.

I'm a Canadian living in Germany, and it doesn't take long to notice that Germans are really okay with nudity. I've adapted for the most part, as really, a coed change room isn't a big deal. It's not like anyone stares, and anyway, after the novelty wares off, it's not a shock that women have breasts.

I still haven't been to a coed sauna though. And when I tell my German friends that I'm just not yet willing, they seem kind of surprised that this isn't really considered normal anywhere outside of Germany (and maybe like Austria and Finland).
posted by Alex404 at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Glad to be an American.

The only reason they don't do this in America is because we don't bother teaching kids art anymore.
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2012 [18 favorites]


Oh, and I failed to mention that these coed saunas tend to have a mandatory nudity policy.
posted by Alex404 at 11:42 AM on March 19, 2012


This will be mandated under Obamacare
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


elizardbits: " Okay, so this has now gone from funny and entertaining to revolting and obnoxious. Ugh."

You found it funny and entertaining? Seriously?

Even removing the gender humiliation aspect of it (which, ugh,) it's a bunch of doctors being depicted fucking their interns. Whom they're in charge of. Whose career trajectories they control. It's an abusive environment from the get-go.

Or a metaphor for how they're being treated.
posted by zarq at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Rubbing out disease one break at a time. . .
posted by Danf at 11:47 AM on March 19, 2012


So, Grey's Anatomy in French?
posted by New England Cultist at 11:47 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


ahuri, sidéré, et éberlué. incroyable.
posted by desjardins at 11:49 AM on March 19, 2012


Funny and entertaining in the "look at these crazy french peoples" kind of way, yeah. Also, the few I randomly clicked on were just naked frolicking, not actual penetrative sex. Those are pretty awful and could use some equalizing pegging at the very least.
posted by elizardbits at 11:49 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those are pretty awful and could use some equalizing pegging at the very least.

I DID see an unconventional use of a carrot in one of them.
posted by Danf at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, and just to play devil's advocate, is this really so denegrating?

With my barely passable French the article said that while women have to show their breasts on demand, men are supposed to show their butts. I don't know of any algebra which says that breast nudity is necessarily a bigger deal than butt nudity.

And otherwise looking at the murals they don't all exactly seem like projections of male fantasy. The women generally seem to be having a good time and are in control in some situations.

This is definitely pretty out there, and in that article they spoke with women who were upset about it, but it didn't seem to have a tone of deep sexual humiliation. Anyone want to explain to me why I'm wrong?
posted by Alex404 at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this seems like a combination of two things that are bad on their own but deadly together: frat-house style hazing and sexual harassment. It's understandable that hazing happens in the highly structured and competitive, ego-ridden world of medicine, but I wish it didn't to the extent it does, and especially not in combination with sex. I'm kind of glad this doesn't happen in America. Knowing a lot of doctors, it strikes me as the unpleasant but logical end-point of a bunch of very type-A personalities without a lot of checks and balances...
posted by quincunx at 11:56 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


But... people becomes doctors to help other people!

not because they enjoy exercising power over others, nope.
posted by edguardo at 11:56 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's a bunch of doctors being depicted fucking their interns. Whom they're in charge of. Whose career trajectories they control. It's an abusive environment from the get-go.

The depictions are made or commissioned by the interns, not the doctors, though.
posted by kenko at 11:58 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this seems like a combination of two things that are bad on their own but deadly together: frat-house style hazing and sexual harassment. It's understandable that hazing happens in the highly structured and competitive, ego-ridden world of medicine, but I wish it didn't to the extent it does, and especially not in combination with sex.

You are assuming France has the same screwed up gender relations and competitive medical culture the U.S. does.

France has its own cultural issues on these fronts (in my limited experience), and until some French person comes along to fill us in on them, there is no point in extrapolating from ours.
posted by phrontist at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


> Anyone want to explain to me why I'm wrong?

Perhaps you missed this bit above:

When I asked the sender if she ever felt ashamed about having to do that, she replied that it was just part of becoming a doctor in France. When I asked her what would have happened if she hadn't wanted to participate, she told me that she just would have decided not to become a doctor.
posted by languagehat at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The aristocrats!
posted by Skygazer at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Now, if only they'd do this with post its...
posted by infini at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2012


To be fair, this happens in Germany as well.

Only with pooping.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:01 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You are assuming France has the same screwed up gender relations and competitive medical culture the U.S. does...there is no point in extrapolating from ours.

With respect, unless France is a utopia completely disconnected from the past few thousand years of human history, I don't see why it wouldn't be more logical to start by assuming that.
posted by quincunx at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


kenko: " The depictions are made or commissioned by the interns, not the doctors, though."

It sounds like a bad episode of Scrubs.
posted by zarq at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2012


Perhaps you missed this bit above...

No I didn't. And please realize that I'm asking this sincerely, but when I read that, it jibed with my understanding of the article, which is that people are rather forced into this sort of exhibitionistic ritual, which is bad. But it's not necessarily terrible, and there's not necessarily anything to be ashamed about. It doesn't sound like it's even suggested that people are meant to actually engage in sex acts. And what's most important, is that this is relatively gender neutral... much more than one might expect from something like this, anyway.

I guess what I'm asking is, did your friend really feel ashamed, like many other people who have to endure this, or is it, like the article attempts to depict it sometimes, little more than a rather unique and strange team building exercise?
posted by Alex404 at 12:21 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


My first thoughts were not towards sexual harassment, but more towards upending the hierarchy for the benefit of the interns. It is their break room and they set it up this way - it is revolutionary.

I was thinking they'd be wandering in there tired and frazzled... "FUCK THAT GUY! He is riding me so hard, he never gives me a break!"

His friends laugh and refer to the picture of the chief of cardiology doing him up the pooper. "Haha, Giraud, looks like you are asking for it to me!"

Or the reverse, the intern could be sure to commission her most hated supervisor getting jerked off by her second most hated overseer... that kind of thing...

Etc., etc.... they are doctors, they need some release. And they're French.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


As someone who is pretty damn blasé about nudity and thinks that sex should be viewed as something positive and normal, I definitely find this practice nasty and oppressive. I think quincunx has it right in saying that it seems like a combination of hazing and sexual harassment, perhaps allowed to perpetuate itself due to being ostensibly executed at the behest of those who it is oppressing (the interns do it themselves!) and under the guise of being sexually egalitarian (men as well as women are depicted, and men have to show their butts just like women have to show their breasts!).

I obviously am not in a position to say how the people involved in this feel about it (I very much appreciate the few comments from people relating stories from friends who have gone through this!) but I think that it would be extremely telling to hear what happens to interns who wish to opt out of this. At very least, one would be ostracized by having to eat your lunch and take your breaks in a different place from all of your peers. I suspect it would be worse than that, given that weinbot's friend declared that she would rather have simply chosen a different career path rather than try to become a doctor while avoiding this ritual.

Putting aside for the moment the somewhat silly idea that France has become some kind of totally-sexually-liberated, totally-gender-equal utopia of a sort that would be totally anomalous in Western culture, it seems obvious that what we're looking at here is a case of severe institutional oppression. Attempts to defend this or mitigate it are, to me anyway, extremely telling -- the more so the more closely-connected the defender is to this practice.
posted by Scientist at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2012 [13 favorites]


You know what comes to mind when I picture this happening here in the US? Gloria Allred...which would explode 1st, her head or her bank account?
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:31 PM on March 19, 2012


in that article they spoke with women who were upset about it, but it didn't seem to have a tone of deep sexual humiliation. Anyone want to explain to me why I'm wrong?

Go back to the phrase of yours that I bolded. That is the explanation for why it is wrong.

It doesn't matter what part of one's physical self you are being "ordered" to flash "on demand" at your job. It could be the back of your fuckin' neck - if you are being ORDERED to display it on command, and if you are having a hard enough time avoiding it that you are upset by it, that is a wrong thing that is happening to you.

There are undoubtedly women who have no problem flashing boob. If they have no problem with it, great. But there are women who are uncomfortable with it, and undoubtedly there are also men who may be uncomfortable with flashing ass, and they shouldn't have to do so at their damn job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2012 [32 favorites]


In the peak of the sex harassment hysteria of the '90's, i.e. in between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill and Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, I had a close friend who was a student at a very large U.Sl medical school with hospital. The textbook "hostile environment" he described to me was pretty bizarre. Perhaps he was taking the piss out of me. He said the male residents and interns had porno all over the walls all over the place and it was almost routine for female medical students to be in sex relationship with their male supervisor.
posted by bukvich at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb, if they just need some release, they can play fucking ping-pong or something.
posted by weinbot at 12:51 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's also the inevitable gender-based inequity with shaming issues: in general, when women refuse to participate in these kinds of things, they're labeled as stuck up bitches/angry lesbians/out to ruin a little harmless fun/fat/ugly/whatevs (and my favourite utterly illogical denigration for women who refuse to participate in sexual activity, "whores"); but while men might also be seen as party poopers for refusing to join in, they can fall back on claims of maintaining professional gravitas much more easily.

On the other side of the situation: in general, women who participate willingly may be branded as sluts/whores/easy/using their sexuality to get ahead in the workplace/&c; but men who participate will suffer no negative consequences, and only be seen as fun guys and part of the team.

And yes, I am looking at this from a US point of view, and yes, France is usually a lot less hung up on sex issues, but the problem here is less the graphic depictions of cartoon sex and more the institutionalized workplace sexual harassment.
posted by elizardbits at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am so confused. We need a French person in here to explain this because at this point we're just groping in the dark for the significance (if any) of this.
no pun intended
posted by Defenestrator at 12:56 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


My early jocular comment was of course with the mindset of "of course everyone concerned is okay with what is going on and this is just harmless fun / those wacky French" but now there is all this ??context?? around it. So, hmm.

Anyway, as erotica goes, it's kind of meh, so there's that.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:04 PM on March 19, 2012


Weinbot: Meatbomb, if they just need some release, they can play fucking ping-pong or something.

Another good way to get balls bouncing around the room!
posted by Skygazer at 1:05 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What y'all need is a French medical intern because I may have lived here for 13 years all told now, and have French citizenship, but I'm a little at a loss too.

About all I can give is my experience as a woman in two countries, the US and France. In the US, we have more equality in the office and socially – women soccer champions, pro basketball teams, little girls who can play baseball on boys' teams (me among them!), "tomboys" more generally accepted. On the other hand... a quick glance at the last few weeks will give you a sad picture of women's status as human beings in the US. Mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds if you want an abortion, good luck finding an experienced doctor to perform it, oh and you're "sluts" if you take the Pill, zero mandatory paid maternity leave if you don't and keep your baby.

In France women are viewed as equals on the human being level, and yet, socially we're expected to behave "femininely". But... several months of mandatory, paid maternity leave. The Pill is fully reimbursed and there is no shame attached to it. Abortion is not an issue here, at least not from my American point of view. The French are not the sex-fiends they're made out to be in reality; I've never experienced overt sexual harassment here. Anecdote is not data, but there it is. Understated stuff like dumb "teh wimmins are teh silly" so-called "jokes", yes, but I have never, not even once, been called a slut, a whore, or a bitch, and I have only very rarely heard those words used against other women I know (salope, pute, chieuse). I... can't say that for the time I spent in the US.

I don't know. In the US I experienced what felt like genuine hatred towards my gender; the recent Republican nonsense confirms that. In France it feels more like a childish play in which I genuinely want to bop a Nerf bat over some men's heads at times, but I, as a human being, have never been truly threatened. So it's hard to speak to what this means, though I do tend to think along the lines Meatbomb does and see it as playful. The art, that is. The hazing, yeesh. (If anyone has specific questions, feel free to MeMail, it's my bedtime here and so, as often happens, I won't be able to come back to this thread any time soon... désolée.)
posted by fraula at 1:16 PM on March 19, 2012 [62 favorites]


Here's the way I see this: Your dealing with blood and new babies and excrement, and disease and decay and all the many hued foul effluvium of the human body in various states, even whilst healing and even whilst renewing and even whilst decomposing in front of you and breathing it's last and succumbing to death and death and death and death and death, and fuck me, but if that was me, I might want a fucking room that wasn't so insanely perfect and civilized and utterly removed from the reality of what I was dealing with, I'd want a room that held some truth as to the ever present viscera and biology that I was dealing with. A place that was real and reflected what I was dealing with and that captured the looniness of it all and maybe made be realize I wasn't some sort of God with power over any of this, but just another human with feelings and a sexual inner life, that made me feel connected to my colleagues.

I mean really, I just don't see any woman, or man for that matter giving a fuck about what's on that wall except to get a chuckle out of it and regain some perspective.

As for the whole boobs and butt controversy, for fucks sake people, doctors are looking at boobs, and butts and all manner of things all the live long fucking day, I hardly think showing their own upon command is any more significant that shaking someone's hand. Really, the boobs and butts of interns in a hospital are as coal to Newcastle as you can possible get, meaning, take a fucking number, cos no one cares about your boobs or butts after they've just gone through a dozen sickly pairs of boobs and sickly butts after a certain point except perhaps to be reassured that the human body can also inhabit beauty and charm and laughter, as well as mind-numbing states of sickness and death.


*Packs bag. Moves to France.*
posted by Skygazer at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2012 [28 favorites]


And otherwise looking at the murals they don't all exactly seem like projections of male fantasy. The women generally seem to be having a good time and are in control in some situations.

This is definitely pretty out there, and in that article they spoke with women who were upset about it, but it didn't seem to have a tone of deep sexual humiliation. Anyone want to explain to me why I'm wrong?


Giving you the benefit of the doubt, Alex, just because you are depicted as "having a good time and in control" in a sexually explicit mural someone has painted on the wall of your workplace, that doesn't mean that you ACTUALLY are having a good time and feel in control when you have to look at it.

Did you honestly need someone to explain that to you??

I would also LOVE to hear some reactions to this by French women.
posted by cairdeas at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Skygazer: Here's the way I see this: Your dealing with blood and new babies and excrement, and disease and decay and all the many hued foul effluvium of the human body in various states, even whilst healing and even whilst renewing and even whilst decomposing in front of you and breathing it's last and succumbing to death and death and death and death and death, and fuck me, but if that was me, I might want a fucking room that wasn't so insanely perfect and civilized and utterly removed from the reality of what I was dealing with, I'd want a room that held some truth as to the ever present viscera and biology that I was dealing with. A place that was real and reflected what I was dealing with and that captured the looniness of it all and maybe made me realize I wasn't some sort of God with power over any of this, but just another human with feelings and a sexual inner life, that made me feel connected to my colleagues.

I mean really, I just don't see any woman, or man for that matter giving a fuck about what's on that wall except to get a chuckle out of it and regain some perspective.


Bolding mine. The point, Skygazer, is that male feelings and desires shouldn't be the only ones that matter.
posted by cairdeas at 1:22 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would also LOVE to hear some reactions to this by French women.

A thousand times THIS, and if they're okay with it, will their American counterparts, please put down the daggers and lighten up already?

One does wonder...
posted by Skygazer at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2012


As for the whole boobs and butt controversy, for fucks sake people, doctors are looking at boobs, and butts and all manner of things all the live long fucking day, I hardly think showing their own upon command is any more significant that shaking someone's hand.

Take a look in AskMe sometime at just how many questions there are from people who are saying things like "I have a [foo] on my [baz] but I'm too embarrassed to show it to my doctor, what else can I do?" The fact that "doctors look at boobs and butts all day" doesn't make it any less too-personal-feeling for lots of people when it comes to showing off their own.

Even if it's a doctor showing it to other doctors.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2012


If you read the article, you've have seen that plenty of them are not okay with it.
posted by cairdeas at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yes, lots of people do appreciate the unsanitized earthy way of blowing off steam. Believe me, I know - I've worked in theater. (I had the definition of "teabagging" explained to me via mime, I've known a lot of people on backstage crews that had "naked days" and I've actually run the light board topless a few times.)

But the fact that lots of people appreciate this doesn't mean that everyone does.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:26 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even if it's a doctor showing it to other doctors.

Well, perhaps, if they're suspecting they're looking at something announcing the possible end of their lives, but anything else, I hardly think that's the case. Like I said, this is their reality and their calling. It's not as weird as it is to layman for doctors to experience the human body in all it's various naked forms.
posted by Skygazer at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2012


Rabelais was a doctor (before versing into distasteful jokes) and studied at the university of Montpellier, which was already a successful school of medicine back in the 12th century. That gives you an idea of how far back these traditions go. I guess that until the 20th century most doctors in medicine were men, that's how they could get away with it. Female students are split on the matter, according to the Rue69. Some don't mind and take part, others would rather eat at the canteen. Hospitals are trying to get rid of the "salles de garde" to save money, in any case there aren't as common as you may think, some are barely used, other decommissioned and I would suspect that small provincial hospitals won't have one.

In any case, I don't think this is to the detriment of the quality of the healthcare.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:30 PM on March 19, 2012


As a gay person, ew.
posted by polymodus at 1:30 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it were gender neutral, the women would also be showing their butt, which is basically the same as a guys. But they aren't, they're showing their very strongly gendered boobs.
posted by jacalata at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, damn if this attitude by French doctors doesn't explain a great deal about Celine's books.
posted by Skygazer at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


As for the whole boobs and butt controversy, for fucks sake people, doctors are looking at boobs, and butts and all manner of things all the live long fucking day, I hardly think showing their own upon command is any more significant that shaking someone's hand.


I know I have told this around here somewhere before, but it fits here: Ages ago when I was an art school student in Florida, of course we drew naked people in life class. Truly it was just like drawing a bowl of fruit, none of us thought much of it, even me (a rather shy gal even in my heathen days.) Which made it ironic (and kinda funny) when, when one of our models was late to class, running across campus and her robe slipped to display nipplage-everyone was shocked and horrified.

It was the exact same boob we were all about to draw in a coed class, that IN CLASS didn't so much as rate a yawn.

Context matters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not as weird as it is to layman for doctors to experience the human body in all it's various naked forms.

Correction: It's not as weird as it is to layman for doctors to SEE the human body in all its various naked forms.

SEEING the naked body on display is a very different experience from BEING the naked body on display, and just because a doctor may be more comfortable than the layman with the former doesn't automatically follow that they'd be more comfortable with the latter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:35 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a good article and it talks about the ambivalence a lot of students feel about these. It's an old old old tradition meant to help form bonds between the medical students and keep them from getting too morose about being around all the blood and shit and death of hospitals.

And it's elitist, which some don't like. You don't have to go, it's basically the cantine or lunch room, you can go eat lunch elsewhere, though you might get ostracized for it. Some women did feel like if they didn't participate in the general stupidity they would be considered either 'frigid' or a 'slut.'

« Un interne a généralement entre 25 et 30 ans. C'est une période pendant laquelle il a des aspirations familiales. Pendant ce temps, il évolue dans un monde de mort et de maladie. La salle de garde est le moyen que les internes ont trouvé pour rétablir l'équilibre. »

Eros pour narguer Thanatos, la recette est vieille comme le monde.

posted by From Bklyn at 1:37 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the fact that lots of people appreciate this doesn't mean that everyone does.

I understand that, but still, to me I would dare any person doctor or not, who's just witnessed the intensity of childbirth giving a flying toss about a sexy mural. If they did, it would really make me question his (or her) commitment to medicine.

I honestly wouldn't want a doctor who didn't have a sense of humor about these things...

That would be a cuckoo-bananas doctor, IMVHO.
posted by Skygazer at 1:39 PM on March 19, 2012


Basically, it's like a little student Spring Break, but every day, during lunch.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2012


I understand that, but still, to me I would dare any person doctor or not, who's just witnessed the intensity of childbirth giving a flying toss about a sexy mural.

And if they've just spent two days charting? Do you give them permission to find the murals irritating then?
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2012


*Either that or immature or inexperienced or misguided about his or her vocation, which is just as bad (as being cuckoo-bananas) IMVVHO.
posted by Skygazer at 1:43 PM on March 19, 2012


There are only two people quoted really disagreeing with the traditions in weinbot's friend's link :

First, Isabelle complains about "refusing to play the game", meaning behavior, not murals. I believe she primarily disliked their bawdy songs. American doctors aren't afaik better behaved.

Second, Patrick complains the murals and behavior represent elitism, a complaint totally alien to the U.S., which makes him largely irrelevant to your criticism. Also, the article explains the original egalitarian purpose of the guard room murals, dating from the Middle Ages.

A third named Ella says she happily sang the bawdy songs while eating but refused to flash, which strongly indicates that no negative stigma accompanies simply saying no.

In fact, I've witnessed very similar behavior multiple times, not in hospitals, but the ridiculous and bawdy ENS dinner songs. There is one they sing with ENS students undressing while standing on tables, maybe fourish guys got naked every dinner, maybe another eight guys who got partially naked, and a girl or two got down to a bra or something. Again, I never witnessed anyone being pressured, even amongst this less professional group.

I've always considered the American and British prudish fear of nudity so deplorable and disgusting that another culture's comfort with nudity becomes endearing and inspiring. I've certainly teased French friends about the Germans treating nudity completely innocently while "France isn't so innocent", but this remains preferable to the soul sucking stupidity witnessed on the other side of the pond.

tl;dr - Afaik nobody gets pressured into flashing anybody.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:43 PM on March 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Doctors are human beings. Just because you are well-acquainted with the naked human body as a functional object doesn't mean that in a different context a naked human body can't also have sexual or power-dynamic connotations. To say otherwise strikes me as somewhat obtuse, to be honest.
posted by Scientist at 1:43 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand that, but still, to me I would dare any person doctor or not, who's just witnessed the intensity of childbirth giving a flying toss about a sexy mural.

And I understand that, but I'm talking about being pressured to flash people.

If they did, it would really make me question his (or her) commitment to medicine.

....Then in my opinion you have a highly unusual criteria by which you gauge your doctor's quality. But I guess if it works for you, hey...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2012


Metafilter: We need a French person in here.
posted by Danf at 2:10 PM on March 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Rabelais was a doctor (before versing into distasteful jokes) and studied at the university of Montpellier, which was already a successful school of medicine back in the 12th century. That gives you an idea of how far back these traditions go.

Obscene song, of course, but obscene frescoes? I wonder. Some early photos on this site, and as recently as the nineties there was nudity sans virtual Frightful Nastiness. Would this sort of thing have flown a hundred years ago? Fifty years ago? I have to wonder. Perhaps the answer lies here. Or here.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:13 PM on March 19, 2012


With respect, unless France is a utopia completely disconnected from the past few thousand years of human history, I don't see why it wouldn't be more logical to start by assuming that.

I didn't say it wasn't offensive. I'm guessing it is. I'm just saying we don't know how it's offensive until some French medical students chime in.
posted by phrontist at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2012


It's late in Frenchy land, they're probably having pleasant dreams about unconventional uses for carrots.
posted by desjardins at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's late in Frenchy land, they're probably having pleasant dreams about unconventional uses for carrots.
posted by desjardins at 2:16 PM on March 19


Eponysterical.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:24 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reads like frat culture for doctors from where I'm sitting - a bunch of young people low on the totem pole leading highly regulated, stressful lives (you can bet being a medical intern is all fun and games), seemingly defying conventional morality but actually following group rules and traditions.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:39 PM on March 19, 2012


I'm not a French doctor but a French engineer, and French engineering schools also have those merry old traditions that include hazing, ribald songs etc. I was fortunate that in my school that stuff was very gentle and strictly opt-in (i.e. there was really no penalty for not joining the fun; I didn't). In many other schools, hardcore hazing and the accompanying sexual harassment is still quite an ugly problem, and the ole-boy networks of former students (and sometimes the school authorities) vehemently deny that there's a problem in the first place, because those nice traditions build character and the esprit de corps, right? The whole elite corps mindset, I hated that.
Now, a long-time female friend, who went to an engineering school with really harsh hazing traditions, keeps telling me how a great time she had, and how wonderful these traditions are, and how her hazing experience was important to her as an individual (it also helped her to weed out the real creeps from the dating pool...). Even though some of the hazing stuff, like having to simulate sex acts, would certainly qualify as sexual harassment (if not rape), she loved every single minute of it and maintains that nobody was ever forced (which I doubt, since non-participants are given derogatory nicknames). We've been arguing about this for the last two decades and I still don't know what to think. One one hand, I strongly believe that nobody should be peer-pressured into flashing body parts or into sucking dicks figuratively on a staffroom mural. On the other hand, it's obvious that such experiences are actually important and enjoyable for many people.
posted by elgilito at 2:47 PM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


1. I used to work in carework, so i got used to nudity, but stripping is different. Even now, i don't care about being naked, but stripping on command, and revealing only one part of your body - a sex organ, under british law!, which means it has to be covered at all times in public - is different. It's not just taking your clothes off because you chose. 2. I was thinking it was funny, but then i thought of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn thing.
3. Abortion's not a big deal in any european country that isn't super-religious - Ireland it is, i think portugal..think rural,poor countries. 4. Doctors in britain are notorious for being unhygienic and refusing to improve their hygiene although they are working in a hospital, they view themselves as better than everyone else. I used to know some doctors and they reckoned if the public knew anything behind the scenes they'd be horrified. It is a strange profession, being handed the ability to kill or save the life of the rest of the community's people, so you must feel weird, powerful and different, subject to different rules, from the rest of humanity.
What i thought was interesting was they'd mainly avoided any two people having penetrative sex, obviously that would seem personal. It's so rare to be surprised nowadays, this is amazing:)
posted by maiamaia at 2:49 PM on March 19, 2012


I'm a Doctor, I've seen it before.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:03 PM on March 19, 2012


Damn you all! This might be Zoidberg's only chance to get into such situations!

woopwoopwoopwoopwoopwoop
posted by edguardo at 3:12 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey, Gustave Roussy has a nod to Courbet. I knew I recognized that cooter.
posted by steef at 3:36 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we had a Venn diagram of "Men who ask their female interns to get their tits out at work" and "Men who are so respectful that they would never put any social pressure on said female interns to get their tits out, and who always treat them with the highest degree of professional respect if they choose not to participate", the two circles would hardly touch. That's the problem!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: We need a French person in here.

Yes, but only one. Or else we might get le disagreement.
posted by chavenet at 3:55 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


definitely the best one
posted by telstar at 4:07 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Médecins Sans Frontières

Médecins Sans Culotte
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:52 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It would be nice to get a little context from someone who actually knows what's going on.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on March 19, 2012


There are undoubtedly women who have no problem flashing boob. If they have no problem with it, great. But there are women who are uncomfortable with it, and undoubtedly there are also men who may be uncomfortable with flashing ass, and they shouldn't have to do so at their damn job.

Hell. I'd be uncomfortable being in the presence of a gal having to flash if I so much as suspected she was uncomfortable with it.
posted by notreally at 5:07 PM on March 19, 2012


> if that was me, I might want a fucking room that wasn't so insanely perfect and civilized and utterly removed from the reality of what I was dealing with

Absolutely. And the only such room you can imagine is one that has murals showing the current internes, the doctors and other hospital staff engaging in explicit sex acts? There is no other conceivable way to let off steam and get away from it all? Really?
posted by languagehat at 5:21 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I understand that, but still, to me I would dare any person doctor or not, who's just witnessed the intensity of childbirth giving a flying toss about a sexy mural. If they did, it would really make me question his (or her) commitment to medicine.

This line of reasoning is just off. Doctors are not, by and large, that damaged.
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:32 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


None of those people are using condoms.

No condoms doesn't surprise me; sadly, seeing one hundred percent pubic hair does (and makes me wonder if the murals were painted a decade or two back).
posted by Forktine at 5:53 PM on March 19, 2012


My wife's reaction: "That's so...confusing."
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:54 PM on March 19, 2012


Now, a long-time female friend, who went to an engineering school with really harsh hazing traditions, keeps telling me how a great time she had, and how wonderful these traditions are, and how her hazing experience was important to her as an individual

I have absolutely no doubt that this is true. I think far and away the majority of people who participate in hazing--Greek organizations, sports teams, military, marching bands--think that hazing is an essential part of the culture and binds them together.

There was an FPP some years ago about U.S. med students and the amount of sleep they got during their training. Many of the students maintained that this was the culture, this weeded out the weak, this is what it took to be a doctor. Even when it risked patient care.

Just because it's French people and sex doesn't mean it's any more enlightened than sorority pledges getting pissed on by fraternity brothers or a bunch of Marines getting beaten.
posted by gladly at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's really difficult for MetaFilter, which is dominated by folks from one country, to discuss other cultures.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:56 PM on March 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I certainly support this tradition along with most traditions that challenge the perversion that is prudishness, but..

There is a valid observation by that medical student Patrick that, while this tradition developed to promote egalitarianism amongst doctors, it also exists to promote elitism of the medical profession.

I suspect every Ivy league university possesses similar traditions, certainly Princeton's Freshmen Olympics and Harvard's Primal Scream, Yale's Skull & Bones' recounting of sexual histories, etc. all qualify. Yale, Brown, MIT, etc.'s more recent naked parties too. St. Andrews has the May dip.

There are many ways the upper class, or even specialized subcultures, set themselves apart from the plebs, including flaunting their ability to violate social norms, at least amongst themselves.

I suspect all this wonky nudity-as-liminal-activity goes away if you make nudity fairly normal like the Germans do. We'd all walk around saunas naked, not worry about closing our blinds when naked, etc. And occasionally the oddball 60 year old metal head would visit the awesome metal club nude.

I'm mildly concerned about fixating upon poop instead in this proposed utopia, but hey freedom man.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:17 PM on March 19, 2012


Wait, I have a sincere question --

Those of you defending the murals, did you miss that these murals depict the interns themselves in these acts? It's not just "painting of random guy in a tutu," it's "painting of Sid, the guy standing over there by the Corn chex, wearing a tutu"

Do you still think that element is necessary? Meaning -- you say you'd be cool with doctors who wanted an "unsanitized room" to blow off steam in, but - what if you knew that the walls weren't simply decorated with "random guy blowing a goat," but rather, it was a clearly-identifiable picture of you, personally, blowing a goat?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:19 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


St. Alia of the Bunnies writes "I know I have told this around here somewhere before, but it fits here: Ages ago when I was an art school student in Florida, of course we drew naked people in life class. Truly it was just like drawing a bowl of fruit, none of us thought much of it, even me (a rather shy gal even in my heathen days.) Which made it ironic (and kinda funny) when, when one of our models was late to class, running across campus and her robe slipped to display nipplage-everyone was shocked and horrified.

"It was the exact same boob we were all about to draw in a coed class, that IN CLASS didn't so much as rate a yawn. "


The shock and horror here is that anyone would be shocked and horrified over a view of a nipple.

maiamaia writes "i don't care about being naked, but stripping on command, and revealing only one part of your body - a sex organ, under british law!, which means it has to be covered at all times in public - is different."

Anyone one know the legality of showing boob in France? It would be totally legal here in Canada.

KokuRyu writes "I think it's really difficult for MetaFilter, which is dominated by folks from one country, to discuss other cultures."

No kidding. I wonder if there isn't some burqa wearing culture web board out there whose members are totally offended by all the naked faces displayed on Employee of the Month walls in the US. I can hear the outrage now: posted by Mitheral at 6:23 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be great if there was a deeply dedicated Victorian cosplay board full of lamentations about the scandalous amount of ankle being shown in women's fashion these days.
posted by elizardbits at 6:32 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


JoeZydeco: I noticed a couple have some kind of roulette-wheel thingy. Can anyone explain what that is for?
It's for randomizing "taxes", i.e. penalties given to students for disobeying one of the numerous rules of the salle de garde (like saying aloud a medical term).

Languagehat: There is no other conceivable way to let off steam and get away from it all?
The internes have also a tradition of big-scale food fights and wanton destruction of hospital property (mostly breaking plates and furniture...). Painting porn murals is just another way for them to let off steam.

These answers come from this book (subtitled Sex and death in medical training), where there's also this interesting tidbit: since the 1980s, the majority of French medical students are in fact female. Paradoxically, instead of eroding the phallocentric aspects of these traditions, it seems to have reinforced them (more dicks and more boobs) as the male students are still leading those "recreational" activities, making them even more male-oriented. Only one tradition has been dropped: the male internes no longer hire prostitutes to entertain them collectively in the salle de garde. I guess that the female students declined to share the costs.
posted by elgilito at 6:38 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It would be great if there was a deeply dedicated Victorian cosplay board full of lamentations about the scandalous amount of ankle being shown in women's fashion these days.

Bet you a drink at some meetup sometime that it exists somewhere on the interwebs.

posted by rtha at 6:41 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's precisely the fact that it's you personally blowing the goat that makes this "liminal" activity elitist, support group cohesion, etc., EmpressCallipygos, necessity doesn't enter the picture.

Is it necessary that various universities' dead weeks traditions include running naked around campus, running naked through other people's finals, etc.? No, that's the point.

Is anything wrong with those tradition? Yes, the fact they feel compelled to run to accommodate America's disgusting prudishness. A Frenchman stands on the table.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:47 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's precisely the fact that it's you personally blowing the goat that makes this "liminal" activity elitist, support group cohesion, etc., EmpressCallipygos, necessity doesn't enter the picture.

....Pardon?

No, I sincerely am having trouble deconstructing this sentence. Can you rephrase?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 PM on March 19, 2012


Also, I'm not certain that the "dead weeks" is a good comparison, because "dead weeks" traditions are not compulsory. A student can hide in their own room if they wish and abstain.

I notice that you are in Lyon - do you know any medical students personally that have talked to you about this? (Men AND women?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 PM on March 19, 2012


Anyone... know the legality of showing boob in France?

There are a few here who have never been to a public beach on the Côte d'Azur.
posted by ovvl at 7:15 PM on March 19, 2012


Isn't there a big thing in France where they're trying to convince women that sexual harassment and assault is something they should actually speak up about and fight against? Did I imagine that article? I swear it was in, like, the NYT...
posted by SMPA at 7:34 PM on March 19, 2012


I was aware of beach attire; I guess I was inquiring about time and place restrictions. IE: is it legal for women to got topless every where a man may?
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 PM on March 19, 2012


I suspect every Ivy league university possesses similar traditions, certainly Princeton's Freshmen Olympics and Harvard's Primal Scream, Yale's Skull & Bones' recounting of sexual histories, etc. all qualify. Yale, Brown, MIT, etc.'s more recent naked parties too. St. Andrews has the May dip.

These are not logical supporting examples. To use these events to validate certain French cultural practices is quite naive.
posted by polymodus at 7:37 PM on March 19, 2012


Isn't there a big thing in France where they're trying to convince women that sexual harassment...is something they should actually...fight against?

Sure, but graffiti is still illegal. And what do you spray onto a wall full of dicks anyway? More dicks? Moustaches on the dicks? No no no, it just won't work.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:02 PM on March 19, 2012


I can't believe anyone thinks these murals are just oh-so-funny. I admit I only looked at about 4-5 of them, but they seemed to me to be all about treating women as being nothing more than a series of holes for men to ejaculate into.

This has totally cured me of any desire to live in France. And my feelings about this have nothing to do with American puritanical attitudes - it's about respect for women as human beings. The usual question applies here - how would you feel if it was your daughter, your sister, your mother painted on those walls? Does anyone really think that the male students have any respect for the women there?
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:14 PM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


That looks like a healthier way to burn off steam than the way med student/resident friends of mine here in MO did...by trying to drink themselves to death. If it is voluntary, and from the article it seems so...I have no problem with it. Viva la france!
posted by schyler523 at 9:28 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


And what do you spray onto a wall full of dicks anyway?

Pants.
posted by benzenedream at 11:08 PM on March 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Those of you defending the murals, did you miss that these murals depict the interns themselves in these acts? It's not just "painting of random guy in a tutu," it's "painting of Sid, the guy standing over there by the Corn chex, wearing a tutu"

You mean, they are like a "face" "book"? Didn't some guy in Harvard get into some kind of trouble for doing something quite similar? I wonder what ever happened to him...
posted by Skeptic at 2:31 AM on March 20, 2012


MetaFilter: It would be nice to get a little context from someone who actually knows what's going on.
posted by chavenet at 3:21 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Skeptic, don't be obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 AM on March 20, 2012


EmpressCallipygos Obtuse, why? Zuckerberg's well-known stunt was to take the pictures of fellow students from their houses' face books without their consent, and use them in a website where other students could rank them according to their "hotness". It pretty much smacks of the same hazing culture that's quite pervasive in most organisations housing highly driven young people, from elite military units to elite institutions of higher learning, and he basically got a rap on the knuckles for it (of course, Harvard's president at the time was one Larry Summers, no stranger to accusations of sexism himself).

Not that I condone any of this, and I support any campaign that stamps down on hazing and in particular its more sexually-tainted forms. But it's good to be aware of the fact that it isn't linked to any particular culture, but rather springs from a very primal area of our brains.
posted by Skeptic at 4:24 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, not sure what to make of these. Medical people in general say things amongst ourselves that outsiders would find wildly inappropriate, but these seem excessive even though they look like they were done in a spirit of fun. I actually worked with a French gastroenterologist while I was a medical student doing an internal medicine rotation. She used to talk about how medicine in France differs from medicine in the US. One time she even told us about these break rooms; this was in the context of eating on-call, and she mentioned that in France they had refrigerators stocked with fresh bread, cheeses, charcuterie, and an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as beer and wine, that they could grab a bite from whenever they had a spare moment. This was in contrast to the vending machines that we have to eat from after the cafeteria closes (This was before we had a McDonalds in our hospital that stays open til 11 pm). She never mentioned the murals though; I wonder if they were around back then (she would have trained circa 1980) or if she just didn't mention them for whatever reason.
posted by TedW at 4:34 AM on March 20, 2012


Well, looking around that last link in the first paragraph I see some of these go back to 1900, but those were a lot less outrageous.
posted by TedW at 4:37 AM on March 20, 2012


You are assuming France has the same screwed up gender relations and competitive medical culture the U.S. does...there is no point in extrapolating from ours.

With respect, unless France is a utopia completely disconnected from the past few thousand years of human history, I don't see why it wouldn't be more logical to start by assuming that.



If there is one thing you learn from living in other countries it is how deeply weird and historically disconnected North America is.
posted by srboisvert at 5:06 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm a french person and it's the first time i hear about that stuff, and i am pretty amazed too. We need a french medical student indeed.
posted by SageLeVoid at 5:08 AM on March 20, 2012


This starts to feel like, "Hey, French interns who would like to engage with some curious people on the internets! Tell us how you feel about this private thing that happens in your world so that we know whether or not we should be upset about it!" And that feels a lot like GRAR tourism, which is similar to laugh-and-point tourism except with a lot more prescriptions for statins.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:19 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Obtuse, why? Zuckerberg's well-known stunt was to take the pictures of fellow students from their houses' face books without their consent, and use them in a website where other students could rank them according to their "hotness".

Was he posting pictures of them engaged in sex acts, though?

If you can't grasp that there's a difference there, then I don't know what to tell you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 AM on March 20, 2012


Was he posting pictures of them engaged in sex acts, though?

If you can't grasp that there's a difference there, then I don't know what to tell you.


Of course there is a difference, and I never said otherwise. The question is, what is the difference, and is it relevant?

You are seemingly scandalised by the "engaged in sex acts" part. If somebody drew me "engaged in a sex act", I'd find it juvenile at best, creepy at worst, but I don't think it, by itself, would be illegal or should be illegal, otherwise large parts of political caricature would be in danger, starting with most of Steve Bell's opus.

Pinching your picture for use in an online "hotness" contest without your knowledge, or consent, seems to me more objectionable, to be frank, ever if the actual illegality of it was probably restricted to the copyright and computer hacking aspects. While the sex wasn't explicit, what Harvard students understand as "hotness" is quite obvious, I would say.

That the thing that irks you, more than the issues of consent and humiliation, is the explicitness of the sex in those murals (seen only by adults quite used to the human body in all its forms) is symptomatic of what other commenters have rightly described as "Puritanism".
posted by Skeptic at 6:14 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meaning -- you say you'd be cool with doctors who wanted an "unsanitized room" to blow off steam in, but - what if you knew that the walls weren't simply decorated with "random guy blowing a goat," but rather, it was a clearly-identifiable picture of you, personally, blowing a goat?

I would think it was funny, if it were everyone's picture on the wall. If it were just me on the wall, I would be bothered.
posted by empath at 6:22 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


If somebody drew me "engaged in a sex act", I'd find it juvenile at best, creepy at worst, but I don't think it, by itself, would be illegal or should be illegal, otherwise large parts of political caricature would be in danger, starting with most of Steve Bell's opus.

I'm not talking about whether it's illegal, we're talking about whether it's creepy. And even you admit right now that you'd probably find it creepy in certain circumstances.

That the thing that irks you, more than the issues of consent and humiliation, is the explicitness of the sex in those murals (seen only by adults quite used to the human body in all its forms) is symptomatic of what other commenters have rightly described as "Puritanism".

I'll thank you not to make assumptions about what "irks me". Because you're wrong.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had never heard of them either, what an interesting tradition. It seems in America nudity/beauty/sexuality is linked to anti-intellictualism (hence the stereotype of the dumb blonde, 'cuz how could a sexy woman also be smart, harhar) but my expereicne with Europeans/Russians is that a woman's body can be admired for what it is without also impuning her intelligence.
posted by saucysault at 6:24 AM on March 20, 2012


In fact -- you assuming what is in my mind about sex and sexual matters is precisely the problem here. You have made a judgement about my reaction to sex based on YOUR moral code. That right there is the problem.

Sexuality is an intensely personal thing. Every individual has a different response to sexuality -- their own, and that of others -- and what it is that goes into an individual's expression and sense of sexuality is very complex. One's upbringing has some influence, sure -- but so does one's own sense of comfort, levels of trust with others, vulnerability, and a stew of other factors.

The upshot of which is -- there is no way to tell whether someone who is uncomfortable looking at nekkid pictures of people they see at work every day is reacting with distaste because "they're Puritanical" or not. And it is also the height of presumption to state that your own attitude towards sex is right, and another's is wrong. Everyone has a different comfort level, and that is okay.

And it is not your place to judge someone else's comfort level with sexuality as "unhealthy". Just as it is not your place to judge why I am "irked" with these murals -- and it is also not your place to assume a reason why I am "irked" with them.

Your accusing me of "symptomatic of what other commenters have rightly described as "Puritanism" is merely you projecting your trying-to-be-all-cool attitude upon someone you've never even met, much less engaged with on a sexual level, and is arrogant in the extreme.

In short -- don't be obtuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos I am sorry, but you are the one who started judging people you have never met yourself, based on your own standards and assumptions. And that, indeed, is what is the very definition of Puritanism.
posted by Skeptic at 6:36 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Taking this to memail as I think the mods would appreciate that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would think it was funny, if it were everyone's picture on the wall. If it were just me on the wall, I would be bothered.

This pretty much nails it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This pretty much nails it.
Since everybody's depiction is on the wall, that pretty much nails it indeed.
posted by vivelame at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2012


Since everybody's depiction is on the wall, that pretty much nails it indeed.

So workplace hazing is fun and good for morale as long as everyone is subjected to it, regardless of whether or not they want to be and regardless of whether or not there's a cost to their career development for not shutting up and going along. I wonder if this situation had the interns subjected to physical tests of stamina or pain thresholds if everyone would be scrambling to find ways to say that it was a rollicking good time for all.
posted by gladly at 8:21 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it hazing though? I understand how this is totally out of line in North America, and I understand that some women who have commented in this thread feel uncomfortable about the murals, but it would be nice to hear from a French doctor, female or otherwise.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 AM on March 20, 2012


I'm going by the article far above that weinbot linked. There are French medical students expressing reservations that if they didn't go and didn't play the game, they risked being excluded from the group.
posted by gladly at 8:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing that really struck me was how good natured it was, men and women were both naked, bodies were diverse without mocking (no saggy boobs, no small penises), it was presented as a fun activity with everyone participating (and no humiliating or uncomfortable sex acts). If they were all clothed or depicted as cooking together it wouldn't raise an eyebrow. I don't see why nudity is a big deal personally, and a depiction of sex, something most of us do, just doesn't seem that awful. If the sex was more like the last scene of requiem for a dream, where the whole point is to show the women there is a power imbalance (and what their place is) then I would have a problem.
posted by saucysault at 8:44 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


but it would be nice to hear from a French doctor, female or otherwise.

It would seem they're all too busy practicing their calling, and trying to catch up on sleep than to worry about this superficial extracurricular nonsense.

I think maybe the murals make more sense, and are less significant, if one remembers the fact that maybe the most Europeans see medicine as a calling, on par with the clergy or a teaching. It confers prestige and massive responsibility, that I think goes further than the American views of these professions.

In the U.S. many doctors are now like well paid employees of healthcare corporations, just cogs in the machinery of massive profits driven strategies with closer ties to the Wall Street concerns of HMO's and big pharma and the companies who insure them against the ever present threat of malpractice, than their actual vocation and the people of towns or communities.
posted by Skygazer at 8:45 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


When trying to understand a foreign cultural practice "well I know how this would make ME feel!" is probably not a great starting place.
posted by yoink at 9:49 AM on March 20, 2012


When trying to understand a foreign cultural practice "well I know how this would make ME feel!" is probably not a great starting place.

Which is why I think most people who object are objecting based on "apparently that's how some people within that culture have said THEY feel".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2012


When trying to understand a foreign cultural practice "well I know how this would make ME feel!" is probably not a great starting place.

Is this directed towards every non-French medical student who posted reactions here, including all the men who said how hilarious, refreshingly non-Puritan, stress-reducing, or not-a-big-deal they would find this? Or is is just directed to the women who posted reactions?
posted by cairdeas at 10:04 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I should note also, that most of the women talked about wanting to hear from the French medical students about it, while most of the "well I know how this would make ME feel!" came from rhapsodizing guys. Is that more okay?
posted by cairdeas at 10:07 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


but it would be nice to hear from a French doctor, female or otherwise.

It would seem they're all too busy practicing their calling, and trying to catch up on sleep than to worry about this superficial extracurricular nonsense.


They're not here to tell us what they think so naturally they must think exactly as I do! Let's just assume so!
posted by cairdeas at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2012


I'm going by the article far above that weinbot linked. There are French medical students expressing reservations that if they didn't go and didn't play the game, they risked being excluded from the group.

I read the article. It's hardly a condemnation of the practice of "guard rooms", and it a little more complex than that. Indeed, the writer notes that the "feminization" of medicine in France is slowly changing the culture of the guard room.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:53 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this directed towards every non-French medical student who posted reactions here, including all the men who said how hilarious, refreshingly non-Puritan, stress-reducing, or not-a-big-deal they would find this? Or is is just directed to the women who posted reactions?

I'm sorry, are these two monolithic groups? Can you tell me which one I fall into then please, because I seem to be confused about my gender.
posted by saucysault at 10:59 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're right saucysault, I amend my last few words to "the women who posted nonplussed reactions."
posted by cairdeas at 11:03 AM on March 20, 2012


> When trying to understand a foreign cultural practice "well I know how this would make ME feel!" is probably not a great starting place

Yeah, actually it is; in fact, it's the only possible starting place. Of course, to go beyond that it's extremely useful to have input from those involved in the cultural practice, which is why people are hoping for that to occur here. In the meantime, I choose to assume that the commenters here with monikers of unspecified gender who are jovially insisting "Hey, it's OK, they're just letting off steam, you silly American prudes!" are all men and in fact have no clue how the women involved feel. (They are, I presume, working from "well I know how this would make ME feel!")

Again, I fully understand and sympathize with the need for a place to let off steam. Again, I ask, why does it have to be this particular way? Why not have pillow fights, or cover each other with whipped cream, or bellow the funkier bits of Rabelais? If you've got to have a sexy sexy mural, why not show the male doctors penetrating each other while the internes point and laugh? Would that not be as satisfying, somehow? Would I be wrong in suggesting that it would be satisfying to the internes depicted but not so much to the male doctors? What could explain the difference, and what could explain the fact that in the world we live in that is not an option? So many questions!
posted by languagehat at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, according to the article, the guard room tradition dates back to Medieval times, and even has links to the Freemasons, so I would suspect that tradition (which plays a stronger role in some cultures, which is presumably why so many people want to escape tradition by moving to the USA) has a lot to do with why there aren't pillow fights or watergun fights or whatever.

Then there's the entirely unquantifiable "Eros Vs Thanatos" argument, with a strong emphasis on Saturnalia. And they're French - the whole thing reminds me very strongly of the point of view of French folks I am lucky to be friends with.

Fundamentally, women in France don't appear to enjoy the same treatment as men, although it's hard to say if they enjoy less status than do women in North America. France appears to be more open about how women are treated in society.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:19 AM on March 20, 2012


For those who can read french, the book I linked to above ("L'esprit de corps: sexe et mort dans la formation des internes en médecine") is a recent and exhaustive study of the topic. It's written by Emmanuelle Gaudeau, who is a female doctor and anthropologist, and contains a wealth of testimonies by male and female interns. Many pages can be read on the Google preview.
posted by elgilito at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, actually it is; in fact, it's the only possible starting place.

Well it is the starting place, but that means it is the place of initial ignorance that we, ideally, want to move out of.

Generally when I am teaching intercultural understanding and developing cross-cultural awareness on the courses I am a part of we use Moran's Cultural Knowings Framework. "Knowing Oneself", and relating your own feelings to any given practice, is usually better tackled from a position of knowledge - that's why it is generally the last stage / the last box when the process is broken down. Of course it's all cyclical, and as you say it is going to be natural to start from where we are, as "foreigners", imposing our own assumptions and interpretations on the unknown/new practice.

So here is just an example framework that I'd try to work through that might help this thing make more sense from within the French Culture it is a part of:

knowing about - we've only scratched the surface here, I'd want to know more details about who is usually included in the murals, who makes these decisions, if opposition views within the group have a place... are there limits to how raunchy things can be, who does what to whom, do the interns get a say in what their own avatars are doing... how central a feature of the life in the guard room (and outside it) does the mural play... are those who aren't interested able to easily "opt out" of the murals and related discussions / jokes / activities...

knowing how - the idea here (to truly deepen understanding of the practice, and not so possible in our current context) would be to participate in this process - ideally to have some French interns help a group of us to make a similar mural for our break room... of course it would be very difficult to include much meaningful context, so maybe if we could cleverly design some experience that could mimic the process in a way that would help our understanding, for example we collaboratively design what would be in the mural, trying to follow the same process the interns use, getting feedback from them if we seem to be missing key elements of the spirit or intent as we go...

knowing why - here we would fully explore underlying cultural assumptions and differences, and again try to research and get answers... Just off the top of my head I would want to know: the French, what is their attitude about sex and nudity as compared to us? Why don't they think this is "sexual harassment"? Why do they think this is a better system than alternatives like ping pong or singalongs?

knowing oneself - so, only after we've gone through a lot of awareness raising is it worthwhile to come back to ourselves and our reactions if we want to give something alien the real benefit of the doubt... Given what we've seen and experienced in the stages above: would I want to do this? Has my initial reaction changed? How would I react if invited to a guard room for some event?

So yeah, I know it is impractical, but by outlining all of this I just want to point out that really we are spinning our wheels here, and taking our own cultural experience as a "starting point" gets us no further down the road towards a real understanding of this very strange (to us) phenomenon. But we are generating plenty of heat and light - maybe that's worth something!
posted by Meatbomb at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


"apparently that's how some people within that culture have said THEY feel".

Wrong, your imposing your puritanical worldview upon google translate or whatever.

Ella explicitly says she enjoyed their bawdy songs but didn't flash. Yes, oddly enough French people can sing lewd songs without stripping, even resisting the implicit peer pressure of close friends doing so. Isabelle expressed resentment about her friend's frat-like social activities, but no overt criticism of the murals, btw.

I've witnessed exactly "debout sur la table, les garçons dévoilent leurs fesses, et les filles leurs poumons" various times, actually that sounds more tame. It's perfectly analogous to jogging around campus naked, streaking finals, etc., except running wouldn't show any courage, elitism, etc. here.

I've never witnessed any obligation to strip though. Does an obnoxious males occasionally try convincing some female into flashing? I'm sure, but he gets yelled at by her or their mutual friends. And here he cannot even blame drunkness for his behavior since they're eating at the hospital's cafeteria. In fact, I recall vastly more same gender overt pressure actually.

I'll observe that every ENS party plays Bad Touch by the Bloodhound Gang. Is that tradition bad for imposing a sexual song upon everyone's ears? No, that's silly.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012


This was before we had a McDonalds in our hospital that stays open til 11 pm

This is the most shocking thing in this thread. I guess it's convenient to have a cardiologist nearby, though.
posted by desjardins at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wnoder if the US women in this thread are so used to slut shaming that they can't imagine a mural like this in their workplace that wouldn't implicitly be scorn them for being positively sexual. I believe in France a mural portraying a person/woman that did not enjoy sex would be more percieved as shameful and overtly harrassing.
posted by saucysault at 12:43 PM on March 20, 2012


Wrong, your imposing your puritanical worldview upon google translate or whatever.

No, I'm responding to the fact that some women said they felt like they HAD to comply.

Period.

And that doesn't make me a stuck-up Puritan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:46 PM on March 20, 2012


I wnoder if the US women in this thread are so used to slut shaming that they can't imagine a mural like this in their workplace that wouldn't implicitly be scorn them for being positively sexual. I believe in France a mural portraying a person/woman that did not enjoy sex would be more percieved as shameful and overtly harrassing.

I can only speak for my own posts in the thread, but the reason I wonder how French female med students feel about this isn't slut shaming about positive sexuality. The reason I wonder about it is because women of many nationalities have been saying for many years that it is difficult and distracting for them to get their jobs done, to succeed, and to advance in workplaces where men are focusing on them in a sexual way, at all.
posted by cairdeas at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


desjardins: " This is the most shocking thing in this thread. I guess it's convenient to have a cardiologist nearby, though."

In my experience, there are usually a lot of unhealthy crap food options at hospital cafeterias. McDonald's just might be a step up.
posted by zarq at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2012


This was before we had a McDonalds in our hospital that stays open til 11 pm

This is the most shocking thing in this thread. I guess it's convenient to have a cardiologist nearby, though.


They made the decision to have Mcdonald's provide the food by surveying patients and their parents; patient satisfaction above all! Although in fairness, I have seen other hospitals that have McDonald's and other fast food franchises as their main dining option. At least we have a cafeteria that offers some healthier and better tasting options for breakfast and lunch.
posted by TedW at 12:58 PM on March 20, 2012


I can only speak for my own posts in the thread, but the reason I wonder how French female med students feel about this isn't slut shaming about positive sexuality. The reason I wonder about it is because women of many nationalities have been saying for many years that it is difficult and distracting for them to get their jobs done, to succeed, and to advance in workplaces where men are focusing on them in a sexual way, at all.

To a certain degree, the subculture that governs hospitals is pretty weird - just watch the interaction between a nurse and a doctor or specialist; nurses, as a rule are always deferential, and this extends to interns. When my wife was in labour with our second child, the interns were wheeled in to peer at her, with no introductions and no explanations.

I tend to think people in "high-performance", high-risk occupations are going to behave a little differently. I also tend to think that female doctors are going to be mentally tough, and can, to a certain degree, to just deal with it, while helping make incremental changes to the culture.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2012


Ella explicitly says she enjoyed their bawdy songs but didn't flash.

I thought she said that she would only do it with her bra on? My last french class was a long time ago, so I may have gotten it wrong. I understand you're enthusiastically supportive of coercive nudity, so you may still think this is a treat for her as a woman.

I believe in France a mural portraying a person/woman that did not enjoy sex would be more percieved as shameful and overtly harrassing.

I'd like to see some cites to demonstrate how compelling women to publically display their sexuality for their colleagues has resulted in greater respect for them professionally.
posted by gladly at 1:11 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read her comment as "not flashing" because (a) her language was already flowery about the singing and (b) that's consistent with my experience. It's almost all guys stripping under similar situations I've witnessed. I've never witnessed coercive nudity with mixed genders, except perhaps on entering a German or Scandinavian sauna.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:34 PM on March 20, 2012


This was before we had a McDonalds in our hospital that stays open til 11 pm

Sacrebleu!! A McDonald's in a hospital is way more obscene than any mural could ever be. Everything about McDonald's is unsustainable and a direct outlet from the most egregious and deplorable factory farming practices, with levels of high fructose corn syrup, salt, and grease and chemicals that lead to a plethora of health issues if it's not balanced out with real food.

Incroyable. Cette merde me fait mal de tête.
posted by Skygazer at 2:18 PM on March 20, 2012


Puritans founded the country, no?
posted by infini at 2:35 PM on March 20, 2012


The reason I wonder about it is because women of many nationalities have been saying for many years that it is difficult and distracting for them to get their jobs done, to succeed, and to advance in workplaces where men are focusing on them in a sexual way, at all.

This holds true in France afaik from the conversations we had with the women MPs who were working on increasing representation in National Assembly. But during the same visit I met with two engineers at ELF's refinery, both women, chic and successful who told me that they'd rarely faced any challenge in their highly male dominated field.

So, what do we make of that?
posted by infini at 2:38 PM on March 20, 2012


> But during the same visit I met with two engineers at ELF's refinery, both women, chic and successful who told me that they'd rarely faced any challenge in their highly male dominated field.

So, what do we make of that?


This is extremely common in societies that are more "traditional," male-dominated, pre-feminist, call it what you will. The barriers against women's succeeding in traditionally male fields are high, and as you might expect given a basic knowledge of human nature, those women who make it anyway tend to be proud of their success and attribute it to their superior brilliance, stubbornness, and/or knowledge of how to deal with men, and to be condescending toward those women who "couldn't hack it" and have the nerve to complain about sexism, patriarchy, etc. "Sexism! That's just another name for give it to me on a platter because I can't get it myself!" (I exaggerate for comic effect, but the phenomenon is real.) I mentioned this is a previous discussion of this sort of thing, citing successful women of earlier generations like Martha Gellhorn who were (from our modern, more enlightened point of view) lamentably anti-woman in their views.

It's very hard (as we've seen in these discussions before), if you're not intimately familiar with feminist arguments ("haven't been brainwashed"), to see around the blinders of traditional ways of looking at things, to be able to say "Things suck for women in this society; I was lucky enough to have a supportive father/husband/colleague who got my back when I needed it and/or to have the kind of personality that actually relishes battling with males who try to put me down, but it shouldn't be necessary to have that kind of luck to get anywhere; we have to change things so women have just as good a shot at success as men, regardless of background or personality."
posted by languagehat at 3:07 PM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oops, that should be "in a previous discussion." Where's that editing window?
posted by languagehat at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2012


"I understand you're enthusiastically supportive of coercive nudity, so you may still think this is a treat for her as a woman."

That's a really cheap shot.

"This is extremely common in societies that are more "traditional," male-dominated, pre-feminist, call it what you will. The barriers against women's succeeding in traditionally male fields are high, and as you might expect given a basic knowledge of human nature, those women who make it anyway tend to be proud of their success and attribute it to their superior brilliance, stubbornness, and/or knowledge of how to deal with men, and to be condescending toward those women who "couldn't hack it" and have the nerve to complain about sexism, patriarchy, etc. "Sexism! That's just another name for give it to me on a platter because I can't get it myself!" (I exaggerate for comic effect, but the phenomenon is real.) I mentioned this is a previous discussion of this sort of thing, citing successful women of earlier generations like Martha Gellhorn who were (from our modern, more enlightened point of view) lamentably anti-woman in their views."

Self-serving bias.
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, what do we make of that?
The fact is that the situation varies considerably, depending on the field and on the period considered. Here in France, my field of work (agricultural engineering) was exclusively male-dominated until the 1980s. The few women graduates had to grow a very thick skin if they wanted to pursue a career in that field. In the late 90s, some male professors and company executives were still whining in public about how women were ruining agricultural engineering. In 1991, a friend was bluntly told by an executive that his company would not hire her because they didn't hire women engineers, period. Today, 60% of the students are female, and in a few years more than 50% of the executives in my field will be female too.
There's a similar trend in medecine: since 2002, 55% of medical students are female, and gender equality will be reached in 2025. Some medical fields are already female-dominated (occupational medicine, endocrinology..) though others (surgery) are lagging behind.
Which makes the murals paradoxical: will the female students go on carrying traditions born in a strictly male environment? Will they come up with something different? A few years ago, the 60% female student body at my former engineering school made a rather tasteful nude calendar (the art director and photographer was a popular male gay student; it was also nice of them to use a textbook I wrote to cover some body parts) and sent it to the teachers.
posted by elgilito at 3:48 PM on March 20, 2012


I feel fairly confident saying that French women who feel uncomfortable uncovering their hair for official photos or to go to public school would feel uncomfortable with this practice. France has a significant Muslim and Jewish minority (the third largest in the world), and many of them adhere to various modesty codes.

This isn't quite like the pre-WWII Quebec lawyer's association holding its annual meeting in a town that didn't permit Jews within its limits. But it seems comparable to holding its meeting at pork barbecue festival and mocking the observant Jews, Muslims, and vegetarians, who dare to wander out of their sequestered section and into mainstream medical culture.

Of course, if one doesn't think that these people count as French (which to be fair, appears to be the position of a decent chunks of other French people and their representatives in the French government), despite their citizenship, residency, and the fact that some of these communities are almost a thousand years old), or if one thinks that keeping the current population who has occupies relatively elite positions of education and power completely comfortable in their status quo is so much more important than encouraging a diverse medical field/culture that modifications to current practices should not even be considered, then I guess they may free himself or herself of charges of sexism - if xenophobia seem more appealing.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:41 AM on March 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is extremely common in societies that are more "traditional," male-dominated, pre-feminist, call it what you will. The barriers against women's succeeding in traditionally male fields are high, and as you might expect given a basic knowledge of human nature, those women who make it anyway tend to be proud of their success and attribute it to their superior brilliance, stubbornness, and/or knowledge of how to deal with men, and to be condescending toward those women who "couldn't hack it" and have the nerve to complain about sexism, patriarchy, etc. "Sexism! That's just another name for give it to me on a platter because I can't get it myself!" (I exaggerate for comic effect, but the phenomenon is real.

Looks at 46 year old self in the mirror.
posted by infini at 7:51 AM on March 21, 2012


to see around the blinders of traditional ways of looking at things, to be able to say "Things suck for women in this society; I was lucky enough to have a supportive father/husband/colleague who got my back when I needed it and/or to have the kind of personality that actually relishes battling with males who try to put me down, but it shouldn't be necessary to have that kind of luck to get anywhere; we have to change things so women have just as good a shot at success as men, regardless of background or personality."

I disagree with this part. There is no doubt in many of these societies that things suck for women but in my own experience I've seen more complaints in less challenging societies by women who've achieved less than the dismissive attitude (which I'm still pondering by the way in my own context).

To clarify the nuance, let me give you the example of the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia that numerous women are fighting - nobody's wearing blinders and nobody's lucky enough. Sometimes its not a matter or luck or personality.

Whenever I've been dismissive as you describe in the first half of your comment, I now realize its been in the first world among women who have far more 'official' privileges than any of the rest of us third worlders ever did (and thus to our ears it sounds like "and still they complain" - otoh, given what they're doing to women in the US right now, perhaps your challenges are worse all the more for being hidden and embedded rather than outright and upfront like a driving ban or in my case, a ban on women on the factory's shopfloor, even though we were in Industrial Engineering i.e. Catch 22)

The pondering then becomes, hey, if I can overcome being a third world woman in a ridiculously outweighted patriarchal society to get to this table with you, a first world woman in a 'modern, progressive' society with rights and laws and whatnot, then why are you the one feeling oppressed so much more than I?

I'm curious to learn more.
posted by infini at 8:02 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Whenever I've been dismissive as you describe in the first half of your comment, I now realize its been in the first world among women who have far more 'official' privileges than any of the rest of us third worlders ever did (and thus to our ears it sounds like "and still they complain" ...)

The pondering then becomes, hey, if I can overcome being a third world woman in a ridiculously outweighted patriarchal society to get to this table with you, a first world woman in a 'modern, progressive' society with rights and laws and whatnot, then why are you the one feeling oppressed so much more than I?


I hope you realize I was not talking about, or even thinking about, you in my response; I was talking about the women you were asking about. But good for you for thinking about what I said in relation to yourself and not getting defensive; that's a rare and impressive quality.

As for your point about "why are you the one feeling oppressed so much more than I?": it's not clear to me whether you're endorsing this attitude or just musing about it, but in any case surely it's clear that that sort of squabbling over who's the Most Oppressed is not only pointless but counterproductive—it's what keeps the oppressed from dealing with their oppression successfully. Ruling classes/races/genders always play the game of "Hey, look over there, those people are pretending to be oppressed, but actually they're privileged! They're the ones you should resent!" "Those people" can be Indians/Pakistanis in Uganda or people from the Caucasus in Russia or Jews in do I really have to go there?, and the result is always the same: attention is distracted from the true source of oppression.

To clarify the nuance, let me give you the example of the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia that numerous women are fighting - nobody's wearing blinders and nobody's lucky enough. Sometimes its not a matter or luck or personality.


I don't really understand this, but if you're saying there are no women in Saudi Arabia who think it's right to keep women from driving, I'm quite sure you're wrong, and I don't need to visit the country or know any Saudis personally to know that. There are always and everywhere people complicit in their own oppression; it's the easiest way to get along and have a relatively easy life.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


There are always and everywhere people complicit in their own oppression; it's the easiest way to get along and have a relatively easy life.

You make it sound like most have a choice, and that's assuredly not the case. Given the chance, I'd say most people, always and everywhere, would rather have the life they want, regardless of the hardship and obstacles, than the a relatively easy life their expected to have. The problem in a place like France is that they need to understand they actually have the option, and are capable of conceiving that doorway is available to them.

Who is truly worse off, the woman who, because of her class and educated parents, comes from a background where becoming a doctor has been an option her whole life and whose parents and extended support network can guide her towards that with everything she needs to be equipped for the challenge of it; the proper educational core. The advanced language skills that come being surrounded by parents and a network with advanced degrees, from an early age, including the socialization skills in imparts that impart the knowledge to easily handle not only stupid male oriented traditions, that are honestly at best an immature distraction, but even sexual advances.

Even if she is of a religious background such as Muslim or Jewish, such a person will be able to deal with the challenges and be aware of the infrastructure that's there for support. (I will bet cash money there's support organizations for female Jewish and Muslim internes and doctors that helps them navigate the internes and medical school culture in France).

(I'll concede though maybe now, it might be easier to find those vocational support organizations, or even the understanding that that sort of support even exists, with the rise of the web.)

Or is it more difficult perhaps for the woman (or man even) who's parents are both laborers, who has to not only have the natural intelligence and talent and ability to match the language skills of her peers (including the ones who parents are professors let's say), but has to painstakingly, through trial and error, learn the class conventions and coping mechanisms, and from an early age try to do fashion some sort of ersatz motley support system, or perhaps do with the barest of a system she needs to become a doctor, and yet, in spite of the sexism, and in spite of the fact that becoming a doctor wasn't an established paradigm or doorway for her, but rather one she had to fight for everyday to see as real option, gets to the internes.

At the end of the day, is that mural really going to be the last straw? Probably not is my guess. And that's not to say it might not give her some serious discomfort and alienation and sense of being an outsider. For the male of the same background, I think the murals might be an even bigger problem, if they're incapable of parsing it as caricature and farce and folly.

To sum it up, I think the conventions and elitism, and class culture, are just as important if not more so, than the issue of gender for the interne/resident.
posted by Skygazer at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2012


A couple of fascinating bits in here - and as a disclaimer, I did discover the concept of feminism in my senior year at the American high school and probably fought the good fight until somewhere in my early thirties when it just kind of started to peter away as I gained confidence, competence and experience *regardless* of race, gender, culture, until the point today, more than a decade later, these factors seem fuzzier and less intense (I've brought this aspect up as well in earlier conversations and tend to muse more than endorse, just fyi, as I'm always fascinated by context and culture). I do question where that fire went otoh I have name recognition in my niche, globally so I guess that tends to tone down the 'need to prove' as there isn't a need to prove anymore, if that makes convoluted sense.

As for your point about "why are you the one feeling oppressed so much more than I?": it's not clear to me whether you're endorsing this attitude or just musing about it, but in any case surely it's clear that that sort of squabbling over who's the Most Oppressed is not only pointless but counterproductive—it's what keeps the oppressed from dealing with their oppression successfully. Ruling classes/races/genders always play the game of "Hey, look over there, those people are pretending to be oppressed, but actually they're privileged! They're the ones you should resent!" "Those people" can be Indians/Pakistanis in Uganda or people from the Caucasus in Russia or Jews in do I really have to go there?, and the result is always the same: attention is distracted from the true source of oppression.


But you see, that's the point - its the 'ruling class' women (Caucasian Europeans or Americans) whom I was referring to when I hear them talk about the old boy's club keeping them out or a tech oriented conference keeping them out when I, a non Caucasian, non European or American, woman am present. This is not a question of "who is most oppressed?" but more a question of "What are you whining about? How the fuck did I get here if you say there's all these barriers keeping you out?" I never had to fight to be invited into those clubs. Which in turn brings me to what Skygazer says here:

Or is it more difficult perhaps for the woman (or man even) who's parents are both laborers, who has to not only have the natural intelligence and talent and ability to match the language skills of her peers (including the ones who parents are professors let's say), but has to painstakingly, through trial and error, learn the class conventions and coping mechanisms, and from an early age try to do fashion some sort of ersatz motley support system, or perhaps do with the barest of a system she needs to become a doctor, and yet, in spite of the sexism, and in spite of the fact that becoming a doctor wasn't an established paradigm or doorway for her, but rather one she had to fight for everyday to see as real option, gets to the internes.

This seems to imply an either / or situation i.e. Lower class *and* woman vs. Upper class *and* woman...

Whereas I believe it might be "lower class challenges *and* man or woman needing to learn same codes and cues" vs. "upper class privileges *and* man or woman having doors opening etc etc*

The question then becomes, to take this thought a step further, whether women perceive themselves to be "lower class" regardless of their actual class and privilege and status backgrounds?

And if so, is that why I never felt glass ceilings (or maybe was just too blind to see them) since I never thought of myself in terms of gender and cannot deny a privileged upbringing regardless of geographic origin.
posted by infini at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2012


However, these conversations here wiht all you, do raise questions within me when I reflect in the mirror as why am I so blind to whatever is supposed to be the perceived problem here?

At the end of the day, is that mural really going to be the last straw? Probably not is my guess. And that's not to say it might not give her some serious discomfort and alienation and sense of being an outsider. For the male of the same background, I think the murals might be an even bigger problem, if they're incapable of parsing it as caricature and farce and folly.

Why does this mural not bother me? Is it personality, languagehat, as you say above and I'm simply more comfortable being one of the boys and/or insensitive to these issues? Or is it a case of not being enlightened enough with regard to my rights as a woman/peer in the context of the way its conceived of in the US, for eg?

I do know that I didn't know I had the right to throw my mother in law out of my kitchen until an American friend told me about "my rights" ... Are rights a matter of education and thus, consciousness raising ? If we are ignorant about what is/should be rightfully ours then perhaps we don't perceive the same element as an injustice or insult. Which leads to asking how much of these rights emerge from a more individualistic culture centered around the rights of the singular vs cultures that are less concerned with the 'one' and more with the rights or best outcome for the group as a whole. And if so, for those of us who navigate between these worlds, where and how do we find our middle grounds? I'm too strident and unmarriageable in my home culture yet too meek and willing to compromise in yours...
posted by infini at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are rights a matter of education and thus, consciousness raising ?

Yes. What people then choose to do with that education is up to them. Once you knew you didn't have to put up with abusive or inappropriate behavior (from your m-i-l or anyone else), you at least had a choice (theoretically, at least).

The murals may not bother you because they're just not going to bother everyone. They may not bother you because you don't have to look at them every day. Or, if you did, they might not bother you because your fellow interns are cool; if your fellow interns used your appearance in the mural as a way to make your life even more miserable than the life of an intern usually is, then they might bother you.

The question then becomes, to take this thought a step further, whether women perceive themselves to be "lower class" regardless of their actual class and privilege and status backgrounds?

Some women do. Some don't. Maybe you never felt the glass ceiling because there wasn't one, in your particular set of circumstances. Or maybe there was, but because of your circumstances, you never had the opportunity to bash your head against it (for example, maybe you worked for a place that would never, ever have promoted you beyond X level because of your gender, but you left well before you encountered it in order to take a different job elsewhere).

I never had to fight to be invited into those clubs.

But that doesn't mean that what other women experienced didn't happen, or they imagined it.

I have found that "I had it worse than you, and I made it; WTF are you bitching about?" is rarely helpful when it comes to A) talking about problems and B) solving problems. In any institutionalized form of discrimination, there are *always* going to be exceptions. Universalizing one's own experience, whether from the "It never happened to me, therefore it doesn't happen" perspective or its twin "It happened to me, therefore it happens to everyone" is a common enough failure, but that doesn't make it any less fail.
posted by rtha at 11:17 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have found that "I had it worse than you, and I made it; WTF are you bitching about?" is rarely helpful when it comes to A) talking about problems and B) solving problems.

I acknowledge the validity of your entire comment but would just add one more observation to this sentence of yours - perhaps, as you say, it was my circumstances (and/or my own personal fight or approach where I never talked about it all the time that leads me to these thoughts) but I will say that among the successful women I've met (at say the Global Women's Congress or some such where we're talking Chairman of Bain/Dir. Gen of UNESCO/Exec Ed of IHT level of visible success) rarely are these factors brought up in conversations (which does not mean they are not acknowledged to exist nor are the challenges left unaddressed) the same way I've heard far less accomplished women constantly use them as the reasons for their lack of progress.

So I would add c) using problems as the excuse when you're just not doing good work as an added factor to be taken into consideration. i.e. lack of progress isn't always about lofty ideals and institutionalized discrimination but can also be simply lack of competence.
posted by infini at 11:32 AM on March 21, 2012


So I would add c) using problems as the excuse when you're just not doing good work as an added factor to be taken into consideration.

Oh, sure, that as well. But again, that doesn't invalidate the reality that women do face discrimination because they're women.

I mean, Anita Hill has been really successful, by anyone's measure. And yet...
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2012


And your point is?
posted by infini at 2:24 PM on March 21, 2012


So I would add c) using problems as the excuse when you're just not doing good work as an added factor to be taken into consideration. i.e. lack of progress isn't always about lofty ideals and institutionalized discrimination but can also be simply lack of competence.

I don't think performance amongst any median workgroup is so different, in terms of "competence."

You're getting into other areas here like confidence, and esteem and need for public acknowledgement, time allowances and high level connections. I'd say women with a more privileged background are going to have more of those elements going for them, not to mention they don't have some of the intense baggage less privileged woman have in terms of comfort with their new status and socioeconomic standing. Privileged people have a fluidity and the sense of a natural right to voice, and for that voice to be heard, and to be seen.

Less privileged people have to work very very hard to get to that sort of a headspace, if you will, even if they're just as competent, or more so than their colleagues.
posted by Skygazer at 2:34 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Privileged people have a fluidity and the sense of a natural right to voice, and for that voice to be heard, and to be seen.

Regardless of gender, yes, I see what you are articulating here. I had not considered it in this way, how much that aspect may mitigate elements of race and gender otherwise considered to be barriers.
posted by infini at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2012


And your point is?

My point is that just because incompetent people exist who blame their troubles on institutional [ism] rather than their incompetence, it doesn't mean that institutional [ism] doesn't exist and that it doesn't have an effect. It doesn't mean that even very successful people haven't faced it and been affected by it.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2012


Absolutely.
posted by infini at 2:42 PM on March 21, 2012


But you see, that's the point - its the 'ruling class' women (Caucasian Europeans or Americans) whom I was referring to when I hear them talk about the old boy's club keeping them out or a tech oriented conference keeping them out when I, a non Caucasian, non European or American, woman am present. This is not a question of "who is most oppressed?" but more a question of "What are you whining about? How the fuck did I get here if you say there's all these barriers keeping you out?" I never had to fight to be invited into those clubs.

One thing that comes to mind about this is that sometimes men treat women they see as "theirs" differently from women they see as "other." For example, I've heard from both Japanese and American women that in Japan, American women often are treated as neuter rather than as "women." So sometimes, they don't face quite as much chauvinism in those circumstances.
posted by cairdeas at 4:07 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will say that among the successful women I've met (at say the Global Women's Congress or some such where we're talking Chairman of Bain/Dir. Gen of UNESCO/Exec Ed of IHT level of visible success) rarely are these factors brought up in conversations (which does not mean they are not acknowledged to exist nor are the challenges left unaddressed) the same way I've heard far less accomplished women constantly use them as the reasons for their lack of progress.

This is a bit of a truism isn't it? Successful women almost by definition have not faced barriers that they couldn't overcome.

It's also true that there are women who are so smart, charismatic, connected, hard-working, lucky, wise, etc, that barriers that would stop 'lesser' women wouldn't stop them. But the question isn't whether there are any women in the world who can break through, the question is whether a man has to be as exceptional as a woman to break through, or whether it's a case of a woman has to do everything a man does + backwards and in high heels.

Feminism ins't just for exceptional women, it's for all women.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:27 AM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


And you always always wonder if its all ultimately just tokenism (if there weren't feminism to be achieved, I mean)
posted by infini at 6:04 AM on March 22, 2012


Yeah, I have witnessed my share of workplaces where you have to be a brilliant, personable woman. Or a guy who can put his own shoes on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:07 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


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