What is a Burqa?

Images of Islam’s full-body veil wield a sociopolitical fashion statement that says everything from woman of mystery to paternal protection to a woman not allowed to have an individual public identity as they are the property of men. Western media compartmentalizes the imagery of the burqa into far away poor lands in the middle east where more overt social and spiritual forms of misogyny are expressed. The burqa is a symbol in the western lens of the oppression of women. The truth is, however, that historically and today, women’s clothes are styled and influenced by the eyes of men both in the East and the West; both in Islam and Christianity. Women’s clothes cost more too, increasing the likelihood of two incomes being needed to maintain femininity. Men’s view of women is shaped by their reproductive insecurities, inadequacies, fears and religions. All emanating from men’s biological need to
control paternity. Men are lazy as a form of self-preservation as they do not want to care for another man’s child. In the modern world, where life is easier, laziness manifests in many more diverse ways. Men also project to self-preserve. They project when they know subconsciously that they are not
deserving of something, but they want it anyway. Misogyny at the end of the day is the envy shared by both sexes of the reproductive power of women. This is a global phenomenon. This article though, is not about clothes nor specifically about reproductive power dynamics and how they are controlled in religions. It is about the inequalities experienced by women in medical training. Its author has an ancestry of East and West, has relatives that practice Catholicism and Islam and she was raised without religion. She is both a mix of matriarchal culture and patriarchal culture. She is a kaleidoscope.

What is the American Burqa?

When I entered medical school and residency training, my impression of diversity in the US was covered beneath the powerful invisible veil of the American Burqa. This veil was camouflaged well, like a frightened octopus dancing amongst the coral. Its darkness could not be seen, but only felt. I knew in the back of my mind that it was there because I felt like something was taking the wind from beneath my sails; making me weaker. I did not have the confidence to take certain interpersonal strides and I did not know why. The American Burqa had covered my public identity not to protect me from the nuisance of emotionally unintelligent men in a world of poverty, but to protect me from knowing myself, my
individuality in the world of corporate wealth. The postmortem I did on my residency experience gave me the opportunity to take the red pill and remove the invisible veil of the American Burqa.

What does the American Burqa do?

The American Burqa fragments and limits the picture of humanity portrayed through its crocheted mesh grill. Its fabric made from a web of politically spun misrepresentations of history seen in schools, the media, and institutions. But it is not the reality. While I did take minority studies in undergraduate years, the way the courses were taught was still as if we were all looking into America’s past; not its present and not its future. There was still a disconnect between the historical theory and how it was experienced on the day to day. Now that I have removed its invisible veil, I see the big picture and am living outside its Matrix.

How much does the American Burqa cost?

The residency I attended in the Midwest was predominantly white, male and Protestant. That started to change long after I left around the time of the #MeToo movement. It is likely the #MeToo movement and EEOC charges like mine played a significant role in acting as institutional wake up calls for cultural change. Prejudice had shown to become legally too costly. But implementing diversity programs were costly as well. Defensive institutional diversity responses had been created in response to legal action and these program overhead costs displaced onto future students in the form of increased tuition.

The cost of higher education has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. Even a bachelor’s degree is costing up to 6 figures a year in America’s top schools. With this trajectory, medical school likely will become unaffordable for most. That is unless students do MD/PhDs or get full scholarships. For the amount residents get paid and hours worked, medical school should be free. The prevention to all this financial mess from diversity overhead and legal costs, however, was extremely simple. In fact, it is so
simple that it should be a slap in the face to medical education leaders and residents alike. Keep lines of communication open and free from abuse of power within the hierarchy. Medical education currently does not have a clean hierarchy.

What is a hierarchy?

Hierarchies are interpersonal communication models for large populations. Its structure involves only a few central key decision makers who disseminate execution of these decisions to larger and larger circles of people with different responsibilities and different amounts of responsibility.  They evolved when societies reproduced larger populations. Hierarchies became even more useful when different societies went to war with each other to maintain strong holds over resources. Hierarchies in
themselves are supposed to be a method for dissemination of information; not specifically power. Unfortunately, the hierarchical method of interpersonal communication can become abusive when the key decision makers have a self-serving agenda. In order to maintain their agenda, key decision makers use the hierarchy as a means to dramatically steepen the power gradient to their benefit and the
detriment of others. Societies today have more democratic models of power than in the past when rulers were seen as gods. The medical profession, more specifically academic medicine should join in this more democratic model. What needs to happen in medical education is a major recalibration of the power differential within our hierarchical model of communicating. It cannot be this steep and at the same time also maintain a work culture that embraces diversity. Or can it?

What is the American Burqa’s function in a hierarchy?

This is where the invisible veil of the American Burqa has its strongest and most politically versatile function; to quickly culturally unify many ethnicities, sexual orientations, sexes, religions, skin colors
under one culture. The very same Roman-originated culture that disempowered them. This is reversed and internalized colonization. This produces the objective of war without the loss and energy consumption of war. How does the American Burqa influence the experience of gender bias and discrimination in medical education? It cloaks it at a sociological and psychosocial level, making it much harder to detect. It is hegemony with a diverse variety of human faces.

Why it took me a long time to discover I was wearing the
American Burqa?

The Way America Portrays Itself

My belief that the civil rights movement of the 1960s had achieved more than it had blind sighted me in residency. In hindsight, it would have been more informative for me to have grown up in a progressive family in a country where cultural misogyny was much more apparent and openly discussed among progressive family members and friends. What the sociopolitical game really was and what the game’s rules were would have been more explicit and more visually apparent. In contrast, America pretends not to play this game of inequality. It is not how America portrays itself to its own people nor globally to citizens of other countries.

My Personal Values and Lexicon

I grew up believing that when it came to civil rights, all humanity was created equal. Being of mixed ancestry I grew up wanting to believe in what the U.S. claimed itself to be; a melting pot. Ironically being
a mixture of the world, being a third culture kid and having had friends from all over put me at a disadvantage in residency. This cultural bias I had also put me at a disadvantage from being able to recognize prejudice and discrimination. More importantly, I did not even have a lexicon to describe
accurately behaviors of prejudice. As a result, I was a sitting duck to predatory personalities.

Wanting to Belong and Protect Family from Hatred

As a first generation American, I wanted to believe in the safety of acceptance of American assimilation. Mirroring at that age was crucial for self-identity so assimilation was not only about a want but about socially surviving. This old biological survival mechanism created a strong denial in me as a kid when it came to experiencing discrimination. By the time I was the ripe age of 4, I was told by an even younger neighbor that I was going to hell when I answered her question of what religion I belonged to. I was an atheist before it was even considered socially acceptable in the United States. This theme repeated itself 25 years later in residency when I was told by a chief resident that I was “just backward” for being an atheist. I was physically beaten up in elementary school by boys because they thought my name was strange. When I told the teacher what happened, I was told that is what boys do when they like you. “Boys will be boys.” I never told my parents about the bruises from the kicks to my legs and abdomen because I was ashamed. I did not feel safe attending school because of my heritage. Explicit words of hatred were allowed to be spoken by a fellow classmate without reprimand. It was frightening enough to hear the words “get them! kill them all!” expressed with excitement while watching a historical film. It was even more frightening for me at the time because I had recently recovered from emergent trauma surgery as a result of the competitive culture at the school. The teacher’s passivity told me as a child, that he was consenting to hatred against my ancestry and that I
was not entitled to civil rights. This was in a private school where my parents had to pay a lot of money each year. Yet I never said a word to my family about these events of ethnic and gender-based hate because I wanted to protect them. Telling them would be evidence to me that my small family was not safe in suburban America. Specifically, that we were not safe in wealthy suburban liberal progressive America. Even stronger was my desire to believe I belonged in the community in which I lived and was a born citizen. My defense mechanism of denying I had experienced discrimination helped me keep my eyes on my long-term goals.

Lack Of Sociological Mirroring

Being of mixed heritage was a barrier to the sociologic securities that many minority groups take. Typically, people stay within their cultural comfort zones within large groups of their own ethnic and cultural group. My family had its own unique culture; it was ahead of its time in many ways.  Despite these sociological challenges, my family instilled in me the idea that as a society becomes more educated, it becomes more emotionally evolved. In turn, I believed that bullying would lessen when the people around me were more educated and had access to more resources. Subconsciously, I thought that I could escape the bullying and discrimination in America by moving up the professional and educational ladder. This was an incorrect assumption.

I Partially had White Privilege

When I entered residency, my view was still being shaped by the invisible veil of the American Burqa. I was blind sighted in residency because I believed in what America was supposed to stand for as one its
citizens. Me being Caucasian also blind sighted me. I did not have an early awakening of how prejudice manifests interpersonally in everyday common interactions as a woman of dark skin would have had. Skin color differences makes the dynamic of discrimination more explicit and visible. Having dark skin
would have allowed me to more quickly become aware that I was experiencing discrimination. I would have realized that the suffocating feeling of the American Burqa was not simply a figment of my imagination. Being of mixed heritage of East and West and blonde still exposed me to the same dynamic of discrimination but it was more hidden, more mixed, passive aggressive and confusing.

According to America I am not supposed to be White

Despite having the sociopolitical privilege of being white, I was still not seen by others as part of the hegemonic culture. My chairman thought I had no class. He wanted to send me to charm school and be more like My Fair Lady. He saw me as a “chimera” of all things suggesting I was from two different species that normally do not reproduce with each other. I was an experiment, a mule of the same historical discourse behind the term mulatto. But no one in my family is black or a person of color, so a different word had to be used. Chimera was a better fit since I did not fit into any demographic category that American history could acknowledge. It would not be until residency that an intensive care fellow, who was a woman of color, would refer to me as “not white”. In the deep of winter, looking down at my hands, I thought that I was pale as paste and could do with some color. These were clear examples of class and culture being displaced onto skin color. While in the Midwest I noticed that the patients who gave me the hardest time were whites. The ones who loved my bedside manner and who I could totally relax around were African Americans and immigrants. Yet on the surface, I was seen as the all-American Southern California valley girl. The cognitive dissonance my mere existence created made most parochial minds explode with the thought of “cannot compute”.

What would have happened if I had taken off my American

I would have known I was walking into an unfair game and why it was unfair.

I would have learned the unspoken rules of residency much faster had I known that I would be faced with the same misogyny and inequality game as women do in third world countries. The rules being that I was on my own and should not expect mentors. That I would need to assume the powers that be
did not have my best interests in mind. That those above me would be pitted against me early on. That I would need to protect myself by preparing ahead of time for future events when I would be hung out to dry. The way to do that would be to practice off the radar when no one was watching. Then when the
spotlight shone on me, I could handle it like a pro. I would have shown that I could go above and beyond and my superiors would finally give me the benefit of the doubt.

I would have known how to deal with this unfair game.

My conscience would have been clean to take effective educational short cuts like watching YouTube videos by other doctors to quickly learn how to get the job done or like practicing in front of a mirror before I would go back onto the residency stage. It is said that school is about learning how to learn. Yet different schools teach their protégé’s how to learn differently. Not everyone has the same learning curve coming out of medical school. Insurance companies have interfered significantly with the amount of autonomy medical students and residents have with patient care. This prolongs the learning curve. In hindsight, my conscience would have been clean to educate myself with a much broader range of resources and practice off the stage, off the radar. That is what I would have done as no one else was letting on about how they were really educating themselves or learning from others. Since everyone was playing a game of poker with everyone else when it came to their learning curves, I simply did not know what I needed to take ownership of and what my role was supposed to be. Perhaps the mirroring I needed from mentors was too much to ask in the interpersonal battles that occur as a result of medical education’s business model.

I would have been conscious of discriminatory behavior.

If I had taken off the American Burqa before residency, I would have understood what I needed to prove and how to do it. I would have understood what my superiors wanted to see of me and how they wanted me to show them. I would have understood why I was being sneered at the first day of intern year. I would have understood why my chief said he could no longer mentor me on my first day of intern year because I told him that he needed to speak to me in a “civilized manner”. I would have understood why my other chief spoke faster than pressured speech, expect me to hear every word or else he
would scream the living day lights out of me. I would have understood why I was never given the benefit of the doubt. I would have understood why I was called “a silly girl” by another female physician who had “overcome” her obstacles. I would have understood why I was told by another female resident to “learn how a woman earns respect in residency.” I would have understood why I was told that I “have no coping skills”. I would have understood why those above me felt entitled to assume major things about my life and who I was when they did not even know me. It is easy to scapegoat someone when you do not see them as deserving of equal civil rights. It is easy to treat people disrespectfully when you see their innate life value as less. In fact, because I would have experienced the game in a much more apparent and obvert manner, the American game would have been easier to play because it is less punitive in certain respects. I would have quickly recognized the discriminatory behavior based on prior experience and explicit discussion.

What is the ultimate purpose of the American Burqa?

The American Burqa prevents an open, honest and accurate discussion about what diversity is. It scrambles its demographic organization by displacing one demographic trait onto another. Its invisible veil cloaks what specifically American diversity really is; reverse internalized self-colonization by a wide variety of people from all over the world. In turn white male-based American Judeo-Christian cultures sublimate and take on many different skin colors, ancestries, religions, sexes, and orientations. Through
its invisibility the American Burqa becomes even more powerful than its overt colonial ancestors as it accelerates in defining the future map of money circulation of our global economy.