Gender Preferences in Choosing a Homeopath
men and women differ in all areas of their lives. Not only do men and women communicate differently but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need and appreciate differently. They almost seem to be from different planets, speaking different languages and needing different nourishment,
…writes John Gray, Ph.D. in his popular book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”
The above gave me some balance when I began interviewing the clients of homeopaths to ask if they had strong feelings as to the gender of the person they would choose (or have chosen) to work with them on their path to health and healing. And I will admit that, at times during my information-gathering, with the initial heavily female-slanted results I was getting, it seemed the best I might be able to offer is that male practitioners abandon homeopathy and consider professions such as working the drive-through at Burger King, calf-roping at rodeos or construction work.
Charlotte Whitton (1896-1975), former mayor of Ottawa (where I now practice) once said, “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” While this may be true in most professions, the reverse seems to be true for homeopathy — men must work twice as hard to be thought only half as good as women homeopaths!
Happily, toward the end the results seemed to balance a bit, and I came up with people fitting into three categories (though some just barely): women who prefer women homeopaths, men who prefer women homeopaths, and men and women who do not have a gender preference.
The main reason expressed by the respondents for why they preferred or would lean toward a female homeopath centered on the different qualities in terms of nurturing (whether real or perceived), and the abilities to listen, to intuit, to understand and to be open and caring. All homeopaths, male and female, can learn from this. This preference is based both on experience and belief.
Consider that, on average, 75 to 80% of the people who choose to consult a homeopath are women, and that the majority of the women I interviewed expressed a preference for a female homeopath (only one didn’t have a real preference) — and that many of the men also expressed a preference for a female homeopath. The numbers are decidedly skewed in favour of female practitioners.
So whether or not the above qualities are gender-specific, it appears they are perceived that way by our clients. And this perception is largely based on belief more than on experience (some women chose, nonetheless to consult and stay with a male homeopath based on a positive experience related to the qualities mentioned). On an interesting note, some people who were interviewed said that a male with a very well-balanced male/female aspect was as acceptable as seeing a female homeopath.
So it would behoove us all, whether male or female, to ask ourselves how our clients perceive us, and to examine closely the interpersonal relationship we have with those who entrust us to guide them on their journey to health. If our “bedside manner” is less than warm, open and caring, perhaps we should examine our own issues and work with a homeopath we respect (and resonate with) to heal them. It will serve as a great benefit to our clients.
“I generally prefer women practitioners,“said one woman. “I think they have a deeper understanding of issues than a man, and especially in things that are hormonal or that have to do with pregnancy. I’m much more emotional than a man, and another woman will have a core understanding of what that means too.
She continued, “I don’t believe the men I have had as practitioners understand that. They tend to pass it off as hormonal or all in your mind. Women are much more open to it being more than psychosomatic.”
Another woman said, “With homeopaths, gender preference is less of an issue, although generally my preference lies with it being the same gender for both patient and homeopath, simply because — logically — women know more about women’s bodies and men know more about men’s bodies. But when it came down to it, I would lean toward going to the best homeopath I could, and since I am a mother I would also prefer to go to someone who has more experience with women and children.”
“I prefer seeing female practitioners,” said one more definite woman. “I am a female, and I am much more comfortable discussing emotional issues with another woman. I feel a woman will understand a woman’s emotions better than a man will. All this is predicated on the option of my having a choice, though. I certainly am not saying I wouldn’t go to a man if I had to, but all things being equal I would choose to go to a woman homeopath.”
A woman who is herself a medical professional said, “Actually, while I was pregnant I was really glad I was seeing a woman homeopath. I had made an appointment with a man but it didn’t work out. And then I was glad that it didn’t work out. While I was pregnant it seemed to be very important to me, and now that I have delivered I still feel glad I am seeing a woman. I guess you could say I do have some gender preference, and now I also have three daughters!”
“I think much of my feeling is because I appreciate the intuitive nature that women have. I know men can have it too, but it just feels right to me to be working with a woman. I imagine I could go and see a different woman and not have it be right, or she wouldn’t have a heart or would not be as intelligent. But my preference definitely is in seeing a female,” she concluded.
One woman was very decisive in her preference. She said, “I would choose a female homeopath, partly because I have female-related problems and I think another female would understand that a little bit more, or a bit differently than a male. But also partly because I have children [2 male children], and in general they tend to be less intimidated by women then they are by men. If I have a choice I will definitely always see a woman homeopath. I have referred many people to homeopaths, males and females, and that seems to be their preference as well.”
“In my experience, I have seen three or four homeopaths over many years, and one has been a man, and the others were women,” she continued. “I have found that the women listen better, that when they are listening they are just listening, and they aren’t listening and thinking at the same time. And maybe I feel they have the ability to dig deeper, I don’t know what it is. There’s a sympathy element too, with women in general but with homeopaths specifically. My impression is that if I go see a male homeopath I will go in, give him my symptoms and he will me give a remedy, and while I will probably feel confident in his choice of the remedy, that’s about it. But when I see a female homeopath I feel there is someone who sympathises with what I am living, I have a feeling they are taking it to heart.”
And some males prefer female to male homeopaths. One summed it up this way, “I don’t know if I really have a preference, although I can say I generally prefer women in business to men because in other aspects of my life I find it easier to communicate with women than with men. I tend to find that, on average, women are better listeners than men, and in homeopathy they are more inclined to listen or take a look at the subtleties of a situation rather than trying to impose onto it a preconceived notion. I admit this is a generality, because I have met women practitioners in other fields that I haven’t found very sympathetic. But I would have to admit that generally my preference would be to work with a woman homeopath.”
The majority of men that I spoke with really had little preference when it came to the gender of their practitioner. “I can’t imagine why it would make a difference,” one said. “I think it has more to do with personality than with the person’s gender. I think it is more important that he or she know what they are doing and that they are willing to share the information with me. People are not as dumb as they were 100 years ago, and any health care professional needs to understand that people want to know what is going on with them, what treatment is available and what it will do for them.”
Another had perhaps the most enlightened comment. He said the gender of his practitioner didn’t matter to him [his homeopath is female]. “Really, I don’t care. I don’t discriminate between the sexes for any reason at all. I look at people more as spiritual beings and I don’t differentiate between their having either a male or a female body, the physical body means nothing to me.”
And one woman said she truly had no preference, although her homeopath is female. “I don’t think gender makes a difference to me. What I do think makes a difference is how good I think they are and whether I think they can help me. I feel I would be just as open with a male as with a female if I thought they could help me, and it is not gender that makes a difference. If I am talking on the same wavelength that they are, if we make a connection, that is what is important. I want someone to work with me, and I definitely am not one of these ‘I am the doctor, you are the patient types.’”
And one male generally had no preference as to gender, but he had some preferences about personality. He said, “I mostly think of homeopaths as being fairly intellectual, and the only time I might care what sex my homeopath is is if I got into a situation where I would need a physical exam. But it really doesn’t strike me as being much of an issue in homeopathy. I don’t see why a male or female homeopath would be any different. I wouldn’t be worried about telling a female homeopath the things I’ve told my male homeopath. And although in my experience when I am sick I want someone more sympathetic, which is a more female quality. But maybe it is just because I have such a great male homeopath — it really doesn’t matter what sex my homeopath is.
The perfect homeopath? Everyone had ideas on what qualities she or he would have!
One woman said, “Now I am seeing a male homeopath. I liked his style. He was one of my teachers. He wasn’t mechanistic like another male I had come in contact with, he came from a whole different scope. He truly wants to help you, and money is not the an overriding issue with him, nor is prestige. His attitude is more one of wanting to help, and he has a more empathetic attitude rather than a corporate attitude. I feel I can learn a lot from someone who treats people like that.
“I realise I said I prefer a female homeopath, and yet I am being treated by a male,” she admitted. “It is strange, but true. But he is not a typical male, in my humble opinion. I think that he has a feeling for people that a lot of practitioners I have seen don’t have. He listens to the little things that go on in your life and doesn’t pooh-pooh them and drop it as ‘women’s stuff.’ He is comfortable, although a lot of times I am not comfortable discussing some things with men because I find they don’t take them seriously. But he does. When you have that softness or approachability it is far more feminine than a lot of practitioners are, who all too often are writing things down, looking at their watch, never meeting your eyes. I find that very male energy.”
Another woman said she wanted a practitioner who could put her at ease, whatever sex. “I want to feel that I am not going to sit there and hold something back, that I am going to feel very comfortable with that practitioner, that they will not be judgmental, and help me relax, which I think is a big part of case-taking and case-management.”
“And I think it is important for them to talk with me about homeopathy, about how they would go about treating me, how they use remedies — in water or dry potencies, if they are going to take a full etiological-type case, or if think they are going to give me a constitutional remedy and think that’s going to make me well. I want to feel we are on the same wavelength” she said.
“What would I look for in a perfect practitioner?” asked one man. “Someone who was not dogmatic, who would be willing to listen, who was aware of the full range of homeopathic philosophies and therapeutics, and who was prepared to look at every case as if it were a new case. I would want her to consider possible approaches which may not be orthodox, if it suggested itself in any given case.”
He continued, “I would want to work with someone who was confident and had a sense of humour and a warmth, an obvious caring for the patient and a love for what she was doing. Someone who also was willing to listen to a patient not just in the traditional homeopathic way, but also would listen to the patient’s intuition of what should or should not be done, rather than impose on them a particular treatment. And, at the same time, I would want her to offer her professional opinion and advice so I could make up my own mind as to what was best for me.”
One woman who has been treated by both female and male homeopaths says both have been equally positive experiences. She said what is more important to her is that, “… it is a nice person that I feel very comfortable with. It is the quality of the person, the warmth, the acumen, the ability to communicate with me and be understanding. I don’t see that as necessarily a male or a female trait. Intelligence and insight are not gender-related traits, it is the interest, friendliness openness, availability, willingness to explain, and the empathy that is really important.”
Out of curiosity, I asked the respondents if they had the same gender preference when it came to their selecting conventional medical professionals. And I did tend to get the answer that the women who chose to take the traditional medical route really did have to be more male than the males, which was what I had heard was necessary for them to succeed in a very male-oriented field. Still, many women preferred female medical-types.
“Because an allopath actually has to touch me physically, I have a strong preference about gender,” said one woman. “I really find that invasive, and I don’t want a man to do that to me anymore. I would choose a female allopath over a male allopath even if thought the male had better experience and credentials.”
Another woman, who has had both males and female medical practitioners and said she prefers females, then recounted the negative interactions she has had with the female practitioners! She said, “I prefer women practitioners in general, except for my dentist. I actually much prefer him to the woman he turned me over to when he divided his practice, because she was very rough, and hurt my mouth every time I went, yanking my mouth open and pulling it too far. He never did that.”
“With dentists and eye doctors I am maybe not so picky, but for psychotherapists, gynecologists or GPs I definitely prefer females. Though my eye doctor is a woman, I don’t like her. I don’t think she is very good. When I told her I can’t see through my reading glasses she told me I was wrong, which really ticked me off, so I put it on her appraisal from the HMO. I guess I care more about gender for the more personal things,” she said.
“My GP is a man, my dentist is a man, so basically doesn’t matter to me I guess,” answered one woman. “I have never had a female ob-gyn. It was a thought, the last time I went for an exam I thought maybe it would be nicer to see a woman. But it all depends on the person, their vibes, where they are coming from. I have found that some women can be really hard, not really caring at all,” said another woman.
One woman was surprised when she reflected on the medical professionals with whom she was working, since she was so emphatically interested in working only with a female homeopath. “It is interesting that my allopaths have all been male, and that has been fine with me. I don’t think I have ever had a preference.
&quopt;It is funny,” she said. “I know these are all misconceptions in me. I use my allopath for diagnostics, that’s sort of a male way of thinking, and I think they are good at that, with the more cut and dry stuff. ‘Let’s poke here and take blood samples and analyse it all and call you back with an answer.’ And so my gynecologist and family doctor are male, and my mom has a female gynecologist that I wouldn’t go to see, because she did some unprofessional things with my mother, so I finally got her to switch to a male.”
“I wonder,” she continued, “if they are harder or tougher because they have to be that way, to project an image, and how much of that projects into the whole medical thing. I am just more confident of a male doctor than a female. I know it is a bias, but it is there. There isn’t a softness. What would override all of that? If another person referred me to a female allopath who had had good results with her, I would go with that, but left to my own I would probably seek a male rather than a female.”
One woman had more of a preference for the female who would have access to her physically, but when it came to the mental and emotional aspects she had no preference. “For the most part depends on the person. I have had both male and female therapists and I loved the female and not the male, but now I have a male who I love. But I would have to admit that I would still go for a female gynecologist, because she would know more about what you feel like when you are on the table, which is a position a male doctor can’t get himself into.”
And a male respondent said, “My general practitioner is a female, although I have gone to males over the years. But with a woman doctor I expect to find more of a nurturing side, and they tend to be a bit more empathetic, and less mercenary as a whole.”
The issue of gender is a complicated one. If one thing comes through all the statements, it is that people prefer someone who is caring and nurturing, who treats them as an individual, as an intelligent, sentient being, who inform and involve the patient in the process of healing. While women may have the edge in the natural possession of these qualities, we all have the capacity to develop them. At times we may seem to be from different planets and we may appear to speak different languages, but we all are human and gender should not be a fact of division, but one of union.