The latest Grey’s Anatomy was a refreshingly filmed look into the lives of two working professionals. Not only that, it was a deep look at two characters we viewers have come to know and love over the years. It was a real-life perspective on what it means to (properly) raise children and work full-time. The episode showed Dr. Yang and Dr. Grey at their finest with regard to their craft and solidified their strong nature, skill, level-headed judgement, and intelligence.
AND YET the episode simultaneously worked to set back the clock a few decades with short but meaningful jabs at the strong women being challenged in their everyday lives.
The first step backward came when Dr. Bailey, another strong female character, approached Dr. Grey about her crying child and seemingly mentored the new mother by saying, “You know why men think they can run the world and women can’t? Because of crying babies… We can all hear it, I can hear it, Dr. Ross out there can hear it, only difference is the crying doesn’t affect him, but you and I are genetically predisposed to respond to crying babies” and then went on to say that it was hurting Dr. Grey’s ability to focus.
First, Dr. Bailey and the writers are undermining the ability of women to separate their personal from professional lives. They are continuing the ongoing illusion that the most natural state for a woman is that of motherhood. Perpetuating this ongoing motherhood trope is twofold, however, when thought of from the perspective of a male-bodied individual. With this quick statement Dr. Bailey is also undermining the abilities and compassion of all male-bodied caregivers of children.
Later in the episode a loveable, wise, old-man character said, “Women of your generation are graceless, it’s an afront to nature.” This statement went unchallenged, but more than that, in the face of the this recently deceased character, the quote was glorified in a sort of post-mortem montage. Here the elder mentor doctor is again hindering the younger doctor’s ability to show the abilities of young professional mothers in that he is undermining Dr. Yang’s most basic right to carry herself in whatever manner she wishes. The writers here, sadly, are working backward in the development of Dr. Yang’s character. When Dr. House is crass in the FOX show, ‘House,’ he is amusing and confident (and always right). While this is usually the case with Dr. Yang, here in a pivotal moment of seeming-enlightenment for Dr. Yang she is cut down a peg for her apparent lack of grace.
Even in season 9, in the year 2012, the double standards will not go away. Women are supposed to be mothers first, and professionals second. Grey’s Anatomy is apparently no exception in their Hollywood depiction of modern motherhood. Perhaps someday motherhood and parenting more generally will be more realistic and thus more complex, rather than reverting to timeless ideas of gender spheres and the seemingly irrevocable powers of nature.