The recent BBC video interview with the professor and his wonderful gatecrashing family has gained much media attention. It has given many households a few moments of delight, especially those of us with children - but when people assumed the wife to be the nanny, it highlighted that both gender and racial stereotypes are still commonplace.
As a female doctor of Asian origin, I have experienced gender and racial stereotypes since leaving the protective bubble of my North London grammar school. I was 18 when I was first asked where I was from. Initially I assumed they were asking from which part of London but I soon realized they were referring to the country. My English accent evidently didn't give this away. Another common question is, "What's your real name?" as if my Biblical name could only be a nickname for someone of my complexion.
The issue I find most taxing however is the attitude towards me in my profession. Many female doctors will at some point be able to recall an incident during their training where they have been referred to as 'nurse' by a patient whilst our male counterparts are always doctors.
During medical school, this was a frequent occurrence. Once qualified, donning the stethoscope made my doctor status apparent. I lost this however as soon as I got married, and with my vows I seemed to bequeath my title to my husband.
My honeymoon consisted of several hotel staff constantly referring to my non-medical non-doctorate husband as "Doctor", which he found hilarious. I reassured myself that this was just because we were abroad but this trend continued back home in the UK.
On one particularly vexing occasion I attempted to remove my husband from my private medical insurance scheme. I was curtly told that I couldn't do so despite complaining that I myself had added him to my policy. The idea that the female 'Doctors' Scheme' representative wouldn't consider the female spouse to be a doctor hadn't entered my mind. After all, I had answered my security questions, which included my very gender specific first name at the start of the conversation, but yet, somehow the woman assumed my husband to be the doctor. After a frustrating few minutes I politely asked her to remind herself of the policyholder's name. There was a sudden silence followed by a mortified apology.
These frustrated stereotypes affected a recent kitchen order at a well-loved department store. My details couldn't be found on their system. They could see someone with my name and address but the title didn't match so of course it couldn't be me. They assumed the doctor was my 85-year-old father standing next to me. Eventually the issue was resolved and once again I did get a sincere apology.
I have come to expect these incidents, perhaps incorrectly, but they occur so frequently that they have become the norm. I have always assumed that it's my female status that confuses people rather than my ethnicity. Once again, I continue to demonstrate my naivety. I do reassure myself however that I only lost the title of Doctor on my honeymoon. My friend lost hers on her wedding day when the blushing bride and her non-medical non-doctorate husband were announced by the DJ as 'Dr and Mrs'.
It is now almost 90 years since women over 21 were allowed to vote, and two years after when children of the 1980's had expected to be using hover-boards and flying cars routinely. Yet it has taken an interview on Korean politics gone wrong to give credence to the race and gender biases in our society once again - reminding us that even the best of us, even if only on a subconscious level still harbour outdated views.
Misogynistic attitudes did nothing to prevent the ascent to the White House. We may well have a female prime minister, but during the last general election, my local party candidate knocked on my door complete with an ethnic minority representative in tow for me to 'relate' to. A cheap trick to get my vote, which they lost any chance of after commenting that within my ethnic community the wife would vote for whomever the husband votes. Shocking. Their only smidgen of a saving grace was that they knocked. The other major party candidate skips our house every election. I am not sure why?
In the meantime my exasperation at being asked: "Will I see the doctor next?" will likely continue. As will my infuriation when trying to get rid of telemarketers on the phone. Trying to be clever, I always tell them "Dr Ahmed isn't in" when they ask for me, to which they always respond, "So when will your husband be back?" Ironically they never assume I'm the nanny.