Screening of "The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen" for International Women’s Day

Every March 8th, people around the world celebrate International Women's Day. An opportunity to acknowledge women’s achievements throughout history and across nations, the day is also a focal point in the movement for women's rights and gender equity.

This year, local celebrations include a special screening of The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen. For over 60 years, Dr. Cohen advocated powerfully in Canada and internationally for women physicians’ advancement within the medical profession and is widely recognized for her many contributions to women’s health, sexuality, abortion choice, and human rights. Numerous medical awards bear her name.

Two Canadian colleagues of May Cohen, family physicians, and gender equity advocates Cheryl Levitt and Barbara Lent created the documentary “to share May’s remarkable accomplishments, to make them visible, and to offer the film as a tool to help promote gender equity, reproductive rights, and equity for women physicians.” According to Dr. Levitt, “The reason why May is so exceptional is that many of the initiatives that she started and led are mainstream today. People listened to her.”

May Cohen discussing the Women’s Health Office with students circa 1990. © The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen

After the screening local writer and arts-based community educator Dr. Ahava Shira will facilitate a discussion panel with local educators, activists, and health practitioners sharing their perspectives on how we’re applying gender equality locally and where there is still work to be done to assure women on Salt Spring are receiving the care May Cohen advocated. The conversation will be of interest to our whole community,” says Dr. Shira, “because we know that in any community where women's heath is foregrounded, everybody of every gender benefits.”

When asked about the current climate for practicing physicians, Dr. Levitt said, “As a physician, I have experienced lots of challenges throughout my career related to my being a woman. As we say in the film, the problems associated with gender are deeply entrenched, and it will take a long time to address them. When May went to medical school only 10% of the class were women. Although there are more than 55% women on medical training in Canada now, there is still much to be done to ensure equity for women patients and women doctors and for people to understand that gender is a social determinant of health that can affect women and men. Most medical schools have embraced curricular changes that incorporate discussions about gender, equity, and inclusion with medical students at an early stage. This is a good start.”

Salt Spring Islanders are invited to celebrate International Women's Day at ArtSpring on Sunday, March 8th, 7 to 9pm. Tickets are $10 and available at the box office and online (

This event is presented by SWOVA Community Development & Research Society and IWAV (Islanders Working Against Violence). Everyone is welcome.

The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen Official Trailer from Cheryl Levitt on Vimeo.

May and Gerry graduate from medical school, 1955. © The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen

May Cohen inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. © The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen

May Cohen walks like a tiger April 2016. © The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen

Avatar of Coreen Boucher

By Coreen Boucher

Staff Writer, Salt Spring Exchange News

February 18, 2020 11:48 AM

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