Vulgarities and name calling
Are sadly a part of every woman’s life.
When we speak our minds.
When we ask too many questions.
When we challenge the status quo.
When we excel.
Those words are uttered either to our faces or behind our backs.
They are meant to humiliate, minimize and dismiss.
I have been in practice for over 30 years. In that time I have been told I was too pretty, too young, too innocent, too naïve. . .to become a physician. I was told, point blank-
“You have no right to take the place of a man who won’t quit just to get married and have babies.”
I have had male residents or doctors in supervisory positions tell me the “true” use for rooms that were intended for overnight stays when covering 40-hour shifts. Often making it clear their expectations. Politely, but firmly, declining their advances often resulted in nasty retaliations, vicious slurs and name calling. Not always to my face but often spread among staff and patients. I have been called names word more times than I can count because I refused to be abused, demeaned or cowed by male arrogance and ego.
I demanded to be heard.
I demanded to be honored.
I demanded respect.
And in all those times it was done by men who represented a profession that was supposed to be caring, appropriate, professional and sensitive to patient needs. One had to wonder if this was their behavior towards a trainee or colleague how did they interact with patients or at home?
This is not news to any woman. We have all felt these kinds of slurs and interactions at some point in our lives. It’s just now becoming acceptable to speak about it. The “me too” movement has just touched the surface of an ugly underbelly of subjugation, misogyny and abuse of women, in all its forms.
It was most shocking when we heard them from a man running for the highest office in the land. When he made it clear to the world he believed touching the private parts of women was actually encouraged and enjoyed by the women he attacked. Referring to those that dared to speak out as stupid, ugly, fat and any other reference he could make to demean them. When the leader of our country openly admits to such acts and no one speaks out, all women are put at risk.
No one is safe.
There’s no question we’ve made advancements.
100 years ago I could not have been a physician, let alone in private practice. My sister, 10 years my senior, was one of the few female law students at the University of Arizona. And even when I went to med school a great deal of the specialties were male dominated and not open to women. These included all surgical residencies.
Even so, we’ve only seen small, incredibly slow moving changes.
I don’t always agree with representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s politics but that doesn’t diminish her intelligence and willingness to fight for the rights of her constituents. To have a colleague – Ted Yoho –say slurs in public and then lie and say her claims were untrue, or that as a husband and father of daughters he couldn’t possibly say such things just emphasizes how much more work needs to be done.
Every woman who heard of that interaction knew what representative Ocasio-Cortez was feeling.
Every woman flashed back to similar episodes they too have experienced.
But Representative Ocasio-Cortez made it clear, she would not tolerate such behavior and would call it what it was – an attempt to embarrass and shut her down.
The worst part? Not one person who heard those words, not one person who witnessed that encounter spoke out and demanded the behavior stop.
A newsman standing nearby later substantiated it occurred exactly as representative Cortez stated. As though she required validation from a man to be taken seriously. Where was his voice when it happened?
I’ve written in past posts that my aunt tried to anticipate such behavior by wearing a 3” rhinestone pin that said “B**CH”, making it clear to all the men she dealt with in the real estate and legal profession, “Don’t mess with me”.
For the longest time I thought that she should be applauded and even wished I had the courage to wear one myself. I never thought this simple act accepted the inevitability I’m going to be called names no matter what I do, so I should proactively broadcast that I fight back.
Now I realize it was not to be applauded but pitied. It was a sad comment on how pervasive and ingrained misogynistic attitudes were in her life.
During this pandemic domestic abuse has skyrocketed. Being forced to stay at home with no means for escape, loss of financial resources and external support from family and friends has set off devastating numbers of violence against women and children.
Until our boys are taught respect, courtesy and thoughtfulness towards the opposite sex that reinforces abuse in any form is inexcusable and intolerable, this will continue. We need to make clear, without exception, to all who perpetrate such despicable acts that this must stop.
A 100 years ago we were cattle. We could not own property. We could not control our own finances. We had no say over our bodies. Husbands beat and raped their wives without recourse.
Yes we have slowly improved.
But when a representative of Congress can stand on the steps of our most sacred institution, that represents the people and laws of our land, and say such slurs to another Congressional representative with impunity, we’ve barely scratched the surface.
It has to stop.
For all the women in our lives, it has to stop. Now.
I join with Representative Ayanna Presley when I paraphrase her eloquent words from the House floor-
To all women – you are powerful, you are limitless. Your contributions to this world are brilliant, needed and uniquely yours. Your ideas are substantiate, your lives, experiences, kind hearts and critical eyes belong at every single table where decisions are being made. You deserve a life free from fear and filled with dignity. Not defined by your looks, weight, dress or anatomy.
Brilliance, intelligence, power, self respect, and abilities are not a threat. They do not diminish or over shadow another’s light, but rather strengthens both to burn brighter, longer. The more we embrace and encourage each other, the more we’ll achieve, together.