Jen Brea’s TED talk (which received over 300,000 views in it’s first 3 days!) about the way women are treated within the healthcare system has made me think a lot about the way women are treated in general. We face discrimination every day of our lives and it’s so entrenched that it’s normal.
On TV yesterday was a woman who had been sacked from her Receptionist’s job because she refused to wear high heels. She was professionally dressed in a suit but had on flat shoes because she found heels uncomfortable (they’re fucking crippling and I have no idea why we put ourselves through the torture!). The male TV presenter said that all the men wore ties which they didn’t like, so why was she whinging about having to wear heels which made her look “glamorous”. What has “looking glamorous” got to do with looking “professional”?! God forbid she should turn up to work not wearing make-up, because apparently that also wasn’t allowed. Her brilliant reply was that if they wanted her to wear a tie she’d happily oblige, then she and the men would be dressed the same.
A man left a comment on my blog this week telling me what to do. He didn’t ask politely “have you tried this product?” to which my answer would have been “yes”. He assumed I didn’t have a brain cell in my head and wouldn’t have already tried his solution, because obviously I’m female and fucking stupid. My brother treats me like I’m stupid all the time, even though he doesn’t possess a single qualification and I am educated to post-graduate level. We’ll be discussing a situation and he’ll pipe up “what you need to do is………….”. He doesn’t say “have you already tried…….?” to which my answer is always “yes” because I’m not thick and have way above average problem solving skills, he just assumes he knows better than me because I have a vagina and not a penis.
Last summer I was at the petrol station filling my car up. I went to pay and asked for a ticket for the drive through car wash. Sadly it was out of order. As I was walking back to my car a complete stranger (male) tapped me on the shoulder and said “you don’t want to put your car through the drive through anyway. It only needs a bit of grit on the bodywork and the rollers will drag it along and scratch the paintwork. What you need to do is use the pressure washer.” My reply to which was “thanks so much for your unwanted advice. How on earth have I managed to successfully live alone for 30 years without your guidance?” (I wasn’t about to tell him I am disabled and can’t physically use the pressure washer, because my health is none of his goddamn business). To which he replied “I was only trying to help you rude bitch!” like I was the one who had been inappropriate.
But it’s not just men who tell me what to do. I have women comment on my blog all the time, who think they know more about my life than I do. The most popular is “you know you have <insert 50 different medical complaints here>” when they don’t have a single medical qualification or have access to my test results or medical records. They assume that, despite being sick for over 2 decades, I’m so bloody dense I wouldn’t have already looked in to any of this stuff.
I ask myself if they’d tell a male blogger what to do like he’s five years old? Would a man walk up to another grown man at the filling station and tell him how to wash his car? Of course not. I do know people are only trying to be helpful, but I ask myself if they would “help” a man in the same way?
The constant assumption that women are stupid and need to be parented like a child drives me insane. I have lived alone since I was 22 years old and I will be 50 this year. Despite being as sick as a dog I have single-handedly renovated two houses, the first of which sold within 7 hours of going on the market (even though I didn’t use an Agent) and 12 years later still holds the title of most money paid for a house in that street. I own power tools and I can use them better than any man I’ve ever dated. I’ve managed to keep my car on the road since I was 17 years old without help from a man (apart from my mechanic). Through my own research and determination, and without medical help or care, I have gone from being bedridden for nearly a decade to no longer being bedridden. In the last 5 years I have successfully sued three companies without help from anyone (I couldn’t afford a solicitor). In last year’s north of England photographic competition I received the highest score of anyone in my Camera Club despite it being mostly full of men and the fact I am disabled. I’d like to think, despite my lack of a y chromosome and the humongous limitations imposed on me by my health, I’m fairly successful in my life.
If and when I need help or advice I am more than capable of asking for it. If I don’t ask you can assume I don’t need, or want, it.