Start the change: make choices and face consequences on your own terms!
Listen closely. There’s something swirling. A gentle murmur of dissent. A resolute hum of opinion. The thud of a foot firmly being put down. An increasing grumbling of noises, unabashedly calling out instances of gender bias is building up - slowly entering common discourse. On television, in politics and in everyday life – we see women, and men - standing up for themselves unapologetically. Defending their right to have an opinion. To build a life. To make choices and face consequences. On their terms.
Award ceremonies and reality shows turned into an opportunity for airing opinions. A movie refusing to shame a girl for consensual sex. An athlete refusing to cover her head during sport. This is the echoed voice of freedom, gradually swelling into a din.
One would think that some places would be impervious to gender bias. Places where human life takes precedence. Where hard core science and hard won clinical acumen come foremost, gender may fade from conscious conversation.
Alas, a medical school or hospital, is not that place.
A decade ago, when I was at college, a female doctor was still being called nurse by a patient. A female medical student was still being counselled against a career in surgical specialities. A female nurse was still expected to fetch coffee. Girls were still being pulled aside and lectured on the tightness of their jeans. Sleeveless clothes were once banned from the library of a progressive private college by a dean. The rules however applied only to female students, their arms apparently kryptonite for male class mates. The length of a girl’s hair was still fair lunch room conversation for a study group. A doctor’s well-proportioned behind still game for open comment during a busy OPD. Students in scrubs still conscious of their curves, feeling the unknown groping touch in the crowded harshly lit operating room. The colleague that stands just a little too close in an ER. An anaesthetist trying to do her job red in the face under her mask, pretending not to hear the dirty joke about the sedated patient being operated on.
These scenes and many far more vicious, have been repeated over and over in class rooms, clinics and hospital wards everywhere. Shared among friends of either gender. Some with shame, some with indignant rage, none with fond nostalgia. But as they get mentioned over and over, one thing changes. Denial ends.
We need to stop sweeping things under the rug.
Recipients need to stop feeling responsible. Bias, abuse, harassment happen at work places and homes. We let it happen. Then it grows. When we look things in the eye and call a spade a spade, there change begins. It starts from us. Don’t look the other way when it happens to someone. When it happens to you.
Stand up and call it. You start the change.