So far we have talked about why I wanted to speak about this subject in part 1, and my diagnoses (or essentially why this is so relevant and important to me) in part 2. If you missed those posts, you can find them here at Part 1 and Part 2.
Today I wanted to talk to you about something that ties this together. While it’s not the only issue, its something I see as one of the big issues that women, people who are overweight, and people with disabilities deal with to one degree. In one way or another they all, in a sense, have their voice taken away. What do I mean by that? People constantly talk over you, they put words in your mouth, and they often think they know what is better for you than you do.
Lets talk about the concept that I think most people will be familiar with first. Unless you are living under a rock you have heard of the concept of mansplaining. As a matter of fact I recently had a man interrupt a conversation I was having with someone else so he could mansplain mansplaining. It’s really not uncommon for women to feel like men, or even on occasion other women, are taking their voices away. Now if you feel you have never experienced mansplaining, then I am over-joyed for you, but you are in the minority.
But it’s not just by mansplaining that we have our voices taken away as women. A ten minute look at congress will show you a large group of men who think they know what is best for women and their bodies. From dictating what birth control health care will cover to deciding what choices are right for a woman’s body, they think they know what is best for us. They put in place laws that limit our choices and effectively take out voices away from us.
But what about people with disabilities? How are their voices stolen? Before I go any further I want to preface this part by saying this is based on my own personal experiences. I have spoken to other people with various disabilities, and this seems to be most, but not all, of what I am going to talk about is more of an issue for people like me who suffer mainly from invisible illnesses.
Here are some of the things I experience on a regular basis as a disabled person. It’s not unusual for people to question if I am really sick since they can’t see anything wrong with me. If they aren’t questioning my health itself then I typically get unsolicited advice on how I should be dealing with my health or people questioning if I have done enough to try to get better. Now sometimes these things are said out of a good place, and I try to recognize that. But the idea that I somehow wouldn’t try, or at least investigate, everything that is available to me to get better is a little absurd. But when I tell people as much, but in a nice way of course, I get incredulous looks or responses of how I must have tried something different because their friends daughters best friends sister has the same thing as me and it worked for them.
But it truly goes beyond just the average person on the street that you deal with. You would think that the treatment you get from a doctor would be better. Sometimes it is easier with a doctor, but a lot of the time it’s not. Doctors aren’t always fully trained on every illness, they are also sometimes directed in a certain way by state laws or hospital policies that may not actually be for the best of the patient. And really they are just people and make mistakes too.
I shared in my previous post that I actually suffer from several chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia. In the state I live in there are still doctors who don’t believe it exists, and I have been told this by a couple of doctors before. One took it so far as to tell me he thought I was just being lazy. But then if you do find a doctor who will treat you and believes you, if you dare state that you know what medicine works for you, then you are treated like a drug addict.
Being fat (insert plus size, curvy, pleasantly plump, Rubenesque, or whatever you want to call it here) in the US, and maybe other places too, comes with a lot of those same sorts of examples. People make unwelcome comments about how they think you look, what you’re wearing and whether they think its appropriate for someone your size, and especially about what you are eating and whether they think you should be or not.
People really seem to think the only reason someone might be fat is because they don’t know how to make good life decisions. Or maybe they think we are too stupid to know if you overeat that it will cause you to gain weight. And so by telling us these things, they are then going to be this awesome hero that sweeps in and saves the day. But in reality life isn’t that simple. There are tons of reasons someone might be overweight, and at least for the majority of people I know, overeating is not what caused them to gain weight.
And again, you would think that you would have better treatment from a doctor, but in my experience that is not the case. You would be surprised at how many doctors just make that assumption that because you are over weight you automatically are going to have high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.. I have actually had a doctor say to me, “No, you’re too fat to have better numbers on your cholesterol and blood sugar than me. This can’t be right”. And it’s not just rude statements like that, I could probably live with those if I felt I was getting the best medical treatment possible. But the shear waste of time that is involved with these preconceived notions is unacceptable.
When I was at my worst, health wise, it often meant going to the doctor at least once a week. It took forever to find doctors who were giving me quality care and not just focusing on my weight. It’s not helpful to go to the doctor and have your blood drawn by the same doctor at every visit simply because the doctor can’t get beyond their own personal biases. Now if you are relatively healthy, and you only go to the doctor once a year for an annual physical, then its acceptable. But let it sink in, I literally had doctors who wanted to draw my blood on a weekly basis, just because they couldn’t believe it was possible for me to have healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol.
Now maybe you have read all of this and you don’t understand why I am saying people are taking our voices away. It really comes down to this, I think anytime someone doesn’t listen to you, thinks they know what is better for you, doesn’t respect your opinions or the facts, then they are essentially taking your voice away. Whether someone’s intentions are good or not is besides the point. And women, fat people, and disabled people are not the only ones who experience this, I think anyone in a minority group or oppressed group experience these things as well.
I would love to hear what some of you have experienced yourself. Tell me in the comments how people have been trying to take your voice away. Or if you want to disagree with me leave that in the comments too. All comments will be approved unless they are disrespectful or of a bullying nature.