29 January 2017

The Women’s March, social injustice, and personal experience

About a week ago a piece was written for the Washington Post that I found to be out of place in the Opinions section. I hesitate to provide the title of it, as it might automatically turn readers against me, for not viewing it with the sensitivity it requires, at least on one level. But here it is - the title 'My wife died just after Election Day. I'm attending the Women's March for her'. 

Death so often does necessitate the offering of condolences, ignoring errors in judgement or in practice, and just generally thinking of uplifting things to say. But then why would anyone choose to publish an obituary in the Opinions section of a newspaper?  Perhaps the reason was that it wasn’t an obituary in the usual sense. It was as much about the husband of the person who had died as about the deceased. And yet, scores of comments in the Comments section following the article were written in a manner that resembled condolences more than comments.

One might ask, was the article telling us the opinion of the writer on some social or political  - or economic  - issue? Not exactly, no, the writer appeared to be questioning his own sense of masculinity, in preparing to march in place of his deceased wife in the Saturday’s Women’s March, held in Washington and in places around the world, on Jan 21, 2017. Those who marched did so for a variety of reasons, many of the marchers no doubt being personally motivated, others marching for the rights of women who are marginalized in society, some having specific interests, such as abortion rights for women, violence against women, etc.

Mr Ikins’s wife suffered a tragic death, a fall down stairs, a coma, and finally, release through death. I can relate to that experience of having a fall. A year ago today I suffered a slip and fall, through which I broke my femur. Luckily  - I think – I survived, not having severed an artery and having a fast-acting, thoughtful neighbour, paramedics ready to do their bit, and an expert surgeon to care for my injury. Since then I have had to walk using a walker, but in a few days I will have the nails removed from the knee – nails that held the rod in place while the leg healed. So I am hoping for the best outcome. But by chance, my equilibrium – my sense of balance, experienced as a kind of giddiness, has affected my ability to walk normally too. Mr Ikins says that Nov 8 was the worst day of his life.  It was not a great day for me, either.

On November 8, 2016, I attended an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist, to tell him about the symptoms I had been having, but found my concerns being dismissed by a specialist who was overbooked, overworked that day, no doubt, and who was not expecting this new set of symptoms. For some reason, he was also defensive, and spent far too much time explaining to me why he sent the last report to my old family doctor, the one I had laid a complaint against with the CPSO, and filed an application against with the Human Rights Tribunal.  I had realized the report went to that doctor, despite my requesting from his appointment taker/secretary that it not be, but it was anyway, in order to abide by the regulations. 

On my way in, I had asked the girl at his clinic front desk if the report could be sent to a different doctor this time, and she said she thought so, but to ask the doctor when I saw him, which I did. All this took precious time away from my concerns – of the balance issue – disequilibrium.  Finally, he offered me a partial VNG test (look it up). I agreed, and later, at home, looked up the test on google. I saw that I had been offered only a piece of the set of 4 tests, and so decided to try to get the tests I needed. To skip to the end of this story, the appointment-taker/secretary and the staff at the ENT clinic lied about me, and the ENT specialist cancelled the appointment I had with him. I am now left with no suitable options for a proper diagnosis nor for treatment options, nor to repair the damage to my reputation.  The only possible option I have, which won’t help my vestibular/vertigo problems, is to lay a complaint against this doctor too.

Returning to the article written by Charles Ikins, I have to say I question whether Charles Ikins’s perception of the reasons for the march were rather limited. He saw it as being for women who experience indignities of the kind Trump had presumably committed, the very reason his wife was protesting.  And he decided that it would not be unmasculine for him to march in place of his wife, to honour her beliefs and commitment.

For the most part, I believe the women’s march was about fighting for the rights of women, and especially marginalized women, women who do not get the same kinds of opportunities and treatment that other women do – some of them single women, poor women, women without husbands, black women, old women, and so on. The maintaining of rights of women – abortion, sexual rights, and so on, were also reasons women marched.

I thought that the Washington Post had used a grieving husband’s thoughts and piece honouring his wife as a political manoeuvering – publishing it on Trump’s Inauguration Day, the day before the women’s march. Taken on its own, as a piece intended for friends and family, the article could be seen as having merit. But published in the Washington Post, for the public to read, it came across as something very different.

Part way through the article, Mr Ikins mentions the admonition for participants to “check your privilege.” He says he thinks he knows the meaning of the phrase, and yet the article itself is an example of what the privileged should try not to do. Instead of seeing things through their own eyes only, and taking for granted the things they have, the material advantages in life, and seeing their own cause as the one most worthy, they might try to see what others experience in life.

It is part of the human condition for tragedy to strike families – all of us - tragedies that are not anyone's fault. That's not going to help the writer of the article talked about here, but it needs to be said. Furthermore, some people in life – women among them – struggle in ways the privileged might not even be able to imagine – and it is not always men who are responsible for the injustices.  Finally, I have reservations about the value of a Women’s March if President Trump is chosen to be the most recent scapegoat for feminists seeking to unite women over a cause - any cause – to enhance interest in the feminist movement.

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post - Opinions
Jan 12, 2017

By Charles Ikins
Washington Post – Opinions
Jan 20, 2017

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