25 September 2018

Serena Williams: career and motherhood - having it all

Serena Williams’ controversial behaviour at the 2018 US Open Championships women’s singles tennis final, and her insistence that sexism was at the root of it, has led to an increasing number of viewpoints on the subject. My aim here is to take a variety of viewpoints about Serena directly or related to the issues at stake, as expressed in newspaper articles worldwide, and one essay from a book, and to select interesting or relevant points from them. I shall add my own comments and reflections on the situation Serena found herself in and what may have led her to this point. While Naomi Osaka of Japan was the player who deserved all the credit for winning the singles final match, the focus of this piece will be on the professional tennis player and wife and mother, Serena Williams, who lost the match. 

Serena Williams career tennis professional and devoted mother

American tennis player Serena Williams, soon to be 37 years old (on September 26, 2018),  has been involved in what is likely the greatest controversy of her career, while playing the women’s singles US Open Championships final on September 8, 2018.

Serena, using outspoken, accusing comments against the umpire Carlos Ramos during the match, in which she was down a set, started a flurry of newspaper articles and analyses from a number of different perspectives. I have selected just a few here, in an attempt to cover several different angles, though not to explain them all thoroughly. I recognize that there were many ways of perceiving her actions and motives, and will examine some of these, as well as the background to what happened, and give my own thoughts on possible reasons for what happened. 

To begin, it was just over a year ago that Serena gave birth to a daughter, Olympia (no future hopes intended there), and while not the first professional tennis player to give birth in the midst of a career, she has been the one to gain the most attention by doing so, and presumably experience the most anguish and risk from the birth and postbirth or postpartum experience (see After Serena Williams gave birth, Everything went bad Jan 10, 2018). An emergency cesarean section, followed by blood clots including a pulmonary embolism led to Serena being at risk of death, soon followed by several procedures and surgeries; then, several months to recover enough to be able to resume training. For a career woman, this must have been devastating, although Serena has always put her infant daughter first in her thoughts, telling her fans that motherhood was the most important part of her life.

The reality of it seems to be that Serena’s career may have been as high up there as having a child, although that is not something women are supposed to say for fear of being branded an unfit mother. If she wanted it all, who could blame her, and if she had not really wanted to lose time to being pregnant, seriously ill through childbirth, and recovery, who could blame her for that?

In an article on the ‘sanctity’ of motherhood, Anne Kingston explains,

The premise that motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all role shouldn’t come as a surprise in 2018, given the rise of the “childless by choice” movement or an international decline in birth rates. Still, it’s received as an affront to the “sanctity” of motherhood and the entrenched belief that the maternal instinct is innate and unconditional—despite ample historical evidence to the contrary (‘I regret having children,’ Feb 2018).

Whether or not she really wanted to become a mother under those terms, there would have been some social expectations and pressure put on her, for her to see motherhood as more important than her career. Age 35 when she had her child, soon to be 37 (on September 26, 2018), she left it almost past the point of being considered too old to have a baby without risk.  Serena gave birth on September 1, 2017, marrying Alexis Ohanian on November 16, 2017. A year later, after a few minor setbacks in her recovery, she was competing in the 2018 US Open Tennis Championships.

In times past, when many women had no real power, they were often accused of being ‘hysterical’ when they objected to rules imposed on them by their husbands and became distraught. Luisa Tam explains the roots of the word and its significance today:

The word “hysterical” and its root “hysteria” originate from the Greek “hystera”, meaning “womb”. Hysteria was an 18th century term used to describe a mental disorder caused by an affliction of the uterus; an illness exclusive to females.

Although hysteria is no longer recognised as a medical condition, the word and its counterparts are still used to describe extreme outbursts of emotion and excitement. And a number of media outlets pegged Williams’ outburst as “hysterical”.

How can we defy sexist attitudes if even the English language continues to uphold such outdated usage? Although these writers may not have been aware of the significance of such a term, they – and the rest of the English-speaking world – must be made aware of this if we are to evolve into a truly equal and tolerant society.  (‘Serena Williams’outburst at the US Open final was a misguided way to tackle sexism in tennis,’ Sept 17, 2018).

I do not believe that this incident Serena was involved in was mainly about sexism. I see it as very likely that Serena’s recent problems with childbirth and recovery could be a source of high emotions at this event, as Luisa Tam’s article in the South China Morning post reminds us.  I am not saying that Serena suffered from a mental breakdown, that her womb betrayed her, causing her to react emotionally, only that being a mother – and becoming one – in today’s world, for career women and stay-at-home mothers, can be fraught with indecision, frustration, guilt, and regret. On top of that, Serena is getting older. In fact, she and Roger Federer were both born in 1981.  In mentioning this coincidence, we should be reminded that, in the same time frame, Roger has managed to produce two sets of twins, while Serena has managed to reproduce only one small child.  That is not sexism, but it does indicate that some differences between men and women cannot easily be changed.  

Aging In America

Most academics don’t write for mainstream audiences, but Germaine Greer is one who has always been ready to give her views and engage with the press.  Greer was certain the Mark Knight cartoon published in an Australian publication was not only racist but sexist also, explaining that the image of Serena, in her view, was both “coarse” (racially unecessary) and “grotesque” (sexist). But mainly, she said, the cartoon missed the point, that it was not about race or sex, “when what she had really done is thrown the match” (see ‘Serena Williamscartoon was sexist, according to Germaine Greer’ Sept 18, 2018). There could be some truth to that, and Serena is the only one who could say for sure, but by the time the interactions between her and the umpire happened, she was already down a set. She had probably realized her chances of winning the next two sets were slim.

The fact that Serena had had such tremendous accomplishments, as a female playing professional tennis, made her loss and the ensuing conflict with the umpire more tragic. After the semi final, much was made of the upcoming final match between Serena and the youthful Naomi Osaka playing for Japan. This article explains two aspects of it, in terms of Serena winning, two days  before the event:

With one more victory, Williams will earn her seventh US Open championship and her 24th major singles trophy, equaling Margaret Court for the most in tennis history.

A few weeks shy of turning 37, now comes a chance to take a title and become the oldest woman to win a Slam in singles (‘Serena Williams toface 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in US Open final,’ Sept 7, 2018).

Not much pressure there! Fancy becoming the oldest woman to win a Slam in singles!  I wonder what she thought when she read that. As each year goes by, there would be less opportunity for Serena to break previous records. In a similar manner, the NY Times, writing the day after the match, gave us more on what it must have been like for Serena to play Naomi Osaka and be thoroughly beaten by her:

What embarrassed Williams might also have been the feeling that, in Ramos’s penalty, she was being disgraced before a young woman who worshiped her, before millions of young people whose adoration sponsors like Nike are wooing. That final was a battle between versions of herself, for how she wants to be seen — as a mother, a woman, a legend, a victor, as elegant, honest and true — versus the many ways she’d been perceived and, on Saturday, misperceived (‘Serena Williams Came In on a High Road. It MadeHer Fall More Devastating,’ Sept 10, 2018).

Motherhood, autonomy and morality

What happened between Serena Williams and Carlos Ramos, the umpire, is described coherently and thoughtfully in an article from New York, one step at a time, explaining how the misunderstandings happened. At one point, she makes a declaration and a demand, to Ramos, in front of the crowds, at home and watching live:

“You owe me an apology,” she said to Ramos, loudly emphasizing certain words. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her and I have never cheated. You owe me an apology” (see ‘Serena Williams vs. NaomiOsaka: How the U.S. Open Descended Into Chaos,’  Sept 9, 2018)

At different times, Serena brings up the subject of her barely one-year-old daughter, in a manner resembling an awareness of how motherhood has throughout history been seen as a moral ‘career,’ a duty women have undertaken to raise their children according to strict standards. To be seen as cheating, or to have her character attacked, as she says, when Ramos penalized her for the hand signals that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had displayed, was something she claims she would never do. But was she that intent on protecting the image of the good mother, or was there an underlying reason for her putting it that way? Here was a woman with one of the grandest careers, achievements unlike most celebrities could hope to aspire to, through hard work and talent. Was she just another woman susceptible to the pressures placed on her, or did she truly yearn to be the best mother she could possibly be as well as the best tennis player? Did she want it all, but was not able to achieve it?
At a recent interview with Mia Freedman of Mamamia (pronounced mama mia), part of the Mamamia’s Women’s Network in Australia), Serena opened up about how she felt after her ordeal at the US Open, saying,
“I got in the car, and Olympia was in the car. It was so weird, and she started giving me kisses, she never gives me kisses. She doesn’t even know to give kisses, and she just grabbed me, and I was like this little baby is so smart. It’s just hard to be too down when you have a little one… when you have someone to take care of.
“Like I have to take care of this person, and I have to do this type of stuff, it puts everything in perspective” . . . “I’m doing the best that I can to try and move forward,” she said. “But most of all, spending time with Olympia, she’s here in the background… you realise the most important things that really matter(see ‘Serena Williams tells Mamamia the firstthing she did when she left that US Open court,’ Sept 23, 2018).
Once again, Serena’s focus is on motherhood – womenhood as defender of morality, sometimes to the extent that it must surely be interfering with her tennis. In Mother Time, a collection of essays on women’s experiences of aging, Professor Margaret Urban Walker discusses the idea of autonomy in the lives of many older women, seeing the life course as a kind of “career” that leaves a lot at the end that becomes devalued in terms of moral and social identity (p. 104, ‘Getting out of Line: alternatives to life as a career,’ 1999). 
Walker situates the idea of autonomy within its wider meaning, within a cultural theme, that extends throughout each person’s life, calling it the “individual life as a career” (pp 100-101), a concept that takes in more than the traditional idea of career that is familiar to us, based on occupation and paid work.  After the “life career” is over, Walker says, as it once would have been for women who did not work, or men post-retirement, the career self endeavours to prove that they were once socially acceptable before their adulthood expired (p. 104), easier to do if one has had a traditional career, but a new task to face, nevertheless. I would add that once motherhood is over, the individual would face acquiring or acknowledging additional facets of an integrated life, following what is known traditionally as the menopausal transition or “the change of life”.
Although Serena Williams has led a different kind of life from many women and men, in which her tennis career was real, resulting in greater autonomy and recognition of her worth, the career life of any tennis player is bound to come to an end at some point. Some might wonder why Serena allowed motherhood to interrupt her career, and why she appears to have a particular mindset about it, and her new daughter, that places as much or equal value on the little person as she has done on winning at tennis. Is it cultural, or a personal desire Serena has, to want to experience motherhood, or to “have it all,” or to pass on her genes, or just to want someone special in her life in a way only motherhood can?   
The remainder of Margaret Urban Walker’s essay focuses on three ways of integrating a life, without resorting to reflecting on the traditional life stages open to us, but this has little to do with Serena’s life, unless she does find herself seeking a third way of integrating a life containing fragments of her personal history which are disconnected from being a “whole life” due to her career as a professional tennis player. Travelling, and moving on, over and over again, can result in leaving memories and loyalties behind, sometimes making life seem meaningless. More so, in today’s world, this is the kind of life people lead, not lived in one place only, and not working at one career only.
In Serena’s situation, she is firmly set within the model of an autonomous individual, and has now managed to firmly attach herself to motherhood as an additional source of meaning in her life. As a result of her indiscretion on the tennis court she has had to pay a hefty fine and had her life torn apart (as if it hadn’t been already) by the media. The trauma associated with becoming a mother has probably left her susceptible to the kinds of physical changes that many ordinary women experience as they grow older. But there is much more to her life’s journey than her extraordinary career as professional tennis player or being the best mother ever, or even having her life submitted to scrutiny. When we examine the variety and depth of the public’s and media responses to her tennis match against the 20-year old Naomi Osaka, we realize how her life has affected women in general, and men’s in their attempts to explain just what happened. 
Power and credibility
Serena appeared to be coming from a position of power, not of powerlessness, when she confronted the umpire, Carlos Ramos, about his decisionmaking, which makes a difference when thinking of abuses of power. It is one thing to have someone with no power be verbally abusive towards another when fighting for their survival, but different in effect when it is known that the person with material power who is being abusive has the power to do the other harm to their life in significant ways - whether loss of job, of home, or a relationship. When there is no mutual sense of being equal to one another, or fighting for the same cause, one of the two is often more vulnerable than the other. In the case of the umpire, while his fairness – or not - towards her has also been part of the debate it is questionable which of them has the most power, and the most support on their side, or whether this is a rocky road each of them has to navigate as they continue on.

Serena’s husband Alexis’s nurturing response to his wife Serena’s ordeal was to use statistics to prove her point, that this was a matter of the sexes not being treated equally by the umpire Carlos Ramos, or on a wider level, during professional matches on the whole. Which one of them has more credibility – Serena or Ramos - to not have their career suffer, or their life, is debatable.

George Bellshaw, writing on Alexis Ohanian’s use of statistics from a sports perspective, provides us with a convincing article complete with wedding pictures – their own and at the Royal wedding -  graphs, stats, and a list of code violations before stating his conclusion, based also on what other experts tell him, that sexism on the tennis court is hard to prove. Quoting an expert on technology and a university professor he writes:

‘Maybe that’s the thing from now, if you want to get more empirical evidence from how to understand whether there’s bias in there. There’s a whole hash of new data that’s required to actually be able to do that.’ (Tim Wade – a senior director of technology company Dimension Data).
. . . 

So could we produce accurate statistical results that prove sexism is at play?

‘With certainty? Almost certainly not,’ Professor [Alan] Nevill added. ‘It’s highly unlikely that you’d be able to demonstrate that’s a major attribute in the situation’ (SerenaWilliams’ husband Alexis Ohanian is right about sexism stats – but is desireddata actually possible? Sept 21, 2018).

It comes down to collection of an immense amount of data and interpretation of that data, making it impossible to find the answers one wants, even if technology were capable, Bellshaw says, and money and time were of no concern.

In the article that asks in its title, ‘Is Serena Williams right,’ her behaviour on the court is described as normal for men who get angry, but open to question when women do the same thing. Kieran File explains,  

Most people would comfortably associate confrontational actions and behaviour with men and we regularly see this in male sporting competitions. In other words, such behaviour is seen as normal, or at the very least, not unexpected of men.
. . .

Instances of women being confrontational challenge society’s view of them. That leaves them subject to greater scrutiny. In this case, society’s expectations of women as polite, supportive,
 non-competitive and certainly not aggressive may have indirectly contributed to Williams’ penalties in the US Open final
(Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on theextra challenges women face in moments of anger,’ Sept 11, 2018).

I would suspect that the finger-pointing and other gestures, including breaking her raquet, and her demand for an apology had a lot to do with the penalties given her by Ramos. On the whole, less haranguing and no name-calling (liar and thief) on the part of Serena, but instead an accurate description of where the problems lay, in her view, may have been more helpful and less threatening. But if she were indeed in so much emotional turmoil, about to lose the set and match to a newcomer on the scene, while still recovering from doing what only women can do (give birth), while getting older, with records yet to be broken, and not enough hours in the day, isn’t it understandable? The question, in many people’s minds, is whether women should be able to behave the same way men do. But is that the best solution to the problem, that more women start behaving like men?

Former professional tennis player Martina Navratilova writes, addressing the problem of women behaving like men on the court, and the fact that being treated differently than others, off or on the court, may have been a reason why Serena couldn’t let go of it:

 Just because the guys might be able to get away with it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
 . . .

All of this U.S. Open history, combined, perhaps, with always feeling like an outsider in the game of tennis — I know exactly how that feels — goes some way toward explaining why Ms. Williams reacted the way she did, and most of all, how she just couldn’t let go. But what is clear is she could very much not let go (Martina Navratilova:What Serena Got Wrong, Sept 10, 2018).

To sum up, we have a highly competitive and skilled, motivated tennis player – a new mother, but one for whom tennis has been the most important thing in her life – until now. The approach to middle age, for women, can involve a great deal of reflection if the idea of motherhood has not fully been considered. For a tennis player at the top, as Serena Williams is, it must be even more difficult to make a choice between the two – career or motherhood – or to expect to be the best at both. Furthermore, growing older is not the same for a woman as it is for a man. Finding ways of making sense of one’s life and models of how to integrate the various bits of paths the journey takes, to make them meaningful, is a task for women especially, when trying to live up to men’s models for life no longer works.


After Serena Williams gave birth, 'Everything went bad'
By Susan Scutti
Jan 10, 2018   Updated 2:20 PM ET, January 11, 2018

Getting out of Line: alternatives to life as a career.
By Margaret Urban Walker
In Mother Time: women, aging, and ethics (Ed. Margaret Urban Walker).
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. Maryland. pp 97-111.

‘I regret having children’
By Anne Kingston
2018 February Issue

Is Serena Williams right? A linguist on the extra challenges women face in moments of anger
By Kieran File
The Conversation
September 11, 2018 10.41am EDT 
Martina Navratilova: What Serena Got Wrong
By Martina Navratilova
NY Times, Opinion
Sept 10, 2018
Serena Williams Came In on a High Road. It Made Her Fall More Devastating.
By Wesley Morris
New York Times Critics Notebook
Sept. 10, 2018

Serena Williams cartoon was ‘sexist’,according to Germaine Greer
By Ben Graham
Sept 18, 2018. 9:14AM
Serena Williams tells Mamamia the first thing she did when she left that US Open court.
By Claire Stephens, Weekend Editor
September 23, 2018

Serena Williams to face 20-year-old Naomi Osaka in US Open final
Associated Press
Sept 7, 2018

Serena Williams vs. Naomi Osaka: How the U.S. Open Descended Into Chaos
By David Waldstein
NY Times
Sept. 9, 2018
Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian is right about sexism stats – but is desired data actually possible?
by George Bellshaw
Metro News UK - Sports
Sept 21, 2018 8:00 am

Serena Williams’ outburst at the US Open final was a misguided way to tackle sexism in tennis
By Luisa Tam
South China Morning Post
Sept 17, 2018, 7:53pm UPDATED Sept 17,  8:48pm

6 February 2018

Presumed Innocence in politics and health care

The last revision of ‘Presumed Innocence’ was on August 1, 2018, to include sections demonstrating the concepts of presumed innocence and credibility through the scandal involving Canadian politician Patrick Brown; through a look at the HRTO case of a patient (myself) versus hospital staff and doctors; through news stories on Prime Minister Trudeau’s 20-year-old scandal; and through news stories on Stormy Daniels’s encounter with Donald Trump. The common theme focused on throughout each of these is the concept of credibility. The legal term ‘presumed innocence’ and the lay person’s use of the phrase are also examined and meant to be a theme by which readers may consider the various scenarios. The List of References has been re-organized into 4 sections according to subject. Minor edits made (2) on August 2. 

Patrick Brown, Canadian politician

Lately, the concepts of “innocent until proven guilty” or “presumed innocent” have been a subject of discussion following accusations of sexual assault against actors, directors, and politicians, among others.  It’s the side of the argument which in layman’s terms probably means “to have compassion for” or “wait for him to be judged in a court of law, first.”

Michael Spratt’s recent article (see The Presumption of Innocence, 2018) explains what the term ‘presumption of innocence’ means, in terms of the legal definition, and the way it is being used inappropriately about one of the most well-known subjects of attention from the public – Patrick Brown, recently resigned leader of the opposition in Ontario.  Michael Spratt is a lawyer, so he knows the law. But I don’t think he knows much about common sense, which is, as I see it, an uninformed opinion in many cases. What I thought I knew 20 years ago, or a year ago, about something that I understood as common sense, is no longer. Many of my views are not the same as other people’s. And theirs are not the same as mine. It could have something to do with diversity – of experience, country of origin, culture, education, interests, family, or career. Or it could have something to do with growing older – a kind of wisdom developing, one would hope. 

I wrote a paper about wisdom once (Narratives and Wisdom, 2004), including interviews with women, in an attempt to find out what it was and if I stood a chance of achieving that state, with no luck. I might just as well have watched ‘Lucy’ (2014) with Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.

Michael Spratt writes, “Certain columnists wrote that what happened to Brown was wrong and that ‘every man in the world is now vulnerable’." He takes a different point of view, that it makes sense to stop and realize that these men are doing something terribly wrong. He describes the allegations as “shockingly serious: Brown is alleged to have taken advantage of his position of power over very young women, plied them with alcohol and then made inappropriate sexual advances” (The Presumption.)

The presumption of innocence,” he says, “should not be used as an excuse to disregard common sense.” But sometimes, using common sense can be as bad as relying on the common understanding of the presumption of innocence to guide one’s thoughts on a matter. One of the girls reported feeling intimidated because Patrick Brown had not been drinking but she had been. When I was growing up, it was men who had been drinking whose behaviour we needed to feel intimidated by. Now men have to be afraid of women.

Spratt continues, “The complaints were made on a confidential — not anonymous — basis to reputable journalists,” attempting to convince himself of their truthfulness, and of the ability of the journalists to understand. But there cannot only be common sense used where sex is concerned. There has to be some understanding of what the differences are between the sexes. Sexual freedoms, as they are called, are more widespread in society today both here and abroad, from what we hear in the news.  I wonder if men like Patrick Brown recognized the power they held over women, or did they see it as part of the sexual culture in our society today - the supposed freedom of young women to behave as though they were free to make those kinds of choices.  On the other hand, men are no longer permitted to treat women the way they have done in the past, when women’s voices were not being heard and acted upon.

In The Star, another story on Patrick Brown has one of the girls’ explanation:
 “Despite the fact that this happened, I didn’t want to let this impede on what I saw then as a career opportunity,” she said, adding that she’s choosing to speak out now to support women in similar situations.
“I don’t think that any woman young or old should be subjected to that and put in a situation where they have to decide between the career opportunity that’s in front of them and . . . taking themselves out of a situation that’s at best uncomfortable and at worst unsafe” (Two women accuse Patrick Brown2018).

Is she saying that she drank to feel good, or to be able to be flirty unflinchingly, or to not feel the pain of what she was having to do in order to have Patrick Brown advance her career? I cannot see how that provides support to any other young women growing up, except to inform them this is what the world is like.

If she knows that what she is doing is so that it will help her get the career she wants, at what point did she decide to stop what she was doing, ie drinking, flirting, letting Mr Brown get close to her, telling him to stop, getting driven home by him and then later claiming it was sexual assault.  Surely, the problem was that she didn’t want sex as much as he did, that she didn’t even like him. It was all about the career.  And she seemed to know that if she didn’t allow him some gratification, he wouldn’t further her career. Don’t the young women of today even like or admire the men who they do this with?  She called Brown an “old, single politician preying on young girls” (Two women accuse).

That sounds remarkably similar to what Jessica Leeds, the woman on the airplane with Donald Trump, was doing. She left her first class seat beside him to return to her own in tourist class when he went below the waist. That was her cut off point. But was it sexual misconduct, or was it a mutually beneficial interaction that simply ended?

A doctor, his staff, the HRTO, ageism and me

A year ago, I was in a situation where I was accused of being rude, in effect, (or “upset with”) to the staff of a specialist at a local hospital. It would appear that the idea of “presumption of innocence” didn’t need to be applied in that situation. I was deemed guilty by anyone who heard about it. A hastily written very negative black mark against me was put onto the report he wrote of that appointment, which was available to any doctor I wished to have as my family doctor, as well as to other doctors in the community I had appointments with.

I usually describe that part of the situation-in-its-entirety first, because it was so emotionally distressing, and it is the part that comes to mind. And besides, when I filled out the application for a Human Rights Tribunal it said to write the incidents down chronologically, as they happened. So I tried to do that.  It has been a fiasco, with backlogs, being put in a queue, clerical errors, and not having a caseworker, and being sent a ‘Notice of Intention to Dismiss’ (NOID) my application, by some unnamed person, because it might fall outside their jurisdiction.

I realized the other day how my application appears to whoever reads it, as chaotic, done in a chronological order, not even taking the most important incident first, to the extent that, the adjudicator who sent me a Case Assessment Direction (CAD) stated in the heading, McPherson v LHSC instead of McPherson v ‘The Dr et al’.  It seemed as though my case were getting pulled apart, with first one, then another administrative staff member of the HRTO looking at it, and making decisions that were not always the best ones or not explained in a way I could understand. See (Why and How I was discriminated against, 2017).

As chance would have it, in my response to the CAD/NOID, I started writing about it again, but starting with the main incident, which was not about me being accused of being rude. It was about me being shortchanged on a diagnostic test the specialist offered me, and then presumably ordered for me, one that was unlikely to be sufficient to make a firm diagnosis. I made out an application with the HRTO that I was discriminated against, by him, on the grounds of age and gender, and marital and family status.

I don’t think I was able to get the adjudicator see that in the previous response I wrote. I didn’t know what was expected of me, and I was given only clues, no direction that made sense. No wonder it appears to him that I have taken on the entire hospital, seeing my allegations that I was discriminated against by being treated differently than other patients - because they accused me of being rude to the Dr‘s staff – and “upset with.” So the adjudicator worded it McPherson v  LHSC. So who is presumed to be innocent in this case? Well, it’s certainly not me.

I don’t know if starting my latest response with the main incident, instead of the accusations by the girls, is enough to have the next adjudicator or admin staff member realize the situation I am in, that I have been ganged up on, because the Dr knows I know I was getting lesser treatment, as many older people probably are in our medical system. See (Ageism in Ontario's health care, 2017).

What is important, whether the Drs and their secretaries protecting him, or the girls like the ones who accused Patrick Brown, is getting their stories in, and the more of them the better, which makes them more powerful against him, and having the credibility that comes with who they are, now that they have careers, as well as getting their stories in first. If they can accuse him first, and be believed, or if the Dr at the local hospital can accuse me of something so chaotic that it can’t be taken in easily, and if they do it first, then they have the upper hand. They have the credibility, although it sickens me to know that they do, despite all they have done to me.

Those girls accusing Patrick Brown didn’t have to do that. They could have tried to find another way, instead of accusing him of that and destroying his career (Would-be Ontario PC leader, 2015). The girls at the hospital who colluded amongst themselves and with others including the Dr, to accuse me of something I did not do, didn’t have to do that.  Doctors don’t lose their licence to practice that easily. But the answer does not lie with Patient Experience, or Patient Relations, or with the media taking on people who pass their credibility test.  What is needed are people with the knowledge to sort out the problems, not to try to fit my experience into their framework and then dismiss it if it seems to them it doesn’t fit right, and not journalists doing a job they may not be capable of doing.

I find it appalling that the Dr and his staff have been granted credibility, in making accusations against me, that have affected my health and sense of well-being, and that my allegation against him, in regards to this specific incident in particular, has been diminished by having it included as just one of a number of allegations I made against the hospital.  The way the Application form was laid out, the name of the organization comes first in the list of respondents, followed by the list of individual respondents. But not all doctors are employees of the hospital. The specialist I saw was an independent surgeon/specialist, not just another employee who I was alleging had harassed me and discriminated against me.

There have been several mistakes made in the HRTO’s treatment of my application.  I hope that it won’t get dismissed because someone hasn’t been able to take in everything that I wrote about, or expects me to prove my allegations before I get to the hearing. As the closing sentence of Michael Spratt states, “At the end of the day, insisting on proof beyond a reasonable doubt outside the courtroom can lead to, and certainly does not protect from, injustice.”

Several weeks ago I wrote a letter to Dr Paul Woods, President of LHSC in London, sending the letter to him specifically, by Express Post, explaining the situation and attempting to get someone to resolve this without the HRTO deciding on it based on misinterpretations of my application by administration staff at the very beginning, sending me a NOID (Notice of Intent to Dismiss) based on their faulty reasoning and neglecting to sign the document, which I am assuming means it wasn’t an authorized decision. I never received acknowledgment of my letter.

I look back now, and see that the Dr’s decision to send me for a diagnostic VNG test was a good decision. The problem was that I was being offered only a fraction of the complete test, an aspect of discrimination, based on age and gender, that is probably quite common. The fact that the girls on staff turned against me when I asked questions about it, accusing of me of being rude when I hadn’t been, and the fact that the Dr put this into his report on the appointment, affected future attempts to have a family doctor, leaving me feeling disenchanted with the medical profession and the integrity of the practice of health care. Now I am waiting to see how the HRTO will deal with this matter, having told me that the HRTO does not deal with cases involving “medical decisions.”    

See additional article below in List of references.
July 9, 2018  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Another dilemma has occurred, not so easily resolvable because this time, PM Justin Trudeau is the one caught in the middle. See ‘Hypocrisy is at the crux of theTrudeau groping allegation,’ July 8, 2018. On the one hand, Trudeau allegedly behaved inappropriately toward a young woman 18 years ago, at a music festival. As a result, her colleagues came to her rescue and an editorial was written in the newspaper she worked for as a reporter. Her name remained anonymous, as did the precise behaviour attributed to Trudeau, then a teacher. He was named. She wasn’t. He apologized and that was the end of that. Until now.

The dilemma has occurred because Trudeau has endorsed a policy of zero tolerance towards men who commit sexualized occurrences against women. True to his feminist beliefs, Trudeau insists that women ought to be believed when they speak out against such incidents. He has managed to get himself in hot water over his quick responses to some politicians failures in their interactions with women. Now this.

Strangely, his credibility appears to be declining over this mess, while the unnamed woman still has credibility, largely, I believe due to the support of her colleagues who likely were the same people who interviewed her and passed the message along that she wanted nothing more to do with this. So having raised it, very publically 18 years ago, in a national newspaper, and offering nothing – no name, no details of the incident, nothing except that she felt disrespected – she now wants to let it go.

This seems very one-sided. Trudeau has been left holding the bag. It appears that both of them may have made mistakes. His was presumably an overzealous flirtation. Hers was to react strongly to what used to be normal behaviour between men and women (which often left one or the other uncomfortable emotionally).  And she told her colleagues who may have thought this made good news – a story about the son of former PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Some may see the woman as the innocent party, while others  - perhaps not as many – side with Trudeau. But is he a hypocrite? I don’t think so. He is a well-meaning man who is the Prime Minister, seeking a new way of forming a working government. Is he sincere? Mostly, he is, as well as practicing tolerance and acceptance with a sense of social justice.  He is not perfect, though for a while he thought he was, endorsing zero tolerance for men’s mistakes, until he was caught in the same web other men have been.

I cannot see at this time how justice (at least social justice) can be applied to this situation if the woman does not come forward and tell her side of the story. I understand she has given her name now, but that still leaves the original editorial in place, that was written about her (or by her, about how she saw it).  Without that, in this new world of the Me Too movement, Justin Trudeau is left with his loyal supporters going about their business hoping he can keep his position and regain the trust of the people so he can continue to do his good work – and do it better while he continues to learn.

What she – the woman who was a reporter – gained from all this she got 18 years ago – the story for her newspaper, an apology, and apparently her self-respect back. She may think there is nothing more to gain, but by telling her story, other women can learn from it and can gain confidence. Did she do this for herself, or for herself and other women?   Which one is the hypocrite – Trudeau or her?

To consider who has the power and which one is using it above an acceptable level is what needs to be determined. Who stands to gain – and what – and who stands to lose. Was what the woman experienced an emotional ordeal, and what did she lose besides a momentary feeling of lack of respect from someone who ought not to have mattered to her, except he was the son of a Prime Minister?

Calling Trudeau a hypocrite even though many must have recognized the errors he was making as he learned to do his job is hardly fair to him or the rest of Canada.  The main thing, now, is what he does – what he is able to do – to make this situation right.  He is on a steep learning curve.  See additional articles below in List of References, eg. What we’ve missed in the conversation about Justin, 2018. 

July 30, 2018 Stormy Daniels

Another account of what is meant by credibility comes from an article in Macleans by Laurin Liu, a millennial author, who attributes the characteristic of credibility to Stormy Daniels, paid sex worker to Donald Trump, to her narration of the sexual encounter she had with him shortly before he became President. See ‘How Stormy Daniels is closing the credibility gap’, 2018. The author refers to Miss Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford, as having credibility in her manner, coming across as trustworthy, while ignoring any reference to women having credibility due to their careers, personal wealth, marital status, community status, and so on – not inherent but marital, social, financial, and employment attributes.  Liu states at one point, “For many men, Daniels is believable; for many women, she is not just believable, but relatable.”

Laurin Liu explains the idea of the gender “credibility gap” which suggests that “women are less likely to be believed when they make certain claims (against men), because they are believed to be inherently less competent or trustworthy. In other words, in an exchange of he-said-she-said, the former is likelier to win” (‘Cassandra among the creeps,’ 2014 in ‘How Stormy Daniels’, 2018) . The “certain claims” being made, however, in this situation, are specific ones whereby Stormy Daniels had, she says, unwanted sex. Thus there would be men who would see Daniels as agreeable, and probably credible. A lot of women may well have had the same kind of experience, not being coerced, exactly, but agreeing to sex for the sake of their job, or getting a leg up on their career. So both men and women could be seeing Stormy Daniels as credible, for this reason. But was this a matter of credibility or was it a change in power relations between men and women, giving women a voice, but not the complaining voice of Me, Too.

There’s a difference between credibility and a person (female, in this case) siding with another (Stormy Daniels) because she’s had a similar experience. Then it becomes a matter of sexual politics, and not that Stormy Daniels demonstrated inherent credibility, or credibility through the jobs she has done in her life.

This question has to be asked wherever women side with someone or men, but the subject here is women siding with Stormy Daniels).  Are they doing so because the woman sounds as though she is telling the truth through her demeanor, or because she has been known to be truthful all her life (inherent credibility), or because she holds a responsible position at work, or because she is married to a man with high status in the community?  And what about the women taking Ms Daniels’s side. Do they have credibility, based on their status in the community, or inherent worth, or do they do so because the person they are holding up as a credible person (male or female) is the one who enables her to receive a fat paycheck?

The ‘credibility gender gap,’ says Rebecca Solnit, used to be about men having credibility while women often had none, especially when sex was the subject of discussion (see Cassandra, 2014). It wasn’t all that long ago that men controlled women’s sexuality. With the coming of ‘the pill,’ the oral contraceptive, and feminism, women are able to take more control over their lives. Stormy Daniels apparently feels empowered by her choice of career, and by the words used to describe her, says Laurin Liu. Ms Daniels is right that prostitutes should also be treated with dignity and respect, but that doesn’t require identifying with her cause or idealizing her situation.

The issue appears to be that Ms Daniels believes she should have been paid by Trump as well as allowed to speak about the sexual encounter.  But is this story really about sexual liberation, or is it about women finally being in a position to tell men what they really thought of them, and what they really think of sex when presented to them in the coercive manner that it sometimes is?  Is it about the worthiness of women as credible narrators, or about how women in greater numbers will now choose to side publically with women who they see as having had a similar sexual experience of life as their own?

This story of the credibility of Stormy Daniels, together with the other sections on the themes of credibility and the presumption of innocence, bring the subject into focus in a way that enables them to be understood, by lay persons and others. The topic of credibility, and presumed innocence, taken as one, is not fixed but fluid in the face of changes in the power structure of society and as new knowledge comes to light about individuals themselves and topics of concern in society. Race, gender, sexuality, and increasingly aging and sexual misconduct are in the public eye more than ever. This blog piece “Presumed Innocence” has moved from one subject to another, with each area contributing to a greater understanding of the others, and of how credibility and the presumption of innocence can be understood.

List of References  - organized according to each of 4 sections

References - Patrick Brown

The presumption of innocence is for courtrooms, not politics
by Michael Spratt
CBC Opinions
Jan 30, 2018
retrieved Jan 30, 2018

Two women accuse Patrick Brown of sexual misconduct
Jan 24, 2018
By Victoria Gibson
The Star
retrieved Feb 2, 2018

Would-be Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown driven to win
Torstar News staff
Metro News
May 3, 2015
retrieved Feb 5, 2018
Added Feb 21 2018

Patrick Brown cleared to run for Ontario PC leadership
By Amara McLaughlin
CBC News
Feb 21, 2018
Added Feb 21 2018

Ontario PCs overturn nominations, bar former leader Patrick Brown from running as candidate
by Karen Howlett
Globe and Mail
March 15, 2018
added July 9, 2018

Patrick Brown to run for Brampton mayor
By Noor Javed, Staff Reporter
Robert Benzie, Queen's Park Bureau Chief
The Star
July 27, 2018

References - A doctor, his staff, the HRTO, ageism and me

Ageism in Ontario's health care and human rights (HRTO)
by Susan McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 21, 2017

Why and how I was discriminated against – explaining to HRTO’s Dr Fthenos
by Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 29, 2017

Narratives and Wisdom: the lives of women growing older
by Sue McPherson
S A McPherson web site

References - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

After 'reflecting very carefully' on groping allegation, Trudeau says he doesn't feel he acted inappropriately
by Marie-Danielle Smith and Adrian Humphreys
National Post
July 5, 2018 10:51 PM EDT. Last Updated July 6, 2018 1
0:49 AM EDT

‘Hypocrisy is at the crux of the Trudeau groping allegation’
by Robin Urback
CBC News
July 8, 2018, 2:41 PM ET

‘People experience things differently,' Trudeau says of groping allegations
By Kayla Goodfield and Chris Herhalt
CTV News Toronto
July 6, 2018 7:00PM EDT Last Updated July 6, 2018 8:01PM EDT

What we’ve missed in the conversation about Justin Trudeau’s alleged grope
By Alheli Picazo
Jul 23, 2018

References – Stormy Daniels

How Stormy Daniels is closing the credibility gap for women
By Laurin Liu
Apr 6, 2018

Cassandra Among the Creeps
By Rebecca Solnit
Harper’s  ‘Easy Chair’
October 2014 issue

Prostitutes take their desires to the Supreme Court
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
23 January 2012 (revised Jan 25, 2012)
A couple of the links are no longer working in this article so I have added the link to another piece on prostitution written the same year, as follows:

The decriminalization of prostitution: two women talking
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News