Diabetes and feminism – yes, it’s a thing

The International Diabetes Federation is running a “Women and Diabetes” campaign this year, and there’s been some rumblings on social media.

“I feel so left out”

“How many BOYS has this condition”

“It reinforce stereotypes of females as the only ones who should/do provide care”

“Any theme that appears to negate a particular group’s experience will always be problematic”

Ok, before I go any further, let’s make one thing clear – repeat it, after me.

Advocating đź‘Źforđź‘Ź oneđź‘Ź group đź‘Źdoesđź‘Ź not đź‘Źdiscount đź‘Źthe đź‘Źother

Changing the font of worksheets for my students with dyslexia isn’t ignoring the other kids in the class, it’s making life easier for the students who struggle. It’s the same with this – by focusing on one group of people one year, it’s not saying that all other groups aren’t worth looking at. This SHEro campaign is simply acknowledging that women living with diabetes are bloody brilliant, and that there is still more work to be done to dismantle the inbuilt societal structures that perpetuate inequality.

The thing about privilege is that it’s invisible to those who have it. I have never felt the micro-agressions or overt/covert racism that people of colour live with daily, because I’m a white woman. I have never been denied entry to a place or mode of transport because I physically wasn’t to access it, because I don’t have a physical disability that prevents me from moving. However, women face systemic discrimination in the health care system. If you are a woman and you haven’t encountered this, that’s INCREDIBLE (and you need to give me the number of all your HCPs immediately), however it’s an issue for many of us, and I think it’s a fantastic move by the IDF to acknowledge and recognise that we face barriers in our healthcare.

As Renza said in this fantastic blog post on this topic, “the campaign is not suggesting that men do not experience struggles when it comes to living with diabetes themselves, or are not involved and integral in the care of others living with diabetes.” If you actually LOOK through the campaign, you will not see a “MEN SUCK” poster anywhere, regardless of how much you want to.

I am over people in positions of privilege using their already prominent voice to drown out those who are in need of the focus, awareness, and advocacy. Saying ‘but what about the MEN’ completely detracts from the aim of this campaign, which is to highlight inequality and inequity of health outcomes for women. They could have just as easily chosen to run with the PWDs living in developing countries, who struggle to access insulin daily. They could have focused on people with ‘different’ types of diabetes – LADA, MODY,  etc. – who may not have the awareness and knowledge around their conditions. However, this year it’s women, and shouldn’t that be celebrated?

When you’re in a position of privilege, not being included feels like discrimination.

Recognise that privilege dudes, and work with us to dismantle the system that creates it. Read this for a simple explanation of the privilege you may face in daily life, and not even recognise (but just saying, if it takes this article – written by a man – to tell you “that male privilege is real and ubiquitous, then you just proved its power”.) Work every day to recognise it, understand how it’s held in place, then dismantle the HECK out of it. I try to do this every day with white privilege – if I can recognise that I unconsciously benefit from a system that is built around my needs and wants, surely you can too! I replace this mantra with ‘racism’, and damn it’s been useful at making me into a better person!

Sexism happens, I benefit from it, I am unavoidably sexist sometimes because I was socialized that way, and if I want to be anti-sexist I have to be actively working against that socialization 

I think a big issue that needs to be discussed this year is the fact that women face implicit bias in the healthcare system that undervalues symptoms and pain (read this , and this if you think I’m talking out of my butt, it’s not just my feminist ass saying this) . For women with diabetes, this sexism suddenly becomes more pronounced. We’re at the doctors a LOT, and as we all know, diabetes is nearly never the sole offender. Once you get one chronic illness, others decide to join it. We need healthcare professionals who take us seriously, ones who don’t discount our pain as ’emotional issues’ or assume that we can be treated the same as men. I experienced this when I was told by a doctor to ‘calm down’ when I was having an asthma attack. TELL THAT TO MY LUNGS BUDDY.

We also need intersectionality in this space – I’m in a position of privilege being white, women of colour with diabetes have so many more barriers to break down as well. If you’re LGBTQI+ in this space, it honestly sometimes just becomes downright hilariously bad (flashback to the chat with a doctor who couldn’t understand that being sexually active didn’t always mean a risk of pregnancy…). We need understanding from the whole community that this inherent bias is a valid problem, and we need collaboration. By people drowning out this campaign with complaints of “It’s not fair, men are heroes too!” they’re missing the entire point. We’re here to raise awareness and lift women UP, not drag men down. Use your position of privilege to elevate our voice – as a commenter (and diabetes dad) on the Diabetes Australia Facebook page said in response to the campaign announcement…

“I could not be more proud of my daughter, and am extremely happy that women are being recognised this year. It doesn’t mean men (and boys) aren’t important, but some of these comments suggest that at least some men are very precious little petals, which saddens me

Feminism benefits everyone – and to let it benefit everyone, you need to let us have our space.

 

Some of the fucking brilliant diabetes SHEroes in my life 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 responses to “Diabetes and feminism – yes, it’s a thing

  1. Good post! I’m happy for women to bask in the diabetes limelight this year.

    Speaking of health outcomes, fact is that men have a lower life expectancy than women, and more men have diabetes than women.

    Just saying.

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