“Contemporary fs,” Part two: Some instances of cultural chauvinism


As suggested in “F’s Part One: Some Observations on Cultural Chauvinism,” base communication, in medical situations, might be explainable due to lapses in individuals’ personal development. Nonetheless, such behavior, especially because it can endanger the wellbeing of patients, remains unacceptable.


Note: my intent in giving over this topic is not to lower public opinion of a particular demographic, but to raise awareness of the nature of and some likely causes of malicious interpersonal communication. I hope that this writing helps to decrease tolerance for such ill-treatment. Vindictiveness in a medical emergency can be perilous.


Last week, I suggested that socially apprehensive young women do not embrace people who command a full compliment of “contemporary fs,” i.e. do not embrace people who are: “female,” “frumpy,” “past forty,” “fat,” and/or “full of” themselves, that is, self-confident. Unfortunately, such anxious individuals feel entitled, even in medical situations, to execute spitefulness because f-based people unnerve them. Let me document some cases in which this disturbing rationalizing took place.


First, more than a month ago, when I had to get X-rayed for my current health problem, my X-ray technician roughly jerked my injured appendage. I gently asked her, while clenching from the pain she had caused, to be more careful. That gal, who had sized me up minutes earlier, as the epitome of all things of which she was afraid of becoming, flagrantly ignored my request; she jerked my leg a second time.  I used a stronger voice and told her she was worsening my injury. Seemingly spitefully, she then literally pulled my damaged leg. I screamed. Her boss, a middle-aged man, ran in, assessed the situation, carefully righted my appendage and reprimanded her.


Two weeks later, I was sent, by another doctor, for other care. I was to get myself to a large medical complex’s nurse’s station to learn to wrap my impaired limb. The attending nurse, like the x-ray technician, was also a gal in her twenties, and was also possessed of the need to size me up as soon as I entered her department. Rather than wrap my wound or, in the least, teach me how to wrap it myself, she took it upon herself to berate me for a list of medical issues not relevant to my presenting problem and then took it upon herself to insist that I would receive none of the care, for which I entered her department until I agree to the series of tests that she determined I needed. I thought about using another “f” word to tell her where to go and about demanding better service by slipping into my “professor voice,” but I did neither. Rather, a few days later, I reported her conduct to the doctor in charge of her unit. He, too, is a middle-aged man.


A few weeks after the incident at the nurses’ station, I was scheduled for an MRI at an area hospital. The technician responsible for my care tried to wedge my leg into a contraption built for smaller people. Frustrated, that twenty-something gal, whom, too, had taken stock of me and had decided, based on her uninvited assessment, that I didn’t warrant an ordinary level of service, insisted that I assume and sustain a painful pose for the hour of my scan. When I refused to comply, she told me, literally, that I had to “suffer” to get well. I plainly articulated my unwillingness to cooperate with such nonsense. In fact, once I was in the machine, in a “compromise” position, I shifted around a bit because my stance was becoming increasingly painful and was, likely, exacerbating my injury.


Angered that I moved, the technician left her control booth and yelled at me. I responded that I would no further damage myself to make anyone, including her, happy. Fuming, she brought in her department supervisor, a fellow who had worked in that department for more than thirty years. He wedged a small, cushion-like object beneath my ruptured part and carefully wrapped alternative conductor around that limb. The test proceeded without further incident and without my having to endure more injury or pain.


The sad thing is that decades ago, like the young women in the aforementioned scenarios, I, too, was afraid of fat, flabby women’s bodies. Frumpily-dressed women, especially those that appeared to be past forty, frightened me. I wrongly believed that their presence made me feel more insecure in a world I perceived to be dominated by men. As per older women with what I thought was “attitude,” and what I now understand to be self-worth, I couldn’t stand them. How could any female truly feel valuable unless she was shimmying on a pole or letting her fingernails dry at the edge of a wealthy lover’s pool?


In my former, misogynous view, batting my eyes would have always taken me farther than would have any combination of my efforts or talents. Women, especially middle-aged ones, who acted as though they failed to grasp that veracity, were, in the least, my enemies. I tried to tolerate them, but all I wanted to do was to make sure they were, if possible, permanently subdued.


Fortunately, life brings change. Parenting, especially the concurrent, normal, physical morphing associated with it, impacted my worldview. Torah living, equally, caused me to question the way in which I regarded other women.


To wit, I understand why young women feel fearful in the presence of self-reliant older women and I understand why they don’t hesitate to act to quell those fears, even in abhorrent ways. More importantly, I understand that such fears are, mostly, groundless.


What’s more, I do not feel any need to change the way in which I, a female laden with other “contemporary fs,” think, speak or act just to lessen their social apprehension. Gender disempowerment and related prejudices will occur whether or not I try to please a frightened demographic. Success, after all, does not come from interpersonal manipulations, and certainly not from harming other people, but from the grace of Hashem. Besides, I believe He wants us to treat each other kindly. I’ve been told that The Boss does not want us to harm each other.


When I grow old, I might wear purple. Meanwhile, I will continue to insist that I be treated with integrity, especially in medical situations, no matter the number and nature of “contemporary fs” I embody. Thoughtfulness and professionalism ought not to depend on whether or not I wear mini skirts, get a face lift, lose some number of kilos, or act the part of “the helpless femme.” It’s to everyone’s benefit that we gals remain authentic women.