Jumping up and down
I was in and out of the hospital for a few weeks a couple of months ago with some crazy intestinal bullshit that made me walk all hunched over popping chewable fiber tablets, terrified of eating bread products or spicy food. I was suddenly a hundred years old. I most definitely blame the patriarchy.
I went in to see my doctor in the morning a few days after the last hospital visit with some new belly pain and she forced me to go to the ER because she was worried my condition may have worsened. I really, really didn’t want to go. The last time I had gone to the ER with stomach pain I was there for 4 days and left with a mild morphine addiction. They sure are liberal with that stuff when they don’t know what’s wrong with you, lemme tell ya.
On this ER visit, I was attended to by a creepy ass old doctor with a long grey ponytail that despised me. I could tell this by the way he sneered at, chuckled, and dismissed my complaints. I wanted to scream at him that my doctor had forced me to come. I wanted to go home and curl up in bed for the rest of the week. I was mos def not on a mission to get narcotics. If a cup of Maalox was gonna make the pain go away then please, give me the goo and let me be on my way. Please please please, don’t admit me.
But this guy straight up hated me. He didn’t believe a single word that came out of my mouth. I knew this the way that people just know things.
Needless to say, I didn’t trust him much either, so when his evaluating presses on my abdomen became a little too gentle and caressing, I got tense. It wasn’t egregious fondling, and if it had been my own doctor I would have thought she was just expressing care, but it was a little too gentle for a doctor that had showed nothing but skepticism of my illness and contempt for my existence since I walked in the door.
He fed me some tummy medicine and came back a few hours later to see how I was feeling. “I think I’m fine” I said. “No more pain.” I got up and waddled around the room in a haphazardly-tied hospital gown and old undies, declaring myself fit as a fiddle. It worked! The Maalox worked! Can I please go home now? Then the doctor says:
“Jump up and down.”
“Jump up and down?” I asked.
“Yeah, let’s see if you’re really feeling better.”
“I will absolutely not jump up and down in front of you.”
Looks at me quizzically. “You won’t?”
I sit back down on the bed, determined. “No. No. I won’t.”
He looks at me from the side, with his eyes all squinty, and writes something down.
I lose my shit. “I’m not a crazy person! I’m not! Why are you looking at me like I’m crazy? Seriously, I can’t jump up and down in front of you. No! No. But I feel better, I feel just fine. Let me go home, okay? I won’t jump up and down. No. Definitely not. And I’m not insane.”
Looks at me as if I’ve just threatened to blow up the hospital. “I’ll just have to take your word on that.” Audible Pfft. “You can go.” Wave of the dismissive hand. “I’ll have the nurse bring in the papers.”
Of course I acknowledge the possibility that there was some sort of medical necessity at work there and that my doctor was truly attempting to determine, via the random jump demand, if I was lying about feeling better. In this scenario, my creepy doctor was looking out for my well-being.
If this is truth, it’s partial at best.
Taking in the whole scenario, I think it’s clear that dude was on a serious fucking power trip, to say the least. Me: A sickly woman in a stiff, cold, sterile bed, mostly naked under a thin hospital gown, who has expressed fear about her impending bankruptcy from these endlessly escalating hospital bills and wants nothing more from this man than to be allowed to go home. This is a portrait of vulnerability, and we all know how appealing female vulnerability is to men who get off on their assumed patriarchy-given power to demand things from women that they have no right or reason to demand.
Maybe I’ve been fortunate in my choice of female doctors and therapists, because in all my years, no female doctor has ever demanded uncomfortable personal information that was irrelevant to whatever I was there for. No female therapist has ever asked me for sexual details. No woman has ever demeaned me by asking me to jump up and down in front of her for any reason, ever. No woman has ever asked me to do something that made me feel like my vulnerability was being taken advantage of. That’s not to say that no woman has ever done such things, but never to me.
Or maybe I’m more conscious of my vulnerability and discomfort with male doctors than with women and more suspicious of their motivations. Yeah, maybe that’s it.
Or maybe I’m absolutely right to think that men in positions of close authority over women’s bodies are allowed to force a level of intimacy that is uncomfortable and wholly unnecessary, and that this is true especially in the most sanctioned of authoritarian relationships – the ones where the disparity in power is accepted near-universally.
Whatever little sovereignty a woman may have over her experiences, her body, her choices – these are negated entirely when in the presence of an authority man. Especially when she is at her most vulnerable, when she is most dependent on his assessment of her.
The man in this kind of power position has the legitimate right to take for himself anything and everything that belongs to a woman, all in the name of her health and well-being. He can demand her humiliation with little challenge, as long his demands aren’t outright illegal, because the world expects its men, especially those with his kind of power, to dominate the half of the species that are supposed to exist solely for the purpose of arousing, satisfying, and comforting the other half. And because the patriarchy expects its authority men, its doctors and psychiatrists and police officers, to verify for the rest of the world how not-quite-human women really are, what with their odd afflictions and emotions and behaviors, by treating them as not-quite-human.
He can tell a woman to jump up and down in front of him. He can ask her questions that nobody should ask for any reason. He can softly caress her belly when he should be pressing down on it. He can write down notes about how crazy she is because she didn’t do what he told her to do. And she’s the one with the problem, because she’s a woman. He’s a doctor. Enough said. End of story.
And I say boo.