Recently, comedienne Sarah Silverman shared an experience on Instagram about her “sh*tty” mammogram appointment. She said that her radiologist applied the gel on her breasts without wearing gloves, and “when he glides the ultrasound wand thing over my breasts he drags his fingers on them.” She stressed that she confronted him and asked whether he really needed to touch her with his bare fingers. The doctor said “no,” but added that he does that “for balance.”
Sarah wrote, “I truly don’t think he was getting off on it, BUT it is his job to be aware that this is vulnerable for a woman. Wear f*cking GLOVES—this isn’t a date.” She added, “For him to be so arrogant that he didn’t even internalize the problem when I said something to him about it last year is obnoxious and probably a subconscious power thing if we’re getting deep.”
While this whole incident is truly upsetting, Sarah insists she’s fine, but is understandably irked at the doctor. But more importantly, she said she’s worried at the implications of his actions. “Look. I’m a grown woman and I’m fine. But this guy does this with everyone and I know that personally it took many years into adulthood before I spoke up for myself.” She added, “It’s uncomfortable and too easy to think it’s all in your head. And arrogant f*cks like this doctor take advantage of women’s socialized instinct to not speak up.”
Many of her followers agree with her and were appalled at the story, some even urged her to file a formal report for sexual harassment. One user commented, “Really appreciate this post. It’s very accurate. Men don’t think of these things because they haven’t been in similar vulnerable situations as many women have. When we speak up it’s almost as if we are the ones who’s doing something wrong. We should all speak up for ourselves regardless of gender.”
I think women can all relate to this one way or another, and have their own similar anecdotes to tell, which involve a man in power being inappropriate and using their position to take advantage of women. It happens everywhere. In the workplace, at home, even in the church. And yes, even the most famous women are not immune to it. But while Sarah was able to speak up, many are unable to do so. Me, for instance. I know I always strive to embody what it means to be a bold feminist, but the truth is, this has been the case for me too many times too. The act of speaking up, especially at that moment when it’s happening to you or in front of you, is something I’ve struggled with.
As Sarah and the user pointed out, it’s a deeply ingrained cultural thing, which sadly still pervades today. Many misogynistic and sexist instances are merely brushed off as something “casual.” We’ve been told, or have learned over time to let it pass. The best we could do is minimize or de-escalate the situation. Otherwise, the act of direct confrontation and speaking up equates to being labelled as a troublemaker, or a b*tch. Worse, speaking up sometimes leads to violence. In Sarah’s case, she was even accused of being overdramatic.
We still don’t know whether she will eventually file a formal complaint, but her decision to speak up alone holds so much power and significance. It helps slowly destroy the upsetting culture of misogyny and sexism. And so will you and I too, the next time we do decide to finally speak up, if and when something similar happens (hopefully not). Like Sarah said, “Speak up. Trust that thing in your gut that tells you this sh*t ain’t right.” It’s not easy, but it’s something we have to do.
Art by Marian Hukom
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