Foto: Nasjonalmuseet / Lathion, Jacques

Developing empathy – the hard way

You know, I’ve grown up in one of the most liberal, safe and frankly happy countries of the world. Norway like the other Scandinavian countries always come out on top. I was born in 1974 to parents who were part of the European 68 generation. They were liberal, equality minded and relatively educated. My mom always worked, and the idea that women were not equal to men was ridiculous in middle class Norway. Or so I thought.

Getting sick is a study in differences. As a patient I started experiencing being disbelieved, not listened to and being talked down to. I get a diagnosis that is a woman’s disease and increases the disbelief. I started researching and it soon became obvious that women and minority populations had massive difficulties being taken seriously when they get ill. There are patient stories from a variety of sources that paints the medical profession in a not very flattering light. There is research supporting this narrative, women’s pain is disbelieved, medical profession vastly underestimates the pain in people of colour compared to white people, it might take an average of seven years to get a rare diagnosis of which many are women’s diseases. The contrast to when my brain started haemorrhaging is staggering. I know people with ME who develop cancer say the same thing.

I became a feminist because of this. Not that I wasn’t one before I just didn’t know it. When I grew up feminists were the hard line second wave white feminists that I had nothing in common with. They just didn’t register. The “new” feminism I’ve discovered now though – the intersectional one – has been a journey to discover. I requires a lot of unlearning and spotlight on both the conscious and unconscious biases that we all have. I hope it has made me a better person.

The empathy as well came in leaps and bounds. I just didn’t understand before, and I think that is true for many of us. Pain was something that happened in short increments, not measured in months and years. Being sick was a week or two with a runny nose and a cough and then you were better again. It’s a learning experience which has been rewarding on a personal growth level but which i would like to be without all the same. I hate my stupid non functional body. If I believed in a creator I would have demanded a refund.

 

ETA: When I say womens diseases I don’t mean men or other folk wont get them, just that a majority is women. From what I hear that makes it even worse for men to get adequate treatment.

 

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