Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gender and the Word No

OK, I have boundaries too.

This is a note for female care providers.


At the airport, I get touched a lot. I mean, a lot. I have to go through the pat down. For the most part I'm really impressed with the way that I'm dealt with. All the guys, it's only ever done by guys, are very careful. They tell me what they are doing it, when they are doing it. They use the back of thier hand for 'sensitive' areas. They are cautious with their touch, as if they know that men's touch is suspect - and govern themselves thusly.

This is OK with me. I think that a wee bit of paranoia is a good then when to comes to touch, boundaries and vulnerability. It's a big thing to be abe to touch another so you should always ALWAYS think about it.

Women, on the other hand, seem to seldomly think about their touch and what it means. Deemed 'innocent' by society, women's hands aren't suspect, aren't in the category of 'usual suspect'. But they should be.

Bodies are bodies. Boundaires are boundaries. And, most impotantly, vulnerability is vulnerability.

At the airport when checking in I explained to the woman the story of my nearly stolen wheelchair and my request for a formal reciept. She did one up and came round to put it on my chair. At this point I always ask them to hand the tag to Joe and watch him affix it to the chair. She refused saying that she had to do it. I explained that I don't like the touch of strangers and she should have to push and prod at my body to get the tag on.

She said, 'I don't care, I have to do it.' And then, to my shock, not even giving me time to move out of my chair. She did. She touched me. Without consent. With consent denied, she touched me.

Then later when I was to be pushed to the airplane, I had two similar incidents. One, because of my weight (it's because of the fear of my weight, or the anticipation of pushing someone my weight ... my chair is new and rolls very well, I can push it long distances) one woman leaned down and put her hand around the brace at my side. This meant that she was touching my upper thigh, I told her to stop. She told me 'no'. I grabbed hard at the wheels and stopped the chair. She let go. Another woman came to assist and I asked her, just to leave it all alone. Joe would push the chair, the woman who had assaulted me could carry the luggage. This new woman, put her hand on the back of my chair.


And she let go.

Men's bodies are just as sacred as women's.

Men's boundaries are just as impotant as women's.

And, good heaven's I never thought I'd have to say this, a man's no, means exactly the same as a woman's no.

That would be ...



Casdok said...

Sorry to read about your experience. What ever happened to respect and the simple art of listening?

Anonymous said...

Good for you for speaking out.
So many times strangers and sometimes friends too have just moved me out of the way without even asking.
They would not push me if I was standing so why do they think that's ok when I'm sitting.
I consider my chair to be part of me so touch it at your peril.
Especially today.

Tired and irritable.

Love your blog

Heather x

John R. said...

Absolutely, totally incredibly insensitive of the people who touched you. In fact, as I am not necessarily a litigious person, you have reason to look at the harassment aspects of this situation. Professionals should know better than to touch the customers of their service.

There are civil rights issues in this situation .....obviously not to mention the callous and rude behavior of the airport personnel.

Man, woman or otherwise.....DO NOT Touch without consent....I will fetch my lawyer if you don't respect that!!! That's what I would have said....


Andrew said...

Wo, Dave. This is an understatement, but... I wouldn't have liked that either. Good for you speaking up. I hope you speak up further to the airline.

OneSick said...

Good point well put.

There are many circumstances in which the natural "no touching" boundaries are blurred (for some people):

Age (very young or very old), disability and pregnancy come to mind. The latter was particularly mind-boggling to me. Why some people -especially men- think it is OK to pat a pregnant woman on the belly without asking is completely beyond me.

I have two children who are on the Autistic Spectrum (two strikes against them right there) and both HATED to be touched. Period. However, they lacked the skills to say so. They were further cursed by being very cute -especially my daughter (three strikes)

I have lost count of the number of times I have had to physically restrain or deflect someone's hand above one of my kid's heads, closing in for the Dreaded Hair Ruffle.

And while maybe that makes me as bad for touching them, well... Protection is the one reason I WILL break the taboo.

One Sick Mother

Glee said...

There are still many people casdok who don't think it is at all necessary to listen to or respect the wishes of a person with a disability. In fact they think that they have superior knowledge and rights over us and that we really are just a bunch of R words.

I have been kissed (yes Kissed) on the forehead TWICE in the same encounter by a Qantas employee (a disability assistant) here in Australia. I don't have push handles on the back of my chair specifically to dissuade ppl from pushing me - it doesn't stop them from trying tho.

I have caught out a train employee in a blatant lie in a case of discrimination because he said he pulled me away from the train (I had my foot stuck in the open doorway to stop the train leaving without me on it). It is impossible to move an electric wheelchair when it is in drive mode.

Complete and overbearing arrogance is what it is from such people and it makes me want to punch their faces! Good job I can't swing a decent punch or I might be in gaol now for assault. I show incredible restraint at all times (if only they knew) from ramming ppl with my wheelchair.


C.A.Y. said...

I'm sorry about your experience dave, and I agree with you 100%. People think that it's okay to touch others if they think it will be beneficial, or if they think it with transmit something. I absolutely hate it when someone I do not know well pats me on the back or shoulder. While this may seem unimportant to most, I believe that touch is something special, intimate.. and it's something that should require an invitation. This is bad enough, a simple pat on the back or shoulder, but to blatantly disregard someone's wishes is even worse, and is entirely inexcusable. It amazes me that I am still surprised by peoples stupidity and disregard for the feelings of their fellow human beings, but I am.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

Next time you should shout out something wonderfully embarrassing for the offender, at the top of your lungs. Something like, "HEY,get your hands off my CROTCH!!!"

Amy said...

Dave, I owe you an apology on the topic of touch. So I blogged it - a real public apology for everyone to see. Check it out if you get a moment