My name is Rea Braun, and I am a final year osteopathy student at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. I was fortunate enough to healthcare volunteer in Cambodia early 2020. I am a compassionate student practitioner, intersectional feminist, women’s health and healthcare inclusivity advocate. I identify my privileges in life and in writing this post. How and what do I do to challenge gender bias and inequality?
It is important to utilise inclusive language, I use the following terminology - women, “AFAB” - assigned female at birth, and intersex. Due to recent discussion about utilising “womxn” I have reverted back to women, anyone who identifies as a woman is a woman. It is important to include everyone, hence I often say ‘women, AFAB and intersex people’ when discussing topics like menstruation for example. Approximately one in 1000 people are born intersex, which is why using this language individually is important. I use terms like “BIPOC” – black/blak, Indigenous, people of colour; “WOC” – women of colour, “POC” – person/people of colour, and “First Nations People” when referring to the Indigenous custodians of countries. Language like “non-disabled” and “neurodiverse” are vital also. Inclusive terminology is important especially when it comes to advocating about gender bias and battling inequality, especially on days like International Women’s Day.
The healthcare system is not equal; it was not designed to be, so we need to advocate for it! The medical default goes to white, cisgender, heterosexual, non-disabled, neurotypical males. This is reflected from them being the primary participants in medical research to anatomical textbooks. This makes healthcare less effective in helping everyone else outside of this, to varying degrees based on levels of privilege. I advocate for inclusivity in women’s health and equity in healthcare for everyone. This means when it comes to conditions that are considered “female conditions” such as endometriosis and breast cancer etc.; I advocate for inclusivity in language in discussion, improving standards of care and research, to include everyone impacted. I regularly discuss conditions like endometriosis and how the standard in diagnosing and caring for individuals with these chronic conditions is poor, and poorer for marginalised individuals. It is important we discuss these topics openly and inclusively.
I say equity over equality because I want everyone to be treated equally, especially within the healthcare system. However, that is not possible with oppressive systems in place. Equity is what is required to combat gender biases and inequality in the world; especially in systems like healthcare where BIPOC, especially WOC, are given lower standards of care, and LGBTQIA+ people experiencing the similar or blatant denial of care. Actively working with marginalised groups to achieve equity and tear down oppressive systems are the first steps towards equality. It is important to use our privileges to pass the microphone to marginalised people so they are heard, and we can take the steps required to improve conditions for everyone, without centring yourself and your interests. The most marginalised individuals need to be centred in your activism and advocacy.
I hope you have found this piece thought provoking in how you approach battling gender biases and inequality. I recommend diversifying your social circles and social media newsfeeds to include people from all walks of life and circumstance to reflect the real world around you to inform your worldview, and better yet, how you try to change the world.
We can all choose to challenge, as we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions. Remember, it’s not your job to fix the world on your own, we are all a part of this movement and collectively we can call out gender discrimination, support and respect all women.