Oh physio. You and I aren’t having a good time. At least I’m not. I can’t imagine you’re greatly enjoying our banter either.
I don’t seek out these conversations with you – I just don’t lie to you when you ask me direct questions. It’s how you respond that’s the huge problem.
I didn’t walk into your office shouting, “I hate racists.” at the top of my lungs. We were talking about how I was very tense and stressed and that the way I carry myself and my tension is probably a lot of why I’m in so much pain.
Then you remembered that I’m estranged from my family. You asked me why. I could have said that I “just don’t get along with them”. I could have said that they’re just not “very nice people” but you tend to be probing when I do that and frankly, I don’t think I should have to dumb down my thoughts and emotions to avoid conflict. Certainly not in this fashion. Some things are better left unsaid but you -literally asked-. So I answered.
I cited, amongst other things, that my family has rather a problem with racism and that I don’t suffer racists lightly. I left it there. We could have just left it there.
But you needed to know what I meant by “racism”. I gave an example, the way my grandfather used to talk about how there’s “good n****** and bad n******” (I did not use that word. I wouldn’t use that word. I said “black people”, but that’s how he himself would phrase it.).
I was less than impressed by your launching into, “I’m not racist, but…” tirade against Indigenous Australians, African Americans, and about how you think reverse racism is a thing and how POC need to get over the systemic oppression against them.
You spent a good five minutes of my appointment talking about how the “hand-outs” we’re giving Indigenous Australians isn’t helping them and that we need to make them “help themselves”. I sat quietly, intently holding your gaze as you blatantly lectured me, saying nothing. I was calm. I didn’t respond angrily. But when I did speak I implored you to consider what it was that you were saying and how what you were saying was wrong. I really didn’t want to have this conversation with you at all – but since you ran headfirst into it, I wasn’t going to lay down and ignore that it was happening either.
Throughout the ten or so minutes that this went on – during which the government paid you to perform a medical service and not to espouse your ideas on race and racism – you repeated over and over that you’re not a racist, that we’re all just humans and need to be treated like humans – while dismissing the widespread system of oppression against POC. You told me about a friend you have who is Malaysian and excused Australia’s racism by asserting that all countries are racist and that Australia is no better (or worse) than any other country. You were sick of the world assessing Australia as “racist” when, as you said, ‘The whole world is racist.”.
I responded quite simply by saying, “I’m afraid that when I say that Australia is a racist country what people hear is that Australia is “the most” racist country or “the only” racist country – and that isn’t what is being said. And rather than take it at face value – I often find White Australians becoming defensive at the mere suggestion that it is racist at all.” You rolled your eyes at me – one of many times and said, “Oh come on, really?!” I felt my stomach turn.
You insisted, repeatedly, that America is a very racist country (correct) but that Australia was nowhere near as bad (incorrect). I said that, “In my experience of living in both countries – they’re really about the same, but America is a little better at recognising its own racism, generally.”
Your, I-don’t-see-colour and I-have-a-Malaysian-friend attitudes only serve to make invisible the struggles of POC and I’m sorry, but your are very racist. You can acknowledge that and move forward, trying to be compost and less trash – listening to POC and changing your offensive behaviours rather than becoming defensive, or you can keep the assertion that white people should have colonised Australia “because if it wasn’t us, someone else would have” (gotta get in there first and oppress those brown people before someone else can) and continued to assert that POC need to get over that it happened.
You scoffed at it being referred to as Invasion Day and became visibly angry with me when I told you that it’s the only way I’ll refer to it. You told me that you think calling someone’s behaviour racist is a way to shut down conversation and doesn’t do anything productive.
Meanwhile, several times, asserting, and probably believing, “But I’m not racist, I don’t think of myself as racist.” and I wasn’t so much pissed at you as I was disappointed in you. Because you really are. And because you’re a medical professional, and that behaviour? Taking my answer and turning it into a fight about how you think Indigenous Australians are racist against white Australians? That was grossly unprofessional. I wasn’t even angry so much as made physically ill.
I actually tried to end the conversation a few times by saying, “Perhaps we must simply agree to disagree.”, my eyes locked on the doorknob that you had your hand on, your body blocking me from leaving the room. I could have asked you to let me out but I didn’t want to have to go there. I just wanted you to stop talking about this so I could leave – but you kept your hand on the door while you told me off and looked at me like I was an annoying and uppity little twit that you were fed up with. I can’t say that I genuinely felt unsafe shut in that room with you, but I definitely felt uneasy with your body and hand blocking me from leaving a conversation that I was clearly trying to end. I verbally attempted to end it more than once. But you persisted.
Last week you asked me how I liked my GP and I told you that I loved him, but that I questioned whether or not his hugging me at the end of each appointment was really appropriate. Again. You asked me.
You then responded by lecturing me on how doctors can’t even touch their patients and hug them anymore without warning and asking them first without it being “misconstrued” as inappropriate touching. You railed against “political correctness gone mad” and how you didn’t truck with feminism (do tell).
Yes. Because putting your hands on someone, especially as a medical practitioner, especially for no medical reason (like to hug them) without consent isn’t okay. And I’m alarmed that you’re sitting there bitching about political correctness when we a medical practitioner you should be supporting bodily autonomy.
I need to find a new physio. The problem is that I had a seizure 6 weeks ago and I can’t drive, and she’s the only one in town – so for the moment I don’t have any other option. I’m about 25 miles from the next closest one. I may have to find one in Canberra and then just spend the day in a library working from there rather than home so that I can hit all of these appointments I need but can’t drive to. At least then I can take the bus.
So I left that appointment, annoyed but mostly sad and tired – and went around the corner to the chemist. I’d worn pretty but very inadvisable shoes a few days before that had, in a few short steps rubbed my heels bloody and raw. I can’t wear any shoes at all now without making it worse. I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s a few days of irritation until it gets better. I wanted some strapping tape to put over my heels – because it won’t just rub right off the way fabric or plastic bandages would. When I walked in he was on the phone sitting by the door. I smiled at him and waved and started to look around.
Chemist: *points to a chair across the room* Have a seat. I’ll be with you in a moment.
Me: Oh thank you, but I know what I’m after, I’m fine.
Chemist: Have a seat. Sit.
Me: No thank you, I don’t want to sit.
Chemist: Sit down.
Me: I don’t want to sit.
Chemist: Sit down.
Me: *sighs, walks over to the chair, sits*
Me: *about 20 seconds pass during which I feel more and more uneasy for having complied with a man’s orders when I explicitly told him that I did not want to sit down, so I stand again and do what I’d intended to do anyway*
This is the chemist I’m afraid people think I overreact to. Was he trying to be polite? In his backasswards way – probably yes.
Was it appropriate for him to quite blatantly insist that I do something that I stated that I did not wish to do? Fucking no it wasn’t appropriate.
I need to find a new chemist too. Again. He’s the only one in town.
I’m just so fucking tired. I’m accused – not infrequently – of seeking out fights. Meanwhile, what I’m usually doing is going about my day at worst not hiding myself from people and copping this kind of shit from them. Daily.
“You’re probably stressed and tense.” she said.
I cannot fathom where that comes from. Can you?