Rarely do stories sent to me about the real world effects of misogyny upset me as much as has this one, sent to me by Shaker Helen (who hat tips Hell on Hairy Legs). It was only after a rather extensive session of blubbing that I was able to start in on a post, not that I've got much brilliant to say, aside from: FUCK.
The piece tells the story of an Australian woman who was subjected to such intensive, long-term bullying at her job as the only female ambulance officer at her station, that she committed suicide, leaving behind a husband and three-year-old daughter.
Almost certainly, there will have been other contributing factors (untreated depression, as one possible example), but the abuse she sustained at the hands of her co-workers, and the indifference of management, over six years is just unimaginable:
She could not even leave her car at work because the tyres were let down, her toilet at work was urinated "all over" and she was constantly ridiculed by fellow officers in front of patients...Her family found her after she'd hanged herself in the backyard from her daughter's swing.
Christine Hodder had lodged two formal complaints, one in 2001 and another a few months before she died, about bullying and harassment by several officers and had twice been on stress leave.
In a five-page complaint dated February 20, 2005, which has been made public, Christine Hodder said she felt she had never been accepted there because she was a woman.
"In the past six years I have been badly treated as other staff members collectively bullied, belittled and intimidated me," she said. "The staff in this station has constantly alienated and attacked my character and physical appearance since my arrival."
Her husband, who says he's "only just survived" the ordeal himself, has been told by managers "that bullying was a problem but [they] were not prepared to speak publicly or put it in writing for fear of litigation."
"Every high-ranking ambulance person I spoke to was quite happy off the record to say this is really, really bad … and told me that they don't see that much is going to happen [change]," Mr Hodder told the Herald. "This is why it nearly took me as well … I've only just survived."No officer who made Christine Hodder's life a fucking misery was, anyway. The one colleague who took Christine's side and provided evidence that her victimization by other male colleagues was ignored by management, Phil Roxburgh, was bullied just for supporting her. So, in truth, an officer was "disciplined"—the one who tried to do right thing.
...In July, 2005, the chief executive of the NSW Ambulance Service, Greg Rochford, wrote to Mr Hodder and said an investigation had been completed.
The letter, also made public, reveals the service began the investigation three days before Christine Hodder died and found a culture of male dominance... It recommended staff receive training in workplaces free of harassment and bullying, that the service should explore how to change the behaviour of staff, and that no female officer be appointed to Cowra for six months.
No officer was disciplined.
We would all do well to remember this story the next time we are silent in the presence of bigotry, harassment, bullying, whether it takes the form of sexism or racism or homophobia or any kind of hostile bias. Just not doing it yourself is not enough. We've got to be all in.
We make a difference in this world, for good or ill. There is no neutral. There is no Switzerland. There is only saying no to the indignities one human visits upon another—prejudice, hatred, humiliation and pain—or saying yes. And silence, the craven averting of one's gaze so the offense may take place out of view, is not a no. It is not ambiguous. It is a yes. Yes, go ahead, just don't do it to me. It is a permission, and a plea. I'll sacrifice her if you'll let me on my merry way. We routinely cede our expectations of goodness for guarantees of safety, but only our own, and we can no longer fool ourselves that men like these are aberrations; they are, in the void of unyielding solidarity our self-interest has left, inevitabilities.
There is no neutral. You're in or you're fucking out.
I'm all in.
And I'm so sorry, Christine. RIP.