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Article: Monday Must: How to find happiness when you work in a patriarchal system

Monday Must: How to find happiness when you work in a patriarchal system

Hi my name is Brigid. I’m an OBGYN, providing contraception and abortion care and doing research that focuses on improving health care delivery.

After I finished my training I was accepted to complete a fellowship in family planning (abortion/contraception care) on the opposite side of the country. Moving away from my friends and family was tough but during the fellowship I was able to complete a masters where I took courses in the gender/race/sexuality and social justice school at UBC. These courses gave me the tools and language to name what I had always felt was the most challenging part of providing health care.

The thing is, the patriarchy is everywhere (duh), but naming it allowed me to figure out how to provide services I think are so important, without letting the system take away my joy. How do you do a job you love in a system that you hate?

Name it

Saying it and speaking on it actually really helps. Taking the time to think about WHAT you’re seeing gives you the chance to figure out WHY it bugs you. Plus, naming it allows you to connect with the people you work with - you might be educating, but you’re probably going to be learning.

Read, Read, Read

This might seem obvious, but reading other people’s work can give you new language to speak on the issues that can seem pretty crushing (see point 1 !) Sometimes, it can feel demoralizing when you’re working WITHIN a system that you fundamentally disagree with, and reading can help you to feel less lonely

(DON’T) choose your battles

This one might seem a bit controversial, but I don’t like to let things slide if they bug me. If I see the patriarchy affecting the way we provide care (which is EVERY day when you provide abortions) I speak up. It might not always spark change, but knowing that I am acting in alignment with my values gives me joy.

Find your friends

Even when you’re working in a system that is perpetuating a legacy of sexism (and racism and colonialism…) it doesn’t mean you’re the only person who is aware of these issues. Find the people around you who feel the same way, support is important both when you’re trying to make institutional change, but also when you just need to vent.

Step back

You might think this point is about the importance of taking a break (which it is for sure!) but actually I want to remind you to let other people speak. Your experience is important, but for me, trying to honour the principles of reproductive justice means I need to be aware of intersectionality. I need to acknowledge my privilege and I need to accept that I have chosen to work in a system that is still treating many people with indignity and violence. That doesn’t sound very joyful, but it’s authentic and that’s the key to happiness.

Check out Sister Song; an organization that works to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.

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