Pandemics know no gender, but people still discriminate through a gender lens

I was reading yesterday the public outcry and condemnation of the actions of the Chief Medical officer of Scotland; she was caught traveling to her second residence and also walking her dog with her family. Yes, it was after she advised us to stay in. And after she estimated the number of cases in Scotland could be as high as 65,000 and not the reported ones. To be honest, I do not think we will ever know the real figures…who is tested, how it is reported, how numbers are collected and validated are way more challenging than we would ever know. It is evident that people are even struggling with putting the figures in a chart as it happened with the one publicised from Fox news where the y-axis had no constant measure but equal distance between the units.

Leaving statistics aside, what impressed me was the response of this (admittedly) naughty action by the female Chief Medical Officer. I do not condone the actions but let’s back track for a while: the lockdown rules state stay at home. No explicit explanations were made for which home to account for the case of lucky ones that have multiple residences (I know, the tyranny of merit…). So, the standards and operating procedures were wide open to interpretation due to their lack of adequate information (I am a quality engineer and it shows). It can be argued that this is a cheeky approach or a loophole but it does not make it go away: there was not enough definition. Not for the only one mind you…can we go for a walk for 500 miles, how can we stay 2 meters apart from the till operators (another set of heroes) in the shops – who has such long arms?

What is interesting now, is that Dr Calderwood is not the first one that did that but the first one who was shamed for that. Prince Charles travelled during the UK lockdown from his main residence in Clarence House, London while reportedly showing mild symptoms, to his Balmoral Estate. Which is obviously more than 1 hr drive – the duration between Dr Calderwood’s residencies. The duration is more than 1 hr flight, even with the private jet actually. I did not see any front line pages condemning the Prince of Wales’ move. I did not see any social media hashtags trending asking for explanations or more. Coincidence, you say?

If we look a bit closer we will find more examples of how gender does matter when it comes to how the public judges political figures. How the unconscious bias (hmm, perhaps conscious) even report on events and crimes during this time through a biased gender lens. The Secretary of Health and Social Care was reportedly showing signs of COVID-19 but he did not self-isolate for 14 days as he instructed us to do. Which, I think is much worse on impact than escaping to the countryside. He was also seen outside the Nightingale hospital with people behind him not exactly social distancing.

Then it is the wonderful press with the sometimes dramatic headlines: “man struggles with lockdown and kills his wife..”, “frustrated man, unemployed during the lockdown knifes his partner..”. Words used to alleviate the responsibility from the actions and the gender. But then you have the other side “humiliated Nicola Sturgeon”; “she defended her choice”, words that make a strong woman look less than that. This is not a political statement. This is a call to stop the witch hunting…funny that it was not branded as wizard hunting.

Oh, and stay safe…in your main residence. We are lucky to have one.

Evi Viza, CQI, MIET.

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