Earlier in the week, I woke to a heap of messages highlighting an incident in the UK where a female MP had been told to watch her tone by a male MP. I muttered something about strident women and moved on. ‘Not my monkeys, not my circus’ has become a useful mantra in the time of COVID-19!

Then, later on the same day, I was pointed in the direction of a wonderful (???) social experiment where a bloke on Twitter had changed his avatar to that of a woman (or rather, as he said, a ‘lady avatar’) and could confidently report back to the world that he was treated very differently, and dealt with jerks, annoyances and microaggressions.  And that he received dick picks, which he found violating.

I sighed. ‘Another fucking monkey’, I thought. But this is a circus of which I am very much a part!

Despite daily, actually, hourly if not more frequent, comments on Twitter where women emphasise just how shoddily we get treated by men, it takes a man to pretend for a short period to be a woman to prove (to him, and apparently others) that what we are saying is true.

My response to his experiment was this:

Of course, this little ‘investigation’ (and I use that term loosely) made me immediately think of all the times HCPs have participated in ridiculous simulations of what it is like to be a ‘patient’ so that they can truly understand how difficult it can be, instead of just simply listening to what we say about it. You don’t need to sit in a hypo simulator to appreciate that hypos suck. Or to wear an insulin pump for a few days to know they can be a pain in the arse to wear.

No, you just need to listen to people with diabetes. We can tell you how much hypos suck in a million different ways, using words, images, or interpretive dance. There are poems about it. There are TED talks. There are pages and pages and pages written about it. You can check out all those things. Or just us ask! And then listen.

And also, what gets missed from these short-term experiments is that they are so damn superficial. They barely scratch the surface of what they are pretending to be. The bloke on Twitter had a couple of days of tweets coming his way that he found annoying. But he didn’t feel the threat or fear that women feel when we are being intimidated online. And at the end of his little game, he could go back to being himself. The same goes for anyone pretending to ‘do diabetes’ for a minute of two.

To our social researcher (another term I am using loosely) on Twitter: next time, just listen and believe the women who are living, and talking about this crap every single day. I’d urge HCPs to do the same thing when it comes to listening and believing the people they are working to help.

Oh, and to the tosser who tone policed his colleague: just don’t do that. Ever.