As women make up half the staff in the medical field generally, it is simply natural that they are the main pillars and contributors in the frontline battle against the outbreak of COVID-19.
Medical workers hold the baby girl with no infection born by a woman infected with novel coronavirus pneumonia at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, February 15, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
Statistics show that out of the 19,800 medical staff at Hubei,the epicenter of this outbreak, 14,000 are nurses and 90 percent of them are female. Another estimate puts 5 percent of female staff as being pregnant.
The women's presence and their contributions, along with their male counterparts, have not gone unnoticed. Overall, we all respect these HERoes. But are we respecting them in the right way?
Despite bearing many responsibilities, women medical staff are, in my view, unnecessarily consumed as a product. As much as I agree that media should report on their heroic deeds, their experiences on the frontline and focus on female power, I can't help but worry about emotions being overused and hyped. Stories of the sacrifice these women have made by showing images of shaved heads and working pregnant staff make me uncomfortable.
What was even more uncomfortable was one report cutting off a female staff member who mentioned that her colleagues who are menstruating are facing shortages of sanitary products. Why is publicly talking about menstruation shameful? Is it a taboo?
Well, I fainted today from period pain. The bleeding and symptoms that followed crippled me and confined me to bed. I'm not complaining since I have access to pads and a bed, but how about the dear sisters fighting at the epicenter and all over China trying to contain the virus? What are their conditions like?
In addition to sending masks, gloves and other disinfectants, how about pads, tampons and other women care products? Are these sanitary products less important and not considered supplies? Where is our most fundamental respect for this group of female doctors, nurses, comforters and babysitters?
We also need to support their physical and psychological well-being and ensure that they are safe, not in pain and have access to products that will ease their discomfort since this is what will help them in this fight. They need to be fully equipped and looked after.
When I saw that photo of a medical team dispatched to Wuhan from Gansu showing 14 women with shaved heads and one male staff with hair on his head, I asked myself, Was this necessary? I don't see leading epidemiologists Zhong Nansan and Li Lanjuan having their hair shaved off, so what is the thinking behind this? Do we need to glorify women and their sacrifices this way? Why not just cut their hair short and give everyone a unisex haircut? Where is the equality?
Also, for staff who are pregnant or who just had a miscarriage and are badly in need of rest, can their superior or someone just step in and demand that they rest?
Medical staff are comprised of people with the brightest minds, with hearts of gold and a real sense of responsibility. I understand that some would hope to remain on the frontline, however, it breaks my heart to know that they are risking their health this way.
China has the highest percentage of working women and regardless of the gender stereotypes attached to certain medical professions, the female contribution cannot, must not and will not be overlooked.
True respect comes from paying attention to the details, acknowledging that heroes also have vulnerable moments and need support. They are human after all and see such a fight as their job and responsibility.
In return, the least we can do is to support them and show our respect in the proper way.
The author is a freelance writer.