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My own invisible women moment

(45 Posts)
Selfraising Fri 01-May-20 11:14:59

I've been lurking for years, esp on Feminism Chat. Hi everyone and thanks for all you do! So much awareness raising. Reading this board has had a profound impact on my life. smile

I am reading Invisible Women at the moment. And I have realised that I have my own example, which has occurred in the last couple of weeks. And I am really angry about it. It feels like no one is interested, and everyone has totally dismissed the idea that it is sexist.

A number of years ago I worked in a male dominated environment (single women engineer, about 300 men). Recently a health scandal has come to light, related to toxic materials we were all exposed to. A large number of cancer cases, and several deaths, have been linked to this. There is an enquiry (I'm not sure of the technical legal terms, so might be using the wrong ones) and information about the extent of health problems among workers/previous workers is being gathered.

I don't have any of the symptoms they are looking for. Yet...
But when I was working there, and was exposed to this toxic material every day, I experienced a miscarriage and later on, a stillbirth at full term (41 weeks). There was never a reason found. I think around half of stillbirths are never explained, understood, etc. So it is not unusual to have no reason for it happening.
But since reading about this toxic material, I have come across studies suggesting it can increase the risk of stillbirth by as much as 60%!
So, it is definitely possible that exposure to the material caused my stillbirth (or 'caused my daughter to die', as I feel like saying).
So I wanted to add this to the list of health problems that are being collated. But I can't. Because it isn't an option on the data collecting forms. So I got in touch with the people (men) doing this data collecting and they could not have been less interested. Basically refused to engage in a conversation with me at all, and then dismissed my stillbirth as a miscarriage (there was no mix up, I hadn't even mentioned the miscarriage at this point, just the stillbirth). And eventually I was told it was too late for me to do anything about it anyway as the time limit for a personal injury claim has passed.

I didn't want to make a personal injury claim ffs. (And is a stillbirth, ie, the death of a baby, a personal injury anyway?? ) I wanted to add my health issue to their data. I'm not even sure why to be honest. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Surely if the company's bad practise has caused health issues, and they are gathering data about the extent of those issues, they need to include ALL the data.
Obviously it has taken a few years for the men's health problems to be exposed. But that doesn't mean that my health issue that occurred at the time ought to be completely discounted.
And I feel like it is sexist because of this (a pregnancy loss was an instant health issue, couldn't happen to a man, the men's issues take longer to show) and even though this material is now known to be linked to issues around pregnancy loss, they STILL don't list that as a health issue.

And the other sexist angle is how fucking much the men in my life (who are generally pretty great - I know, I know - we all say that...) have a problem with me a) considering this a sexist issue and b) being angry about it.

I don't know why I am posting. I am just feeling angry and sad and I don't know if I ought to pursue it further. Does anyone have any advice?

OP’s posts: |
ScapaFlo Fri 01-May-20 11:24:18

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Keep shouting! Keep insisting they collate dats that affects all their staff. Point out that ignoring relevant data will adversely impact their future liabilities.

BlingLoving Fri 01-May-20 11:24:48

That is horrendous OP. I am so sorry for your loss.

I would absolutely be furious about this too. Are you on Twitter? If so, I'd find a link to a study that shows the increase in chance of stillbirth, and tweet it, tagging the company/company doing survey/other relevant parties. AND Caroline Criado Perez. She doesn't see or respond to all tweets etc but if she saw it and retweeted or whatever, it would get a lot more notice. There's not much you can do, but you can certainly try to apply at least a little pressure.

This lack of interest is so infuriating. Your stillbirth and miscarriage were medical issues and should absolutely be included in the data in some form.

Ereshkigalangcleg Fri 01-May-20 11:29:05

So, it is definitely possible that exposure to the material caused my stillbirth (or 'caused my daughter to die', as I feel like saying).
So I wanted to add this to the list of health problems that are being collated. But I can't. Because it isn't an option on the data collecting forms. So I got in touch with the people (men) doing this data collecting and they could not have been less interested. Basically refused to engage in a conversation with me at all, and then dismissed my stillbirth as a miscarriage (there was no mix up, I hadn't even mentioned the miscarriage at this point, just the stillbirth). And eventually I was told it was too late for me to do anything about it anyway as the time limit for a personal injury claim has passed.

My blood is boiling for you. angrythanks

Ereshkigalangcleg Fri 01-May-20 11:31:04

Yes I second the advice to bring it to the attention of Caroline Criado Perez. If you subscribe to her newsletter you can reply to her directly I think.

MrsSnippyPants Fri 01-May-20 11:34:17

I agree with PPs, definitely bring it to the attention of CCP via Twitter but more fully by email too.

I am very angry at the way you have been treated OP, it is completely unacceptable and I would have no hesitation in naming and shaming those involved.

Nameofchanges Fri 01-May-20 11:36:20

I’m sorry this has happened to you OP.

This is definitely the kind of issue that a huge light needs shining on. It needs media attention.

BlueBooby Fri 01-May-20 11:42:14

I think you should keep pursuing this op. It's made me feel angry on your behalf. The Twitter idea is a good one.

NotAGirl Fri 01-May-20 11:42:47

I am so sorry for both your losses. You are absolutely right to insist on that database being recorded. Put it in writing to the people doing the study that by not including potential health impacts affecting women it is sex discrimination and will mean their study findings are flawed.

I'm at a loss to understand how the men don't see this non inclusion as sexist except that none of this impacts them directly angry

RumbaswithPumbaas Fri 01-May-20 11:44:06

flowers for your losses.

maybe look into similar cases where work place toxins have been linked to miscarriage and still birth? I am aware of nurses successfully pursuing cases for pregnancy loss due to exposure to volatile anaesthetics (isoflurane/halothane - possibly in Australia) and this is something which is monitored carefully in workplaces (I have had 3 babies in veterinary practice and it is always a worry).

Exposure levels for many things including X-ray radiation and the handling of chemotherapy drugs are much tighter in pregnancy due to the stronger effects on rapidly dividing tissues, so it is likely actually that this toxin could have done your babies more harm than an adult body.

Is the chemical still used in any other industries/other countries? Is it now a thing of the past or is it still likely to risk pregnant women in other sectors?

I think it is worth making a fuss/linking up with others who have possibly suffered from this if, firstly, it would give you some sense of peace to know it’s been acknowledged/checked out?

Secondly do you feel it would help prevent this happening to anyone else if this is looked in to?

Unfortunately if your situation is extremely rare/small sample size, that might be why it doesn’t fit anywhere within their data collection, but they should have handled it with more compassion.

TreestumpsAndTrampolines Fri 01-May-20 11:46:44

OP this is exactly the massive, institutional sexism that needs to be flagged.

Is there some kind of supervising body for the people doing the enquiry? MPs involved? Could you start writing letters, including the research in it (ie. making it as easy as possible for them to oil the squeaky wheel you become)

growinggreyer Fri 01-May-20 11:52:58

* I was told it was too late for me to do anything about it anyway as the time limit for a personal injury claim has passed.*

Was this put to you in writing? Because I would be writing back asking if they have taken legal advice on this position. You were not able to make a claim at the time as you did not know you had been injured but now you know and you could maybe find other women world wide who have suffered the same issues and launch a class-action against the manufacturers of the material. Their dismissive reply does not remove your legal rights to go as high up the court system as you wish - including to the High Court and parliament if needed.

RoyalCorgi Fri 01-May-20 11:56:23

I'm so sorry for your loss, OP. Someone else has suggested approaching Caroline Criado-Perez about this and I think it's a really good idea. Probably better to email her than to tweet.

Z0rr0 Fri 01-May-20 12:09:40

@Selfraising I've DMd you.

ScrimpshawTheSecond Fri 01-May-20 12:15:19

OP, I'm so very sorry for your loss.

This must all be so difficult for you.

The callousness of the researchers is horrible - but as well as that, they clearly aren't performing due diligence if they're dismissing your experience.

I've no advice, I'm afraid, just wanted to offer a bit of sympathy.

Quillink Fri 01-May-20 12:35:23

I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter OP. Also for your loss by miscarriage. It's bloody infuriating that the men close to you don't get it. That sounds very hurtful.

I'm livid on your behalf flowers

DickKerrLadies Fri 01-May-20 12:44:39

I've no advice better than you've already received but I just wanted to add my sympathy and support flowers

rosiepony Fri 01-May-20 12:47:44

I’m so sorry. If I can help with adding my voice to your plight, I will.
What a terrible shock.

Boiledeggandtoast Fri 01-May-20 12:50:57

Selfraising I am so sorry to hear all that you have been through and the way that your concerns are being dismissed.

Did you see the recent Horizon programme looking at how the mothers of children with birth defects in Corby were similarly ignored and dismissed when they raised concerns about links to toxins released by the demolition of the steelworks? After a long drawn out campaign and legal battle their concerns were finally recognised and they won a landmark victory. There is a link to the programme here:

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000gp8s/ad/horizon-2020-1-toxic-town-the-corby-poisonings

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

JellySlice Fri 01-May-20 13:26:15

You can frame your child's death in your words. I am very sorry that your daughter died and was stillborn.

36degrees Fri 01-May-20 13:34:53

Is there a chair of the enquiry you can write to, or if it falls under the banner of research, an ethics committee? Dismissing your experience calls into question the rigour of their approach.

36degrees Fri 01-May-20 13:36:44

I'm sorry for your loss and that the people you have encountered while trying to contribute for their benefit (as well as others potentially affected) have dismissed you in this way.

SapphosRock Fri 01-May-20 14:37:48

I'm so so sorry OP. What a horrendous experience all round.

If you have the strength to pursue it further then you should. How about contacting feminist journalists to cover the story? Off the top of my head poss Hadley Freeman? This needs to be out in the open.

Good luck and so sorry again.

BlackeyedSusan Fri 01-May-20 14:50:40

Dickheads... Only thinking male as the default...

Imnobody4 Fri 01-May-20 14:59:57

This is horrendous, I'm so sorry you're being treated like this.
According to Acas, health and safety

The law says an employer must do a risk assessment for all women of child-bearing age. These include:

a pregnant employee and the unborn child she is carrying
an employee who's become a new mother in the last 6 months
an employee who's breastfeeding

You can do a single assessment covering your whole workplace.

It could be a good idea to also:

do risk assessments for individual employees, especially if you know of any health risks for a particular employeecover people who are not not employees, such as agency workers or the self-employed, in the assessment

Risks can include:

heavy lifting or carrying
long working hours
standing or sitting for long periods without suitable breaks
being exposed to dangerous substances
very high or low temperatures

Find out more about risk assessments fromthe Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This is not optional, if they're collecting data it should cover all employees including any who were pregnant at the time. I'd put your evidence in writing and ask what the reasons are for excluding. Are you in a trade union - I'd raise it with them as well.

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