In Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, Penelope waits years for Ulysses to return from his odyssey. One day, when a bard appears in the palace where she lives as ruler of Ithaca and sings sad sages, she goes down to the courtyard and asks the singer to sing some more cheerful songs. But this performance is too much. Her son Telemachos tells her that her voice should not be heard in public, and he tells her: „Public speaking will always be a matter for men,“ and directs her to her chambers. She follows and leaves. According to ancient historian Prof. Dame Mary Beard, this is the first tradition of silencing of women.
In ancient times, women took care of the household, and in it also of the sick, but their voice was not heard on the polis, the political centre of the ancient cities. Speaking in public was considered taboo. Worse still, women could also be deprived of their accusatory voice. Thus, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Tereus raped Philomena and cut out her tongue so that she could not accuse him.
Not to allow women to have a voice in public has thus a tradition of more than 3000 years and even if we think that through the Internet women in particular now have a public voice, the trolls – also an investigation by Mary Beard – are using the same stylistic means as 3000 years ago. Especially when the mostly male discussion partner disagrees with what women say, they threaten to rape, their tongue should be ripped out, there is talk of heads. Silencing on the internet is thus not far from the ancient „idea“.
Nurses are also affected by this phenomenon. We do not have to go back to antiquity, but Hildegard von Bingen is already known as the trumpet of God. So it is not her voice that raises it, but merely an instrument of a far greater (male) power that speaks through her (and subsequent great orators of the Middle Ages will then no longer be able to fall back on the symbol of the trumpet, it will have to be a number bigger, namely a trombone).
The slave of Ulysses, Eurydice, is described in the epic only as a woman washing a man’s feet. And she was fantastic. When Odysseus was young, she tended his wounds and therefore recognized him even years later. But she had to keep quiet. And this image of a servant, silent slave woman is of course passed on to Homer as a man. An ideal that has remained virtually unchanged in my country to this day. Nurses have to serve and keep silent. Especially about the circumstances of work. In the Corona crisis they called us heroes, Banksy drew a picture. But heroes die quietly, underpaid and available when you need them. Heroes have no collective agreement and no regulated working hours. None of us wanted to be heroes. And it’s clear that the little boy in Banksy’s picture will throw away his hero nurses when he gets tired of them.
When the hashtag #twitternwierüddel was running in Germany the Internet, Erwin Rüddel, Chairman of the German Health Committee, also took similar action. After his request that care should talk nicely about their profession, nurses started talking. Unfortunately there was nothing nice to say about the profession. In an unprecedented action, which is still unchecked today, he had thousands of nurses (mostly female) blocked on Twitter, depriving them of their public voice.So there is no question that the politician, the heir to the ancient polis, wanted nothing to do with what women were saying. As alarming as this approach is, if we reconsider that we live in a democracy and that until now, none of the Twitterers had said anything other than facts about the profession, there is not much to learn about the importance of the voice of nurses.
Related, male-connoted professions deal with the public speech of carers in the same way. When a nurse on television in the programme „Die Anstalt“ talked alone about the problems of German nursing, this led to a headline in a doctors‘ newspaper. It seemed outrageous. It seemed outrageous: „ZDF cabaret programme lets nurse have her say“, as if something was going on on television that was unseemly for a „nurse“, as if something incredible was going on. Not only that the medical journal did not feel obliged to present the official job title of spokeswoman Sabrina Maar, who is not a just „nurse“ (in Germany we have different names for nursing) , but also THAT a nurse had her say was the subject of the headline. It was then emphasised that this was an ART FORM, as if this excused the fact that women on TV were given a stage. Well, if it is art, oh well, then… it’s just reading a poem. Phew, lucky you.
But even if nurses raise their voices as justifiably as possible, this public speaking is reduced. That is „whining“. One should not. As if justified criticism of professional circumstances were something disreputable that, oh my Gosh, is just not appropriate. Needless to say that since ancient times, crying for family members in the home environment has been one of the female activities that were not allowed to take place in public. Crying was done at home. Thus the modern, justified accusation of unworthy circumstances is domesticated and rejected from public where it belongs in the opinion of those who complain. out of public. Whining is not a voice, just a sound. An apparently meaningless, senseless sound. Earlier women were given animal noises when they had ever tried it in public. These women were denied their voice. They barked or mooed. But rational speech? No, because it was only a woman.
Politicians per se are therefore also happy to sit down and claim that they are talking ABOUT nursing. Of course. Not WITH nurses. When nursing is talked about in public, it has to be done by a man. In Germany, there is a trainee for this purpose who is then gladly shown around. The main thing is that it is a man. Not that he did it badly. It is just striking that several million female carers did not get society’s ear and society listened to a man, no matter how inexperienced he may be. There are countless numbers of men in Germany who represent institutional care.
In Germany there is a professional association that then issues position papers, as if the women employed there (who have a doctorate!!) were quietly, silently and secretly shoving a letter through the letter slot of the door to the outside world? Why do we actually never hear or see them?
The tradition of finding it unseemly for women to speak in public was also the reason why the president of the nursing association, Sandra Mehmecke, received unbelievable criticism. „Swinging speeches in public“ was the caustic criticism. Often from male colleagues. Then it was no longer about content. In this respect, Mehmecke’s almost forced resignation can also be understood as beheading and depriving the public voice. Nadya Klarmann’s first statement (in public) was paradoxical. She said publicly that she wanted to talk to the opponents. In doing so, she did not turn to the public, but held her speech, consciously or unconsciously, in the inner circle of care. And only announced this publicly. Is this how you have to save yourself if you are a woman?
When the blog appeared in German, 80,000 people from the nursing sector read it in the first 24 hours. The strange thing is that of the 80,000, only very, very few commented. It was as if we were either not entitled or no longer able to argue for ourselves, as if the few words I said said everything. Someone wrote: „Someone has made a sweeping statement“, or „HE is right! … I commented below with the shocking news: I have not yet taken a breath and the supposed HE is a woman