avatarLilith Helstrom

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Everyone Saw My Panties

I gave my neighbors quite a show

Photo by Marlon Alves on Unsplash

So as a lot of you already know, I was in the hospital recently. I passed out and couldn’t get up, so my husband called 9–1–1.

When the paramedics came, they hooked me up to a lot of machines, like a blood pressure monitor and a portable EKG machine. They shoved various wires and stickers underneath my nightgown before carrying me out in a stretcher to the ambulance in front of all my neighbors.

When I got there, I was waiting in a room, lying down with a bunch of other patients who were being processed from other ambulances. My paramedics were standing nearby me when an elderly man who worked in the hospital approached them, whispering in their ear.

I know he was trying to be respectful and give me as much dignity as possible, but I heard what he said. He told them to cover me with a blanket because the wires that were sticking out of me had lifted up my nightgown and I was “exposed.”

I realized in that moment that my neighbors had all seen me in my underwear unbeknownst to me. It was bad enough that they saw me hurt and taken away in an ambulance, but I’d also flashed them as well.

I knew I should be embarrassed but I felt too exhausted, dizzy, lightheaded, and scared to be embarrassed.

It got me thinking about that old saying. All women have mothers who lectured them at one point about changing their underwear more often.

“What if you’re in a car accident?” Our mothers would say. “The firefighters will see you in dirty underwear!”

We are all supposed to shudder at the thought.

My underwear was not very pretty or fresh the day I went to the hospital. It’s not the kind of underwear I would want my neighbors to see if I got my pick.

But you know what? I don’t give a shit. Because I’ve been going through a lot, I felt very vulnerable, and if someone was looking at my panties and judging me for them, that means they’re a bad person, not me.

I’m going to continue to look my neighbors in the eyes and not care.

But misogyny in our culture would tell us otherwise. It would say that a woman needs to be beautiful and presentable. We are supposed to be sexy and pleasing to men, even when we are possibly on our death bed or we should feel bad about it.

That’s insane. No one looks hot when they’re hurt and sick. The other people I saw on stretchers (all male) in the emergency room looked pale, exhausted, and miserable, but I’m pretty sure none of them were worried about how hot they were.

There was a story, last year, about some male firefighters who were under investigation. They had formed a WhatsApp group, where they were taking photos of dead women in car crashes and sharing them amongst each other. They were making jokes about their bodies and commenting on their underwear — the very thing all women have been told by their mothers to fear happening to them.

You know they probably talked about how hot they found some of those disfigured women or disgusting. They likely rated whether they would want to sleep with them or not.

When you think of the reality of that actually happening, you realize how misogynistic our culture is. It should have never been women being told to be presentable and attractive, even in injury and death. It should have been young men lectured to see women as human beings and young boys taught to feel empathy towards others.

Because seeing someone vulnerable like that and commenting on them sexually is predatory behavior. It’s not the norm nor should it be. Firefighters shouldn’t be focused on how their dicks feel during the job, they should be focused on helping people and saving lives.

Because what these firefighters are fantasizing about is necrophilia. A dead body is never attractive and shouldn’t be.

But women have been so devalued in society that we’ve all been focused on the wrong thing the entire time. Women have worth because they are multi-faceted human beings. Our worth is not in how hard a man gets looking at us.

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