We, sisters.

This is a post that has had many years to brew. There is much I want to say – there are vast reams of words and shouts and polemics with which I’d love to spray paint the page. But I shall test my embryonic writerly skills, and see if I can keep it short. Succinct. Meaningful.

I’m off twitter for a day. In the swirling wake of rage following the outing of Harvey Weinstein, there has been a twitter response: #WomenBoycottTwitter. While I am under no illusion that this will change a thing (in fact the choice of silence as a protest when silence has been the age-old problem feels incongruent), and it may seem like somewhat of a pointless exercise, I choose to join with women who believe it to be important. I am part of the sisterhood.


I am an Emergency Physician. I have worked for decades in a sweaty, high-stress, muscly environment, requiring skills that may be considered kind of masculine. Control, a firm voice, a steely resolve, and an ability to suck up the bad stuff and just carry on. For most of my career I have considered myself oddly genderless. It is not infrequently I am asked what it is like to be a woman in this world. For years though, I have made a conscious decision that this is an issue I do not want to talk, or write, or speak on stage about. I have wanted, for my entire career, to make my beliefs and ideology known by doing. The ultimate ‘show don’t tell.’ I have tried to be the best role model I can, in my own messy, fallible way, so that every woman (and man) behind me will be supported and valued in their lives of critical care, and to see that it’s OK to achieve quietly. I hope, after this tiny, inconsequential post, I shall go back to doing the same.

The reason, however, that I am breaking this personal reticence, is that occasionally silence equals complicity. The silence of those in Hollywood, and on the other side the silence of the generations of women who knew they’d be pilloried, disbelieved, or worse, if they spoke out. Silence, truly, in this day and age, is not a valid option. I also choose not to be silent about Australia’s inhuman treatment of refugees, or the world’s entrenched racism, or that appalling man on his gaudy golden throne across the ocean, legitimising all that is bad on this planet.

I am also deeply fortunate that I work, and am surrounded by, good men. I see and interact with them everywhere, and admire their moral fibre, their considered intelligence, their respectfulness, and I am grateful for being among them. I am also aware that there are other voiceless people oppressed by those more powerful – many of the former being men, people of colour, and our LGBTQI community, and as such singling a group out, above the others, has always felt wrong.

Almost as an aside, I have also suffered sexual harassment, as well as sexual assault. These are certainly things that mark you forever, change how you feel about yourself, crush a part of you, damage you, strip you of confidence. Now I am (trying to be) a grown-up, I have no more need to delve into those times. Now is my time to extend the hand of love to those behind me.

I stand up for every person who is crushed by someone of power above them. I stand alongside all women, and I believe you. I intend to live my life in a way that honours and supports anybody who does not have the means to do that for themselves. I am a feminist, and this is my version.

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About the author

Dr Michelle Johnston is a consultant Emergency Physician who works at an inner city hospital. Mostly her days consist of trauma and mess. Also, she writes.

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