Menu Sian Prior

Writer, Broadcaster, Singer, MC & Teacher

Between a rock and a hard place [February 25]

Did you read that recent news story about the surgical trainee forced to work 70 hours straight in a Sydney hospital? When she told her male bosses she was worried her extreme fatigue could be dangerous for her patients, she was given a lecture about being ‘an emotional female’.

Women are in a no-win situation. If we admit fear or vulnerability we’re often chastised for being weak and emotional. On the other hand, if we don’t behave as if we’re afraid or vulnerable, we’re chastised for risk-taking. Here’s an example.

Over the past few winters I’ve been travelling solo up to Queensland and back in my small campervan. A couple of years ago I was heading south, free-camping in the bush. Each night I pulled over somewhere quiet and secluded, locked the van doors and slept soundly. Each morning I woke to the glorious sounds of the dawn chorus.

One night I fancied a hot shower so I booked into a caravan park. Around 2 am I was woken by a noise outside my window. Climbing out I discovered that the Eski I’d left beside the van had disappeared. In the distance three young men on bicycles were hovering outside the male toilets. I waited until they had cycled off into the night then walked down to the toilets. Peering under the door of a locked cubicle I discovered my Eski sitting on the toilet seat.

I didn’t fancy crawling under the door so I went back to the van to sleep. The next morning I headed to the admin office to speak with the manager.

‘My Eski was stolen last night here in your caravan park. I found it locked inside the men’s toilets. Can you please retrieve it for me?’

His face turned first white, then red. ‘Are you camping here all by yourself!?’ Then he launched into an expletive-laden lecture about why women shouldn’t travel alone, how foolish and dangerous it was, and how we were just ‘asking for trouble.’

I could have pointed out that I’d been camping safely alone in the bush for ages, that it wasn’t until I handed over money to stay in hiscaravan park that I’d had any ‘trouble’, and that maybe he should improve his security.

Why waste my breath? Instead I drove out the gate and back to the bush. I’ve never been lectured by the dawn chorus.


(This column was first published by Fairfax in February 2019)