Your Mom Didn’t Teach You To Wash Your Hands So Coronavirus is Her Fault

by Leigh Anne Jasheway
Leigh Anne Jasheway

I just got back from doing a training for 65 people. Upon meeting the coordinator of the event, he reached for my hand and I told him I’m doing jazz hands these days. He slapped his forehead and said, “I forgot; we’re not supposed to be shaking hands. (I did not remind him that we’re also not supposed to touch our own faces, which really made my putting moisturizer on difficult this morning.)

I’ve never been a big fan of the handshake anyway.

First, it seems so masculine to me. “Let me test your finger strength to see how much I should respect you” it seems to say. A quick hug or a curtsy seems friendlier. Second, I have an M.P.H. degree, which either stands for Masters of Public Health or Mistress of Public Humor. When studying vectors and disease transmissions lo those many years ago in grad school, I remember learning that touching other people’s hands is really unsanitary. Especially if those hands belong to teenage boys and young men, who are least likely to wash their hands and most likely to have recently had penises in them.

So now that we’re taking extra precautions to prevent Coronavirus, I’ve stopped fist-bumping and moved to jazz hands, something I’ve always wanted an excuse to do.

There are those who think people are blowing this pandemic (which, by the way is NOT Greek for “mass hysteria whenever someone coughs”) out of proportion and others who think we are not doing everything we should. I switch sides depending on my circumstances. If I’m working from home with my dogs, I’m less cautious (I don’t, for example, make them wear face masks), but when I have to be out among people, I keep my hands in my pockets 90% of the time. Okay that’s not true. I have women’s pockets in my pants so only about 30% of my hands fit in my pockets.

But at least my fingers are safe.

What surprises me most about the Coronavirus situation so far is that no preacher or politician has blamed women for it.

Sure, it’s early and there’s probably someone all geared up to scorch working mothers for not teaching their kids to wash their hands. Or claim that women are dirty when they have their periods and that god is angry. Or that women are just too sexy, causing men to masturbate at their desks and forget to clean up afterward. Somehow, it must be women’s fault, right.

It’s not our fault, but it is our problem. No, not because women have weaker immune systems, but because when it comes to caregiving – both paid and unpaid – women bear the brunt of that work. For example, 91% of nurses are female. And with cases popping up in schools (which doesn’t surprise anyone because any place where large numbers of children congregate, whether they’re 5 or 22, is always a cesspool of germs), it’s notable that 77% of teachers are women.

Also, as with all viruses, older people are more at risk and women comprise 57% of the U.S. population over 60. You wouldn’t know that women could even get Coronavirus if you’ve seen the photo of the national task force online, with all the middle-aged men sitting round that table praying or plotting how to save the stock market, or whatever it is they were doing. Women don’t have much of a seat at that table and the only reasons we even have a place in the discussion is because people are posting instructions for using bras and maxi-pads as protective masks.

As a woman with some basic knowledge of public health, my suggestions for keeping yourself and your family protected are:

  1. Wash your hands every time you’ve touched something or someone in public just to be safe. Sing Happy Birthday twice while you do so to make sure you get a full 20-seconds in and use a lots of soap and friction.
  2. Take those clean, lovely hands of yours to the voting booth and vote for people who believe in science and who will make sure that women have control over their own bodies, families, and government.

Oh, one more thing that I learned from a group of cafeteria workers (most of whom were, you guessed it, women):

If it’s wet and it’s not yours, don’t pick it up unless you’re wearing gloves. That’s good advice for any situation.

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