Book review: Slice Girls by Dr Joan Arakkal is a thought-provoking read

Salma Shah reviews Slice Girls and how the book casts light on the obstacles and prejudices faced by Dr Arakkal at the hands of a select few - mostly privileged white males.

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If we were to look back over the last decade, we would agree that globally, a collective awakening took place. This awakening prompted introspection, a revisiting of the status quo and most crucially, the emergence of voices that said – it was not right then, and it is still wrong now. This spotlight – including the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements – shone a light into the darkest recesses of the behaviours of men towards women, on an institutional and individual level – from Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein in the entertainment industry, to Gamergate and the tech industry – to name a few.

Strong voices, growing stronger – previously unheard or silenced – sounded the clarion call for bad behaviour. In our own part of the world, we hear the voice of Dr Joan Arakkal – an Indian born surgeon specialising in orthopaedics. In her book Slice Girls, Dr Arakkal outlines her love for medicine – from her training in India to her hope filled journey to Australia.

Slice Girls.Indian Link

Dr Arakkal provides a compelling account of her experience within the hyper-masculine world of Australian orthopaedics where a boys club keeps outsiders out in the cruellest ways possible – by denying them the opportunity to fulfil their medical aspirations and civic minded goals of helping patients.

Slice Girls casts light on the obstacles and prejudices faced by Dr Arakkal at the hands of a select few – mostly privileged white males. This work recounts the story of a talented doctor who faced discrimination and sexism – and at first read provides a perspective of a hopeless situation where one person’s ambitions were quashed, resulting in a life of unfulfilled ambitions.

However, when this mirror is held up to the zeitgeist, the narrative of today presents a compelling picture of contrasting optimism. We know that unprofessional conduct and counter productive workplace behaviours that are not inclusive and collaborative are being scrutinised in great detail. None of these practices will remain in the dark for long – nor will they last. We don’t need to wait for the next generation to bring in change – it is happening now, as we speak.

That we had to wait a while for this to happen was necessary – the world had to be ready for this awakening. And today, we know that with the examination of workplaces and a desire to make things better, it is only a matter of time before perspectives experienced by Dr Arakkal will be an ugly vestige of a bigoted past.

Slice Girls is a thought-provoking account of a different world, a dark world of shadows where selfish, greedy and ignorant behaviours were the norm. The voices speaking out against this world – like Dr Arakkal – are like the sun shedding light on unacceptable behaviours and mindsets, and then using the intensity of heat to burn the old, for the new to emerge.