Title: Emotional Female
Author: Yumiko Kadota
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Published: March 2021
Emotional Female is a debut memoir by former-surgeon Yumiko Kadota. It is a shocking and honest account of what many women, particularly women of colour, have to face when working as doctors in the Australian public health system. Kadota is a Japanese-Australian woman who studied for many years in medical school, completed an unpaid internship, and worked in the public health system on her way to her dream: becoming a plastic surgeon. Just before she was able to see her long-awaited dream come true, Kadota quit. Emotional Female details the tortuous work hours, sleep deprivation, stress, bullying, harassment, physical pain, and emotional and mental toll, among many other impediments that Kadota endured during her time in the public health system. Not only is Emotional Female a memoir, it is an account of human endurance and an insight into the racism and sexism that exists in Australian workplaces that often goes unchecked.
Writing one’s memoir, especially so soon after the events happen, must be a gruelling task in itself. Kadota’s writing is passionate and captivating. I became so invested in her life that I didn’t want to stop reading her story. While there were many times that Kadota’s life experience was heartbreaking, I was compelled to finish the memoir to hear her voice and hear the truth. I have only ever been a patient to the public health system and never worked on the other side; I knew very little about how understaffed and overworked the public health workforce is before reading Emotional Female. I am shocked by what Kadota had to live through—the inhuman hours and unrealistic standards—to achieve her dream. Sadly, I was not shocked by the harassment she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field. Kadota also experienced racism throughout every stage of her life—in school, university, and at work. Her experiences as a woman of colour in a white-privileged nation are very real, although several times throughout her memoir she is told that she needs to toughen up and ignore the sexism and racism if she wants to achieve her dream of becoming a surgeon.
I am sure that many women in Australia know how it feels to be called an ‘emotional female’ and to have our emotional intelligence pitted against us by others to undermine our ‘professionalism’ and our potential capability to fulfil senior work roles. When reading Emotional Female, I learnt of Kadota’s first-hand experience as a female doctor and the struggles she had to face to become respected in her work. On top of being a woman in a heavily male-dominated workplace, Kadota was also working twice as hard because she is an Asian woman. The racism that she experiences is horrible and saddening—it is often laughed off as a joke by the antagoniser or presents as micro-aggressions, often noticed by no one but their target and thus even more difficult to call out and stand up against. Reading Kadota’s memoir brings to light how ingrained and normalised racism is in many workplaces, especially workplaces dominated by white people. Emotional Female brings to light the reality of working in our public health system and how people of colour are at an unfair disadvantage.
I highly encourage everyone to grab themselves a copy of Emotional Female and learn from her life experiences. Kadota’s sincere and eye-opening memoir delves into her experiences of burnout, sexism, and racism in one of the most significant systems that all Australians will use at some point in their lives: the public health system.