Chapter 07: International Work and an Interest in Power Dynamics

Title

Chapter 07: International Work and an Interest in Power Dynamics

Files

Loading...

Media is loading
 

Description

Ms. Yadiny discusses her early jobs with the Royal Society in London, then with the World Health Organization in Geneva, then in Tunisia. She tells anecdotes of the interesting characters she met in London; one of the stories allows her to demonstrate how she became interested in the master/slave relationship and how power factors into communication and power. She notes that she has encountered leaders who can be submissive or sadistic in their relationships with others. She describes the work she did in Geneva with the WHO, the lessons learned from her international experiences, and her reasons for leaving international work.

Identifier

YadinyJA_01_20160222_C07

Publication Date

2-22-2016

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Professional Path; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Personal Background; Evolution of Career; Professional Practice; On Leadership

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Why was that job so fascinating [Royal Society of Medicine in London]?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Because it was a private society, you had to join it, and world famous scholars came in, like Joseph Needham was writing his whole series on China. So you got to talk to these people and pull out the literature they were looking for. They’d sit at desks all day and just study and take notes, because they were writing books. I mean it was just so fascinating.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What was it that really intrigued you about all that, I mean how did you feel yourself evolving through that experience?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

I think it was watching real professional scholars work, what they did, what it took to put a book together, to do something that intellectually challenging. Also, because it was a private society and it was British, it was hysterically funny too. It was kind of like being in a Monty Python skit, because just all the weirdnesses of England. My father was English, had been born there, and I had traveled there, but living there was something else.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, it always is.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, right. So just the characters who worked there. There was the guy at the front desk who was the guard, had an Oxford accent, but there was no way this guy… I mean, it was considered pretentious, everybody criticized him behind his back because he had an Oxford accent and he just assumed it, and his name was Mr. Makepeace. You know, I mean people had names like this and jobs that matched. And then we had, we had a canteen, it was called a canteen, and the woman who ran it was something like Mrs. Cakebread, that was her name, Mrs. Cakebread. It was like being in a Dickens novel, you know? And then they had stories. Lisa Van Aensbergen, Lisa Van Aensbergen, that’s what her name was, was my boss. Lita Van Aensbergen, Lita Van Aensbergen. She was amazing. She was just one of these very quiet, mousy English women who, when you got to know her, had had the most unbelievable sexual experiences you’ve ever heard in your life and you were like awe struck by these adventures she’d have, and the way she would, she would express herself. I remember one day, I’m sitting there doing something and she said, “I always have an orgasm when the plane takes off.” What? How? It’s just the reverberation of motors. It was unreal, I mean, oh my God, it was just one thing after another. I’d go home and I’d just be in stitches, laughing about the stuff I had heard.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well it was the ‘70s after all.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

It was the ‘70s, it was so funny.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Women were discovering themselves and yes, the ‘70s.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, so she wanted me to meet her husband, who was a writer. He worked for Reuters in Holland and he was also a writer, but she didn’t tell me—so she loaned me a book of his to read and then she set up a time for him to come over to our flat and meet me and my husband, my husband and me. I read this book and oh my God, it was pornography really, pornography of the time. It had been published in the States because it was—no, it had been published in Holland and then he said he would always be grateful to Nixon because Nixon lifted the ban on what was considered pornographic. And actually, the story itself was quite fascinating. It was kind of like Pinter’s master and slave thing, “The Servant,” do you remember that play? This was like that, except that you know, what did I know. As it turned out, this guy was Dutch and had been in the resistance during World War II. He joined when he was 14. So he had been through, he had seen things, and it informed his thinking about who’s the master and who’s the slave. And so this book, which is kind of like “Fifty Shades of Gray,” you know but “Fifty Shades of Gray” is really cleaned up. This was really people who actually live these lives of you know, one’s the dominatrix or whatever, the dominant, and one’s the submissive. He saw the politics of that, he was interested in the politics of that, and I don’t know why I found that so fascinating but I did, and now I see it. I see it out in life, the submissives and the dominants, you know, who extract things from other people. I see leaders like that. I’ve dealt with some leaders here that… whoa. I know one leader here that I would call totally sadistic, who had crushed the people working for him.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Really?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Mm-hmm. And who should have been alleviated of his position years before. He was never alleviated, he finally retired. But you know, Tacey, you see those things, how they play out, you see how masterfully they manage the people above them, and how they turn their sadism on the people below them. So, the power dynamics and the politics of these things absolutely fascinate me, and I think I’ve been in many situations where I have been psychologically abused, because I didn’t know how to deal with the power above me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Or you don’t even know it’s being exercised sometimes. Interesting. Now when you look back at yourself, you know, when you were in this library job in London and you’re thinking about that self-reflective piece which is so important to you, how would you describe that young woman and where she was and her understanding of herself?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Well, I would say she had a great deal of intellectual curiosity but was very self-involved. I don’t know if I would have called myself narcissistic, but I would have called myself very self-absorbed, and I kept journals constantly, I have stacks of journals. Sometimes when I go back and I read through them, I flip through them and I think hmm, that’s interesting. But at the same time, it’s like bad literature, you know, when you’ve picked up a novel and you think this person is just writing about themselves and it’s bad, it’s really… So, for some reason, I think because I had two parents who loved me very much but were not emotionally very supportive; they were sort of emotionally absent. My mother was terrified of everything, so she sort of projected on to me, her anxieties and fears about everything, rather than celebrating the things I was really good at, and I was good at a lot of things. I was good at a lot of things. They didn’t. So, I grew up with a lot of self-doubt, which is why I think I don’t have a PhD and didn’t push myself to be like a Liz Travis [oral history interview] right now. I’ve kind of gone under the radar a little bit. I see that now, I see how it was played out now, but I didn’t see it then. I was pretty full of myself in some ways, but at the same time insecure. So my husband and I split up and I got a job. We split up when I got a job with the World Health Organization in Geneva.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And that was…?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Nineteen seventy-five, ’74 or ’75, right around there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Seventy-five is what you had on your CV, yeah.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, ’75. Then I really did get an amazing education in world politics and how things worked, and I loved it. I know, it was just, I just had the chance to soak stuff up, you know how did this world run, really.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now, you know what’s interesting is we started out talking about leadership, but the theme of politics, institutional politics and politics on a world stage and now international stage, have come up again, and so I just wanted to register that, you know? Because it sounds like leadership from—

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, it’s power dynamics. Leadership can be, you know, you can either exercise positive power dynamics or very negative power dynamics, but it’s all status and power, and you see it in a place like this, with the PhDs, the MDs, and you know—I’ve met many who are very insecure and terrified that the guy in the office next to them is much more brilliant than they are, and I’ve others who are completely and totally secure with themselves, they know what they know, they blast out those papers with no problems. Yeah, an assortment of all sorts of people. So I see, I watch them, how they process the world and how they see themselves and where do they have trouble.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Do you remember being aware of those kinds of—aware of power dynamics, like when you were in school, in elementary school?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Oh yeah, with teachers.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay, so that was pretty early.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

And in my family, there were real power dynamics that were played out there, so I saw it there too. And then I saw it in class situations, because I was—my family, I would say we were lower middle class and we lived in a neighborhood—this is so interesting, that this is coming up. It ties in with our discussion at the beginning about people we know who go on these fabulous vacations. My parents, we lived in this wonderful neighborhood, which now, I would never be able to afford to live in, because the houses are $1 to $2 million, $3 million, $4 million. They are kind of the… how would I put it? Memorial Area of a suburb outside Toronto. But back then it was where we all lived, right?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

But everybody around us were professionals. There were lawyers and accountants and architects.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And this is the place where your mom built the house, when you made the WASP.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

This is where my parents built the house, yeah, yeah. So, we were sort of a working class family in a sense—my father had the construction business—surrounded by all these professionals. So in a sense it’s kind of where I am, you know?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, interesting, yeah.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

That’s interesting, it’s a pattern I guess, that’s repeated itself.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well I think when you are culturally displaced, no matter how you’re culturally displaced, you are very aware of that difference, and you suddenly become hyperaware and looking at this new context you’re in, and it makes you understand yourself differently too.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So you’re always attuned to that. Interesting. So I derailed you from your discussion about what it was you started to see and be aware of when you went to Geneva. And you were a technical officer.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

I was working in the library system, but my job was to write grants and design programs that they could take out to developing countries, emerging countries, to teach them how to organize and access biomedical research, printed stuff, because many countries couldn’t support their own research, because they didn’t have documentation centers or libraries. Some had some really good systems and you would find, like you know, India had some really great libraries because the British set them up. The French countries, not so much. So, it was interesting, to be in Geneva and working on these problems, but also to meet all the people who came in and out of the World Health Organization, and then the International Labor Organization was right next door and the UN was down the hill. It was just, I just liked that, being sort of in an environment in which you’re soaking it up. You don’t even know quite what you’re soaking up but you’re soaking, you’re absorbing. I met families who’d been living in Kabul. I didn’t even know where Kabul was, but they loved Kabul and had raised their family in Kabul, Americans, and now they were in the World Health Organization, in Geneva. A family that had lived in India for many years, he was a doctor and he had five kids and the kids had grown up in India, now he was in Geneva, on his way to I don’t know, back to Australia or something. I mean, you just met people from all over. A lot of people from Africa. African men who married, always married Scandinavian women. So you had those mixed couples, the tall, blonde, gorgeous woman, the tall, fabulous looking, you know Nigerian or Kenyan or whatever, power of another sort, and symbols and emblems and status, it’s what I have, you know that kind of stuff going on.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well in culture too, because I remember even conversations about how Scandinavian women had a tendency to make mixed race marriages, much more so than women from Western Europe, you know Britain, France, and certainly the U.S. I mean it was very, very taboo still at that time.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

It was fascinating to see. It was not something you saw, that I had seen much of at all in Canada, and even when I came to the States in—when did I come, 1978 or ’79.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Seventy-eight, ’79, you started at the Houston Academy of Medicine.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

You didn’t see mixed race couples here like you did—even in Europe, you saw more than you did here. But anyway.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And then you went from Geneva, you went to Tunis, ’77, ’78. Tell me about that kind of block, ’75 to ’78. How did you grow during that period and kind of refine what your direction was, or maybe you didn’t. What happened? Maybe I should ask the more general question. You know, what would you say happened to you during that time that was really informative, informed your next steps?

Janis Apted Yadiny:

I thought I would have a career in international work and I loved international work. I loved being very comfortable in the world, out in the world. I loved feeling like I could go into any country and figure out how to get along, get by, so I thought that’s what my life would be, would be international work. I was fluent in French and I felt like I had something to offer. And then in Tunis I was attacked and I was raped and that did it, that was the end of that. That’s when I lost sense of what do I really want to do in my life.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I recalled that and I didn’t know if you were going to go there.

Janis Apted Yadiny:

Well it happens, you know, and it changes your whole world view. I became afraid of the world, like I hadn’t been before, and I ended up here and married an American that I latched onto, to kind of get out of there.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Chapter 07: International Work and an Interest in Power Dynamics

Share

COinS