Emma Samms: Dealing with unexpected questions

Woman with me too sign on hand, movement against sexual harassment

‘What had felt like an emotional ambush was probably highly representative of a general lack of understanding of what it’s like to be a woman’ - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Who needs LA when your heart is in the Cotswolds?

I don’t often talk publicly about the Long COVID I’ve had since March 2020 because I don’t want to bore people or, frankly, bore myself. 

It’s terribly dull to focus on a debilitating disease when there are so many good things happening in my life. I’d much rather talk about my wonderful children, my gorgeous and kind husband or the exciting renovation work that is currently being done to one of the old outbuildings at our house. 

But being useful has always been a goal of mine and since I’m so rubbish at household chores at the moment, I can at least use the modest public platform afforded me by my acting career to speak out for my fellow Long COVID sufferers, call for better (or even some) treatments and reassure them that they are not alone. 

With that in mind, when I was recently asked to talk about Long COVID on BBC Points West’s Sunday morning show, I was happy to accept. It was to be pre-recorded on the Friday and the day before that I was told I would be on a panel with MP Sir Liam Fox and two politicians. Then I was asked if I minded sitting in for the other topics that morning which were the local election and the state of the current Government? ‘Sure,’ I said, thinking if I can get in the word ‘appalling’ that would be pleasing.  

Unfortunately, the experience wasn’t very pleasing. Unbeknown to me, the other topic wasn’t ‘The state of the current Government’, it was ‘Misogyny in government’, and the first question of the whole show was to me: ‘Did you ever experience any misogyny in Hollywood?’ Whoa… that’s a different subject, a huge subject. A very personal and actually rather painful subject. I have never discussed my experiences with the many predatory and self-deluded men with power that I encountered in Hollywood, and the 20-second, instant response they were expecting in this interview was certainly neither the time nor the place to go there. I mumbled something about the Me Too movement, and they moved on to the far more articulate interviewees sitting on the couch next to me.  

Eventually the show moved on to the topic I was there for, and hopefully I was able to do what was required of me: talking about my own experience and symptoms in order to put a personal face on the growing problem of Long COVID.  

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Going into detail about our health is not something we British people do very often or very well. It’s not just about being brave, it’s about not wanting to give in. And I certainly get that. But opening up and getting support can make all the difference, as has certainly been proven by the community of Long COVID sufferers who found and supported each other on social media when Long COVID hadn’t even been recognised by the medical profession yet. 

Revealing my own, ongoing personal experience with Long COVID was what I was on television to do that day and I had geared up my naturally very private self to do that. I had not expected to be asked about another deeply personal issue out of the blue – I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to boil down my own experiences of sexual abuse and harassment into one, tidy soundbite. But as the days went by afterwards, and my natural inclination to smooth over any awkwardness had faded, I realised that what had felt like an emotional ambush was probably highly representative of a general lack of understanding of what it’s like to be a woman. 

I won’t use the term misogyny because I do believe this was just a lack of understanding. 

But I will use the word ironic.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @EmmaSamms1