The Protest of Sexism With #MedBikini

Have you ever seen your doctor on vacation? Maybe at the grocery store? Do they have lives like the rest of the world? Have you ever stumbled across their social media accounts and gasped at the fact that they even have a personal life? 

In recent weeks, many of us have noticed that women in the medical field have been flooding social media with photos of themselves in swimsuits. Within the captions, everyone is reminded that each woman in health care has a life outside of her career and it is perfectly fine to flaunt her body if she feels comfortable. This seems obvious, but why is this going on all of a sudden?

An article published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery titled, “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among vascular surgeons” showcased how researchers evaluated “unprofessional social media content” among 480 residents and fellows who were in a vascular surgery program. Falsified social media accounts were created in order to look into the profiles of these young physicians — predominately women. The goal of the research was to essentially look for anything that seemed “unprofessional” or “controversial.” This may have included “provocative” photos in swimwear, photos in which alcohol was present or comments with religious connotations. One of the worst parts about this includes the fact that permission was never obtained in order to scour these social media accounts. 

[Read Related: The top 5 South Asian Voices in Health Care Today]

Once the article went mainstream, various women throughout the health care industry around the world protested that the article was sexist and lacked any type of validity. Many women indicated that posing for a bikini photo does not take away from the quality of care that may be received towards their patients.  Why can a male physician post a photo of himself going swimming, but if a female physician posts the same type of photo, she receives backlash? The hashtag #Medbikini was then developed and the trend quickly spread on an international level.

On a personal note, I am outraged that a well-respected medical journal could publish such a controversial article. Although I am not a clinician, I am a Ph.D. who is part of health care leadership within a hospital and I feel that professionalism is imperative. However, if I want to wear a bikini and post it on my personal social media account, that is my prerogative. That action does not diminish all of the work that I have put into my career.  For years, women have dealt with this issue and it has been a constant struggle.

Fortunately, the voices of all of the empowering women have been heard and the journal retracted the article. The editorial board sent out a public apology; however, I still believe that the study was developed in an unprofessional manner. Additionally, there is controversy about the lack of diversity within the editorial board, which is composed of all male vascular surgeons, which is another issue that needs attention.

[Read Related: Pursuing Inspiration: Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Health Care, and Self-Care]

I am hoping that this movement triggers a sense of awareness for people. There are blatant double standards that exist well throughout the world, but we need to be diligent to make a change. I am thrilled to see that there are so many fearless women who are willing to take a stance against the judgment and the ridicule that is seen every day. 

And next time you see your doctor in a setting outside of her office, please don’t judge!

By Anita Haridat

Anita Haridat is the owner of the wellness website, Healthy Spectator, which is a platform to help people find inner-balance … Read more ›