We will not stand to be judged

This morning I posted the following on my social media accounts.  

So 3 male surgeons published an article about vascular surgeons and social media. They have the audacity to decide that it is inappropriate for women surgeons to post photos of ourselves in bikinis on social media. No mention of men in swimwear as inappropriate. 

So it is ok for me to be a woman and a surgeon and a mom and to fix people at all hours of the day and night… but these men have declared that it is inappropriate for women surgeons to be pictured in bikinis. And thus the birth of the #medbikini stories. 

As a woman in orthopaedics I stand with the women of vascular surgery.

The support from family and friends, acquaintances and strangers, women, men, surgeons, aspiring surgeons, has poured in.  So I’m inspired to write for the first time in months.  

I wish this article were fiction, or a poor joke.  It was not.  It was published in a peer reviewed journal, The Journal of Vascular Surgery.    Peer reviewed means that other vascular surgeons read it and deemed it true, useful, and appropriate.  And before this, it was presented at the Forty-seventh Annual Symposium of the Society for Clinical Vascular Surgery, Boca Raton, Fla, March 16-20, 2019.  This means that a program committee, vascular surgeons chosen as educational leaders in their field, thought that the research was valid and useful for the surgeons that are members of their organization.  The paper is entitled, “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons.”  The authors set up “neutral” (fake) social media accounts to do their “work.”  One of the “unprofessional” behaviors included in the study was “Inappropriate attire included pictures in underwear, provocative Halloween costumes, and provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”  

This morning I saw a post from a vascular surgeon (@lady-surgeon) on instagram using the hashtag #medbikini. She posted photos of herself dressed as a surgeon side by side with photos of her in swimwear.  She wrote, “These are all me… regardless of what I wear, regardless of what I speak out about, regardless of my personal life and what I choose to post on MY social media pages, I am ALL OF THESE WOMEN.  I am a goddamn great surgeon who’s been saving lives for 22 years as a board certified vascular surgeon and for 29 years as a practicing physician/MD.  How dare the (formerly?) esteemed Journal of Vascular Surgery publish a trash article that perpetuates these misogynistic ideas about what qualifies as acceptable, professions or unprofessional behavior, attire and social media content…  She ends by saying “I stand with my sisters in Vascular Surgery” and asks for us to email the editor of the journal.  My story was in answer to her.  And in turn women physicians on facebook, instagram and twitter have rallied.  

I have heard (but cannot yet verify) that the article has been redacted.  But the damage is done.  I have heard from 2 women today who were unwitting “subjects” in this “research,” young vascular surgeons whose accounts were followed by the “researchers.”  They are angry.  I feel violated and judged on their behalf.  

The silver lining of this experience for me is the #heforshe thread on twitter.  Men in orthopaedics have posted photos of themselves in swimwear expressing support for the women in our male dominated field.  

As a woman in orthopaedic surgery, where we make up only 6% of our profession, I stand with the women of vascular surgery.  I stand with all women surgeons.  And all women physicians.  All women in healthcare.  And all women.  We get to be full people, and we get to share that however we choose.  We do not deserve to be trolled and judged in the name of “research.”  We didn’t stand for it today and we won’t in the future.

update: the article has been redacted. Such power in social media and women standing together.

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