Should doctors wear white coats and scrubs at home? The answer is pretty obvious: No, medical professionals get to make their own decisions when they’re off-duty. But the authors of a study just published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery seemed to disagree—and their controversial stance about what constitutes as professional attire has powered a wave of backlash and #MedBikini posts among healthcare workers on social media.
The study, titled “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons,” analyzed the social media accounts of 480 surgeons to identify “unprofessional” content on their feeds.
The researchers combed through the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts of graduating vascular surgery trainees, about half of which were publicly visible. About a third of the accounts belonged to women, and the remaining two-thirds belonged to men. All social media snooping was performed by three men who created fake accounts to remain undetected.
But medical doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are appalled by the content the authors deem “potentially unprofessional,” including “holding/consuming alcohol” and “inappropriate attire,” which they define as wearing underwear, “provocative” Halloween costumes, and bikinis.
Men can certainly post revealing pictures of themselves, but many read these lines as a jab at women. “Unprofessional social media content not only reflects poorly on the individual, but also the medical profession as a whole,” the authors concluded.
Now, Twitter and Instagram are flooded with posts tagged #MedBikini, which feature frontline workers in bikinis and other so-called “provocative” clothing. In the posts, women called out the blatant sexism of the study.
Misogyny is medieval. Do I have to wear my white coat at all times to deserve the title of "professional"?
Fun, sexy, smart & hard-working can exist in the same space. I can wear swimwear to the beach in my free time & be a competent & compassionate physician at work. #medbikini pic.twitter.com/bWC4tSEVTR
— Vera Bajarias, MD (@invinovera) July 24, 2020
“We can wear WHATEVER we want on our free time, and still save your life,” Dr. Candice Myhre, an emergency medicine doctor, wrote on Instagram. In the graphic photos, she is seen performing lifesaving first aid on a beach in a bikini. “Sexism in medicine is alive and well. But we won’t let that stop us.”
“I am a woman in medicine who loves to travel to tropical locations and dress accordingly,” one woman wrote on Twitter. “This does not make me unprofessional or less intelligent or compassionate compared to my male colleagues.”
I am a woman in medicine who loves to travel to tropical locations and dress accordingly. I will not wear my white coat and scrubs to Hawaii. This does not make me unprofessional or less intelligent or compassionate compared to my male colleagues. #medbikini #girlmedtwitter pic.twitter.com/RmCQBnUme6
— s⁷ (@stephlococcus) July 23, 2020
“I’ve always been unapologetic about wearing a bikini and I’m happy other female doctors are now being unapologetic, too,” Dr. Allyssa Knowles wrote on Instagram. “I could never understand the notion that being ‘sexy’ discredits your intelligence or capabilities as a physician. Believe me when I say, my skills in the operating room are just as dope as my bikini/beach pics.”
Other healthcare workers are pointing out the ridiculous guidelines around off-duty dressing by wearing full scrubs (and flip-flops) on inner tubes. Even some men are showing solidarity with their colleagues by getting in on the trend.
Made sure to wear appropriate attire while relaxing with my coresident this weekend. As doctors, it’s important to uphold professionalism always, both at work and during our personal time #MedBikini pic.twitter.com/JyTlLremZ9
— Savvy MD (@thesavvymd) July 27, 2020
Did some research as an #inappropriatescientist the other day and can confirm that my ability to do #science did not evaporate through my #bikini.
Professionals are made by qualifications and experience not clothing.#bikinimed #MedBikini #phdchat https://t.co/BSMWYBOzmO pic.twitter.com/kAGs0dbPuI
— Alexandra Jebb (@AHMJebb1) July 30, 2020
The Journal of Vascular Surgery has since retracted the study and offered an apology. “We have received an outpouring of constructive commentary on this matter, and we intent to take each point seriously,” the statement read. “The review process failed to identify the errors in the design of the study with regards to conscious and unconscious bias,” adding “we offer an apology to every person who has communicated the sadness, anger, and disappointment caused by this article.”
Let’s hope this mistake serves as a necessary reminder that our healthcare heroes are real people, too. We’ll leave you with this thought from Dr. Lauren Powell on Instagram: “I’m glad the ‘research’ was retracted, but people please, let’s use our time and resources on things that serve our patients, our communities, and support our colleagues.”
There are so many things to be said about this article/research/study.... . . . But I think the thing that bothers me the most, is the actual thought that a group of doctors believed that this was a valuable way to spend their time and resources. Listen, I know we have the free right to chose our own personal medical interest, but black women are still disproportionately dying in child birth, black men are still disproportionately dying of heart disease. Minorities are two times more likely to face food insecurity. Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer, even though their incidence is not significantly greater than that of white women. There are communities in America still without clean water. I can’t get covid testing for some of my patients depending on the community they live in. And oh yea...Breonna Taylor’s killers are still chillin. I’m glad the “research” was retracted, but people please, let’s use our time and resources on things that serve our patients, our communities, and support our colleagues. #medbikini
A post shared by Dr. Lauren Powell (@drlaurenpowell) on Jul 25, 2020 at 9:06am PDT
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