Doctors and Nurses Are Posting #MedBikini Photos to Protest a Sexist, Body-Shaming Study


#MedBikini is an empowering new movement that’s inviting women across the medical field to post photos of themselves in swimsuits. Why? Paired with informative captions, these posts are reminding us that yes, your doctor has a life outside of the office, and that’s perfectly OK.

Seems self-evident, but apparently it wasn’t for the authors of an article that recently hit social media. Originally published in December 2019 in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, the article was titled “Prevalence of unprofessional social media content among young vascular surgeons.” The goal: to “evaluate the extent of unprofessional social media content among recent vascular surgery fellows and residents.” The study was conducted using so-called neutral (aka fake) accounts to dig into the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles of the fellows and residents, looking for anything they deemed “inappropriate.” This included any kind of “controversial” political and religious comments, and photos with alcohol or “provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”

Women in the medical community swiftly took to social media to protest the sexism they detected in the study and its narrow definition of professionalism. In speaking to 13 of the many women who took part in the movement, we heard that the immediate response to the study was often shock, followed by outrage and disappointment, and then a determination to join together and speak out. “Me posing in a bikini on Sunday does not dictate the quality of care you will receive from me on Monday,” said Nicole Sparks, MD, an ob-gyn in Atlanta. Added Risa Hoshino, MD, a pediatrician in New York, “[Women] have been body-shamed by men (and other women) all our lives and now a well-respected journal has validated our shame.”

“I shared my photo in solidarity with all of the women in medicine who have been told to not be too nice but also not aggressive; not be too well-dressed but not look like a slob; not act like a know-it-all but not admit uncertainty; not act too perfect but never admit that you need help,” said Yang Yang, MD, a vascular surgery resident.

And their voices made a difference: the article has since been retracted with an apology from the journal. (One of the authors also reportedly posted an apology to Twitter, though his account has since been deleted.)

Ahead, see the protest posts from 13 of the fierce female doctors and nurses who made this happen, and hear in their words why they decided to take part in the movement and where they hope it goes from here.

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