#Medbikini: Doctors Hit Back at Sexist Study

Doctors around the world are posting selfies in their swimmers in response to a December 2019 study in the Journal of Vascular Surgery unearthed on Friday by Medpage Today. The study surveyed recent graduates’ social media profiles for “unprofessional” or “potentially unprofessional” content, and the latter category included – you guessed it – “provocative posing in bikinis/swimwear.”

Let’s put to one side the fact that unprofessional content also included not only “consuming alcohol,” but also “social and political commitments” such as having an opinion about “abortion and gun control.” Apparently we are supposed to believe that surgeon-übermensch do not partake of such petty concerns.

But that aside, how you does one decide, in a scientific study, what constitutes “provocative posing” in a bikini, or, also of concern for the study authors, “provocative Halloween costumes”? Well, it’s simple, really.

You deidentify the dataset then apply the Fisher exact test for a correlative statistical significance of P value <.05 to the ratings made by three males between the ages of 28 and 37. Then you plug it into a study framework that assumes that anything “potentially” provocative to these three males counts as “potentially unprofessional” conduct on the part of the person on the receiving end of their labelling.

It’s hard to imagine a more exemplary case of centering the male gaze as if it were the neutral, objective standard, all wrapped up in technical language and validated by a prestigious journal. Indeed, the study was based on a 2014 study in the Journal of Surgical Education and a 2017 study in the British Journal of Urology.

Sandra Harding and Dorothy Smith are going to need a very unprofessional drink if they stumble upon this whole mess.

Of course, the entire study was couched in qualifiers. Social media profiles “may affect patient choice” and have “the potential to affect professional reputation.”

Like prisoner’s dilemmas players who immediately stab the other person in the back, the study authors used that classic excuse of the soft bigot: “I don’t necessarily have a problem with female doctors drinking alcohol at the beach, but it could be perceived as provocative…”

We’re in the same territory as the Bondi café manager who fired a black barista because “the locals here are a bit racist.” Yes, yes. It’s not that I have a problem with you based on the colour of your skin, but it could potentially be perceived as a problem… 

It’s a shame to have to quote George W. Bush Jr., but some things really are so basic that you’re either with us or you’re against us. Do. The. Right. Thing. Yes, there are still Neanderthals walking amongst us, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to act like one. You don’t use gendered double standards to undermine women’s professional credibility. Punto.