This morning, I found an article on my Facebook feed from Buzzfeed. I own up to reading online magazines and pop sites and generally I enjoy humor and news and occasionally combined but this article really, really bothered. me.
It’s an article about doctors sharing anecdotes about the “dumbest patients” they’ve ever treated.
Here’s the link if you want to add to their click rates for the day, or if you want to read the article without giving them any additional revenue, click here on the Do Not Link site.
The article is mostly stock photos of doctors looking bemused posed beside the quoted “dumb” situations. Most of the situations have to do with sex, such as:
- Not understanding how the Nuva Ring works
- Not knowing that it takes penetrative intercourse to get pregnant
- Not understanding particular vocabulary regarding how to take medicines
- Not knowing how STDs are passed or proper use of condoms
- Feeding an infant coffee instead of formula
All of the patient’s concerns are heartbreaking and leave them extremely vulnerable to disease, unintended pregnancy, and more, and I’m ashamed that they were used for click-bait fodder.
Instead of mocking people’s ignorance on the internet, perhaps we should all be pushing for more comprehensive education about our bodies?
These people came to their doctors because they didn’t know what was going on with their bodies, with their sexual needs, with their health. Some people don’t even have access to doctors (or are too embarrassed to ask), but post on places like Yahoo Answers. They ask questions that may seem ridiculous to all us supposedly well educated and extremely privileged folks, but it’s a huge sign that people aren’t being taught about how their bodies work all over our country.
Perhaps on the surface it seems laughable, like an article just for kicks, but at my age now, and having worked in and around sexual human rights issues for so long, it kills me to see a) how lacking our basic knowledge is throughout our country and b) how mean people are when people are vulnerable.
Right now though we don’t live in a culture where a straightforward article about the systems behind these “dumb patients” are examined (at least not on pop internet sites), we live in a click bait world. It’s callous and it doesn’t offer any real solution to the problem. No where does the article share how the doctors dealt with the situation, just leaves the anecdotes for shits and giggles.
The Buzzfeed article pulled the anecdotes from a subReddit, just as an FYI. I don’t really recommend visiting. I sympathize with the need to vent, because I imagine that doctors and nurses see so much that they can only triage in terms of information and education, but to share it like this? It amplifies the venting into mockery and makes the rest of us think that’s ok.
What are the solutions, that’s what I want to know? How do we get more education into schools, to parents, to adults? How do we treat honest and vulnerable questions as a sign of curiosity and desire for better health instead of “dumb” questions to laugh at? And how do we shift a culture that seems to nearly bathe in snark into one that honestly enjoys earnest community?
I talk about BedPost Confessions a lot, I know. It’s kind of my offering as an answer to some of those questions. We, my co-producers and I, focus on adults and combine education and ethics inside of a framework of entertainment. We select pieces that are amazing, sexy, and well crafted of course, but we look for humanity and vulnerability in our submissions first and foremost. We take confessions from the audience but we don’t read ones that are illegal or cruel (and we get some cruel mocking ones). If the confession is filled with confusion? We try to answer the question. We honor where everyone is at in terms of needing education. We want the space to feel as secure and warm as possible, knowing that people may feel that they are taking a risk coming to the show. It’s not about “safe” necessarily, but it is about kind and loving, open to vulnerability and learning, at least I hope it is.
We work with a number of sex educators as well, all of whom have had their work cut out for them in the school systems. We offer space to community groups to come and table to share advocacy around sexual rights, and we work with adult stores who offer real educational experiences along with their wonderful wares.
I get it. Snark feels good. It’s easy. Those anecdotes or answers we find on Yahoo are low-hanging fruit for comedy. But that’s not good enough for me. That doesn’t, in my opinion, further real cultural change towards health, pleasure, and wellness. And it makes me mad. Snark may mean that people just don’t see any real hope? I think there is real hope. I’ve talked to enough people after our show, or through groups like Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance to know that real lives are changed when people open up and share in community with empathy and with courage. It is amazing stuff and guess what? There’s humor there, too. Our show is funny, or so I’ve been told.
It just doesn’t wind up hurting people, even if they are just anonymous folks on the internet or the audience. And if it does? I want to know about it.
We need more education, that much is clear. Can’t we do it without continuing a cycle that shames?