An open letter from our Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Anupuma Verma, to FIGS.
Last week we in the medical field were all shaken up by some ads run by FIGS, a company that sells expensive scrubs and medical apparel. They depicted a young female physician in bright pink scrubs holding a book titled “Medical Terminology for Dummies,” upside down. The camera also zoomed in to focus on the model’s curves and the name badge attached to her scrubs and the book mentioned above.
It touched a sensitive nerve as even today, many women physicians are paid seventy cents to a dollar compared to men. Many women doctors are also not given the credibility and leadership positions they often deserve.
The name badge hanging off the waistline also depicted a DO or doctor of osteopathy and only made matters worse, suggesting that they are less than MDs.
When, in fact, they undergo very similar and rigorous training to get their degree and are also required to complete a residency program just like their MD counterparts.
At the same time, the very next day, Figs portrayed a male nurse in a similar situation wearing their brand of scrubs, holding the same book upside down again.
The issue is that this did not seem to be a genuine mistake but a series of infractions. The half-hearted apology that followed only added insult to injury. Why is this still happening in 2020?
Depictions like these continue to fuel misogyny, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and denigration of our medical degrees. These advertisements on social media and elsewhere also add to the distrust of physicians and medical professionals at a time when we are already living in a disheartening political and cultural environment in the midst of an overwhelming pandemic. Science and doctors are not getting the value and respect they deserve, male or female, DOs or MDs. Women physicians are also at the frontlines battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and this kind of advertising completely trivializes their service.
No one should tolerate these derogatory and misogynistic ads, and the furor that followed from the medical community is wholly justified. Fortunately, the entire physician community came together in support of women physicians and DOs. A campaign even started on Twitter with women physicians holding medical books that they co-authored.
Women doctors, the primary purveyors of the Figs brand, are cutting out the Figs logo and tags from their scrubs. Many are returning their newly ordered scrubs or saying that they will never purchase from Figs again.
FIGS, you can do much better than this! You have created the damage, and though you ultimately will be forgiven, the ramifications of those utterly uncalled for videos will be much harder to erase.
Dr. Anupama Verma is the Editor-in-Chief of the Women in White Coats blog and a CoAuthor of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats 2. She is a nephrologist who has been practicing for more than fifteen years and has lived on four continents. She can be followed on instagram and Twitter @anuvmd. To hear more in-depth discussion on this topic listen to this podcast episode.