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How Facebook is Changing the Game

By Editorial Staff

July 6, 2010

For this Friday’s Healthstyles radio show on WBAI 99.5 FM, Intern Maddie Neufeld produced a piece about Facebook that explores some of the ways that this social networking site has affected communication & representation amongst her peers & digs deeper into the significance of the profile picture & wall post to find out what this information generation is really trying to say.

Editorial Staff

Reality nursing: “Boston Med” and representation

By Editorial Staff

July 1, 2010

Mainstream media and culture have never been too kind to nurses. Instead of appearing as the competent multi-tasking superwomen (or men) they are, they’re portrayed as anything but. The most common trope: women nurses as sexy-naughty fantasies (see Kate Beckinsale in “Pearl Harbor” or this TAG body spray ad). One British study found nurses top men’s sexual fantasy list. The Center for Nursing Advocacy suggests this may be based in our gender norms and constructs in which men idealize women offering “care-taking or service — a classic dominant-submissive division.” On America’s favorite fantasy holiday, Halloween, stores brim with skimpy nurse costumes. Lingerie brand Frederick’s of Hollywood now plans to propogate and profit from the fantasy year-round.

If not playing sexy, nurses are simply invisible — few nurses ever cross the set on Grey’s Anatomy and House. Both shows worship surgeons and other doctors, ignoring the critical routine work performed not by doctors but by nurses, such as drawing blood, checking blood pressure, taking temperature and clearing away food. Why be a nurse? Doctors are the real star.

No surprise then that nursing community is abuzz over a new reality show, “Boston Med.” Nurses appear as complex, thoughtful, real characters. Writes The New York Times:

“Among the health professionals it is the nurses to whom we are drawn most. The doctors are too often presented as stock characters — the cocky male cardiothoracic surgeon with the ‘Bachelor’ nickname; the overworked Southern OB-GYN named Rachel who keeps telling us how committed she is to her career and how her doting boyfriend, Jeff, should just dump her. The nurses must constantly endure the self-certainty of young residents who are entirely new to the world of the hospital.”

It echoes the experience of another new popular, albeit more controversial, show: Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, which debuted last year. It features a realistic, super-smart nurse protagonist (Edie Falco) who struggles with addiction, has an affair with a pharmacist and manages the wacky politics of an urban hospital. Some members of the medical community, including the New York State Nurses Association, disprove of her potrayal. Others praise the show, arguing that while Jackie is flawed, those flaws create a complex, more realistic representation of nurses and their hard work, including their struggle to balance their professional and personal lives — much like the rest of us. Writes Suzanne Gordon in The Atlantic:

Nurse Jackie finds a way to catalogue every major problem afflicting nurses, while skillfully illuminating common ethical dilemmas and public policy questions involving end-of-life care, assisted suicide, and organ transplant donation. The series depicts workplace violence against nurses, disrespect from doctors, the breakdown of MD-RN communication that puts patients at risk, plus the forced overtime, understaffing, job stress and occupational hazards that drive so many RNs to burn-out, drop out, gain weight, or even self-medicate.”

While television rarely portrays any major industry with loads of accuracy, Boston Med and Nurse Jackie offer at least some relief to those looking for insight to a vocation full of hard work, stress and scrubs, far from subservient-sexy or invisible.

Editorial Staff

Review of REDLIGHT

By Editorial Staff

June 29, 2010

Last week Barbara Glickstein and I attended the premiere of Redlighta film that depicts  the destructive nature of sex  trafficking in Cambodia and the strength of several young individuals who have or are in the process of moving beyond their traumatic experiences. This beautifully shot and well-produced film introduces its viewers to a number of girls and boys who tell us their stories as survivors of sex trafficking. Through these characters we learn about the harshness of the sex trade and gain insight into the trauma of being abducted or sold into the brothels of Cambodia and the difficulties of acclimating back to life outside the brothel.

The film neatly and effectively provides a framework for these girls and boys to communicate their disturbing experiences to a wide audience. Though it does feel quite staged at times, it provides a platform from which the abused youth can speak their truths. These highly impacting narratives are sure to grab attention and invite empathy from all kinds of viewers, especially those who have not had much informational exposure to sex trafficking. It humanizes the issue by depicting it through the voices of the survivors and activists, thereby allowing people, of all levels of awareness on this issue, glances into the world of sex trafficking in Cambodia and encourages them to relate to the survivors on a human level.

This documentary hints that the real change comes from within the afflicted communities. One of the superstars of the film, an assiduous campaigner for the human rights of victims and survivors of sex trafficking, Somaly Mam, who was herself forced into prostitution at a young age, so bravely advocates for an end to human trafficking and more rehabilitational resources for the survivors. Her impressive activism on this issue highlights the need for change to sprout from the individuals and communities who are affected by them. This empowering and inspiring vision of change is also somewhat problematic in that it places a great burden on the oppressed themselves, requiring victims to not only become survivors but activists as well. This is why policy should focus on partnering with existing local efforts in order to maximize both of their effects.

At the Q & A one man asked if the producers had sent Obama a copy of the film. After a few chuckles from the audience, Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, jumped in to suggest that as great as it would be to affect change on a national level, it is at the state level where important legislation can be passed, and policymakers can be made aware of the issue at hand. I wonder if the emotive impact of this film is enough to convince policymakers to legislatively address the issue? Perhaps this film can be seen as opening the door to policy change, by inviting those of all levels of knowledge on the issue access to the powerful stories of the afflicted. However, it doesn’t ensure entry through the door, only a glimpse to the inside.

Maddie Neufeld, CHMP Intern

Editorial Staff