I'll have a blue Christmas without you (making my doctor's appointments for me)

Holiday gift shopping is tough. I mean, if commercials have taught us anything, it’s that women reeeally care about getting presents (especially pricey ones) and if you get a woman a gift she doesn’t like she’ll probably never speak to you again. What can I say? I guess we’re ridiculously materialistic and shallow. So materialistic and shallow, in fact, that we can’t be bothered to make our own doctor’s appointments. (I guess we just care about shopping more?) That’s why, this holiday season, what the women in your life really want is for you to make them an appointment to get a pap smear or a mammogram:

Oh, and it doesn’t stop there, folks. The makers of that video, CBS Cares didn’t want to leave the Hannukah fans out of their special holiday push to get men to schedule women’s doctor’s appointments for them. Behold, the festival of lights:

Do you recognize that guy? Not has he rendered you unable to stomach a bagel ever again (nice shmear joke, dude), he also played the gynecologist in Teeth. You know, the movie where he gets his fingers bitten off by a vagina filled with sharp fangs because he tries to molest one of his patients. Now there’s a PSA for you.

CBS is not the only organization that cares enough about women’s health to target men with their message instead. The Noreen Fraser Foundation’s Men for Women Now campaign features male celebrities talking about why men need to convince women go to the darned doctor already:

Ohhh … See, it’s in men’s best interest to help us women with early cancer detection because they love boobs! BOOBS! BOOBS! The creepiness doesn’t stop there, unfortunately. Why? Because Bob Saget is in the house:

Ladies, haven’t you always wanted Bob Saget to sexually assault you and serve you pap-smeared sloppy joes? (Trick question: Of course you have.)

So what’s up with these campaigns? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for spreading the word about women’s health, and that includes letting men know about the importance of regular pap smears and mammograms. But why the focus on men making the appointments for women? And why make it sound like men are doing us a creepy favor (even giving us a holiday gift) by making doctor’s appointments for us?

My guess is that most of the hearts involved in these campaigns are in the right place, but these organizations are infantilizing women and suggesting to men that we can’t deal with our own health care. Leaving the creepiness of boob and sloppy joe jokes aside, these campaigns still leave us with the message that not only do we women not want to handle our own health business, we want men to do it for us. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly don’t want my brother wrapping a Planned Parenthood appointment slip for me under the Christmas tree (I asked for a ukelele, not a pap smear, thank you very much).

Can you imagine a campaign like this that reversed the genders? What if the Noreen Fraser Foundation launched a series of PSAs of female celebrities telling us to save men’s balls by getting them a prostate exam for the holidays? (The Christmas ball jokes are writing themselves here, but the idea is still creepy and wrong.) Can you imagine someone like Blake Lively or Rutina Wesley telling women to surprise the special men in their lives with a colonoscopy or a testicular exam? “It’s cool, dudes. Jessica Alba is just going to come to your door and do a prostate exam, and then you can all eat chili dogs together. Trust us women with your sexual health, because you clearly can’t handle it alone.” It’d be weird, right?

So this holiday season, tell the men in your life that you’ll be making your own doctor’s appointments, and they can get you something you really want instead. Like a time machine, so that you can travel back to a time when you didn’t have the mental image of Bob Saget filling your vagina with sloppy joes burned into your brain.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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4 Comments Have Been Posted

Men for Men Campaign

Kelsey, you're hilarious and so spot on. What the heck? Obviously this is a campaign to sensitize men to women's health issues, but why this can't be about talking about women's health with a woman you love rather than scheduling a test none of these guys seems to know anything about, I don't really understand. And I cannot get over the boobs, boobs, boobs angle because it isn't just "a question of life and breast," it is actually often enough a question of life and death.

The opposite approach

Here in Australia we don't get these lovely examples of apparent female incompetance but that hypothetical prostate test ad you mentioned actually exists.

A group of local hospitals, charities and the university got together to fund a campaign entitled 'Get a little prick' (because emasculating men is clearly the best method of improving their health) that aimed to get the wives of over-50s men to get their husbands to get a PSA test. The tv ads featured only women saying "I told my husband to get a little prick" while the print ads featured the 'husbands' and the text "My wife made me get a little prick". I havent been able to find a copy of the ad on youtube but it was comedic, it was popular and (in the short term at least), it was effective - test rates for men over 50 increased by 250%. The premise was that women are more likely to go to the doctor since the old adage "women get sick, men die" statistically still rings true (in Australia). It will be interesting to see how effective this campaign is in the USA even though differences in the system (i.e. free healthcare for all Australian citizens) will make comparisons difficult.

I'm not sure if this indicates a divide in attitude between the USA and Australia or if it reflects the healthcare system infantilising the public generally, neither is an attractive option. Speaking as a nurse, while fear and bullying may create spikes in compliance it is only through empowerment that long term changes in health behaviour occur (for both men and women). I tend to think that in the long run, these types of campaigns do more harm than good by encouraging individuals to shift the responsibility of their health onto others. There is a lot of glib talk about 'empowering the individual in healthcare', it would be nice to see some action to back it up.

Bob Saget's PSA plays like a spoof.

Kevin Connolly's is predictably juvenile (ZOMG BOOBS!!!1!), but Saget's is downright creepy, much like his stand-up act. Seriously, I can't believe the NFF green-lit it.

The point of this campaign.

The idea that this campaign suggest that women can't handle their own health care is ridiculous. The fact is that not only can women handle the responsibility of their own health care but they usually handle the responsibility for their husbands and children as well.

The fact is, men are far worse at responding to and keeping updated with current information on these topics when it comes to their own health, much less the health and wellness of the women they love.

Getting men engaged in this campaign is exactly the right thing to do. Women are already engaged! Of course more women need to be educated on the topic and we can all do more to build on the momentum that exists, but the next big step is to target men and make them active parts in the health and wellness of the women in their lives. Just as the women so often play a major role in the health and wellness of their men.

And by the way, humour is still an excellent method of advertising and and making boob jokes is likely the very best way to get men's attention.

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