On December 14, 2012, Sunnybrook Hospital uploaded a Gangnam Style “hospital parody” video by University of Toronto obstetrics residents on the hospital’s official Youtube Channel. Some people found this video highly offensive and considered its endorsement by Sunnybrook Hospital and its indirect endorsement by the University of Toronto’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology disrespectful towards birthing women, babies, and the birth process in general.
On December 17, Humanize Birth began a letter writing campaign to protest against this video and its endorsement by Sunnybrook Hospital and to seek a public apology from Sunnybrook Hospital and the University of Toronto’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
On December 19, writing in a personal response to one of the letters of complaints, the Presidents of the University of Toronto, David Naylor responded with understanding: “I took a look at the first bit of the video and immediately understood your concern about its tone and content. I have flagged the matter for the Dean of Medicine and President of Sunnyrbook.” We thank the president, who is a medical doctor himself, for this prompt and thoughtful response and for taking immediate action.
Later on that day Sunnybrook Hospital made the video private and posted on their public facebook page: “The University of Toronto requested that we make the video private. Out of respect for our OB/GYNE residents, who are U of T students (and whom we adore!), we have complied with the university’s request.”
On December 21 (and then again on December 22), the video was re-posted on a different YouTube location. It can currently be viewed here.
We are glad the video was removed from Sunnybrook Hospital’s official YouTube channel. We are also glad that the video has now been re-posted on a different youtube location, unaffiliated with any hospital where women give birth or with any university. It is important for everyone to have online access to this video so that they can decide for themselves whether they are offended by it or not, and so that those who are wondering what some people find offensive can have a reference point for the discussions about this video.
Humanize Birth and the We Demand an Apology campaign, which has now grown beyond Humanize Birth, have been accused of trying to censor the internet. Thankfully, no one can censor the internet currently and we certainly hope that no one ever will. By initiating this campaign, Humanize Birth intended to draw attention to this video and raise awareness of its negative implications for how hospital staff and physicians view the birth process.
Before we began this campaign, this video was viewed mostly by medical staff, obstetricians, residents, nurses and other hospital employees. Now it has gone viral and we are delighted to see that. A lot of people are thinking about it. Many people found it in poor taste but not necessarily offensive and they are wondering why it was offensive to some. A lot of people are also wondering: why did a hospital delivering 4000 babies annually endorse such a video by posting it on its official channel and displaying many congratulatory comments towards those who created it? Does that encourage physicians and hospital staff to view birth in the way this video does?
What makes this video offensive is the way it dehumanizes women, babies, and birth in general. For example, in one scene an obstetrician catches a baby like a football as it flies across the delivery room. This dehumanization may be what makes the video funny to some people, but it is also deeply offensive to others who can see the harm that can come from it. By posting this video on its official channel, the Hospital is giving the message to its employees and doctors that it is okay to dehumanize birth in this way. By posting all their congratulatory comments on the video’s page and on Sunnybrook’s facebook page, members of other hospitals and obstetric units are giving everyone the message that this dehumanization is is acceptable, and in fact, desirable.
Such dehumanization is not only unacceptable; it can sometimes lead to what has become known as “obstetric violence” (see also the Revolution of Roses), which in turn can cause a devastating and unnecessary trauma to the mother and her entire family. (The read some of the stories from women who have been through obstetric violence, see our facebook page: Without My Consent: A Message From Birthing Women).
The two main goals of our campaign right now are to raise awareness of the need for:
1) Sunnybrook Hospital to acknowledge publicly (i.e., by a statement on their webpage and facebook page) that the posting of this video on their official youtube channel was inappropriate
2) Sunnybrook Hospital and the University of Toronto’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology to acknowledge publicly that the attitudes portrayed in this video are disrespectful to birthing women, babies, and the birth process in general, and to issue a public apology to those who were offended.
If you want to join our campaign, send an email to the following officials at University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Hospital:
The President and CEO of Sunnybrook Hospital
Jon Dellandrea <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Residency Program Director at U of T’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Donna Steele <email@example.com>
The Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Alan Bocking <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Dean of Medicine at University of Toronto
Catharine Whiteside <email@example.com>
The President of the University of Toronto
David Naylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>