Have you heard? Dr Chris Brown is stepping down from the Bondi Vet. The producers are asking pet owners to nominate their favourite vet for his replacement. What a great opportunity for you to do something about what I see as a great problem.
So here we are, in possibly the most female dominated of all the professions, yet all the major celebrity vets are male. Why?
Ever since the days of James Herriot, the friendly vet on evening TV has been a big part of our lives. It’s so easy to slip back into this comfortable format each time a new show is planned. It’s probably not even a conscious decision.
Quite possibly, television executives are nervous about changing the format, and wonder if the public really want that change. These shows are highly successful, and generate substantial product endorsement for the actors involved. Let’s face it, some of these vets (so I’m told) are quite attractive too.
We all think we don’t do it, but I think deep down it’s so tightly ingrained it’s hard to spot. You probably have been caught out by this riddle like I was the first time I heard it.
A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The surgeon comes in and exclaims “I can’t operate on this boy.”
“Why not?” the nurse asks.
“Because he’s my son,” the surgeon responds.
How is this possible? (Answer at end)
TV probably throws back at us what we expect society is, rather than what it really is.
Why It Matters
This year’s graduating class at the Adelaide University veterinary school is 85% female. It’s been this way for a long time now; the profession attracts many more bright young women than men. These women graduate into a workforce that is also predominantly female.
If you go to a vet at random today in the Western world, you are far more likely to see a female than a male. That’s also true in my clinic.
The problem is that the media keep showing us images of vets as males, and don’t represent the true diversity of the profession. This could be creating a false expectation in the mind of many pet owners. If the media image doesn’t match the reality it can’t be good for the vet involved.
That’s not all. The lack of prominent successful female vets in the media can only hurt young girls’ expectations of what they can achieve.
What Can You Do?
We have a golden opportunity. Think about your favourite vet, but do ask her first if she would be comfortable being nominated.
Then go to The Bondi Vet page by clicking the link and nominate her. Then let’s watch what they do with all the names.
Yes, I am only too aware of the irony of myself as a male vet in the media. However, I also feel that the television and radio interviews I’ve done in the past have been as much because of my gender as my skills. This is my atonement.
Yes, there are several excellent female vets on TV such as Katrina Warren and Jonica Newby but they don’t get the limelight in the same way. Dear God, please not let it be said that I’m criticising the excellent male veterinary celebrities and professionals we have around us. It’s not their fault they are chosen, and they do a great job for animals and the profession. It’s just that it’s time for a change. A real one. And yes, that surgeon in the riddle was female, but you’ve already guessed it.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Image at top: Eva Rinaldi [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons