Prudence and Madness


The Desperate Housewives Episode Controversy: The Unpopular Perspective and Some Notes

Notes: I am reposting this because, first of all, somebody trashed my site and I just can’t get the idea out of my head that maybe someone just got too pissed by what I wrote and so took the kid-throwing-tantrums route and got a bit destructive. Also, I want to express my dismay at how some of the discussions (some are still ongoing) have turned ugly, with hateful and hurtful comments thrown to and fro. Yes, we do understand that a lot of people are affected emotionally by this issue and not everybody is telling everyone who felt offended that they shouldn’t be offended. But let’s remember that all of us are free to express our own opinions and these opinions will vary greatly from one another. And in the course of expressing such opinions, it is expected that one will claim one thing as right while the other is wrong. It is perfectly understandable and acceptable. But what we don’t have the right to, perhaps, is to forcibly take away that person’s right to say what he thinks is right or wrong for him or to mob that person just because he doesn’t share the view of the “majority”. So, for those who feel that they ought to sign a petition and protest, then by all means do so. But do not condemn others for not sharing your views and for saying that they don’t think it’s necessary. It’s their opinion and they have the right to say it, as you do have the right to feel offended.

Now for the original article…

* * * * *

Have you seen this circulating in emails?

“Okay, before going further, can I check these diplomas ‘coz I would just like to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”
– Susan Mayer, Desperate Housewives

Wait, before you make a comment or write in your blog that the scriptwriter for the episode, the producers, and even the actress Teri Hatcher are all a bunch of ignorant racists so burn them in hell (oh, don’t you dare misquote me on that), stop for a minute and think again. What did she say again?Okay, rewind to several lines before that aforementioned statement.Susan (Teri Hatcher’s character) went to see a male, Caucasian gynecologist:

MD: Well, everything seems normal. But, you say you’ve been having irregular periods?
Susan: Yeah, you know, one month off, two months on. That happens, right?
MD: Have you ever experienced night sweats? …. (few other lines here)
MD: How about hot flashes?
Susan: OK, whoa. I’m gonna stop you right there. I’m way too young for that, please refer to your chart.
MD: Susan, I know for a lot of women the word menopause has negative connotations. They hear aging, brittle bones, loss of sexual desire…
Susan: Before you go any further, can I check those diplomas? I would just like to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines…

(transcript of the conversation from Dr. Bautista’s blog)

If you’re one of those who may have stopped at reading the statement by Susan in which she demands to see her gynecologist’s diploma because she’s not satisfied with the diagnosis and already made up their mind that the TV show has just insulted Filipino health care professionals and Filipinos in general, let me ask you for some of your time before you sign-up for that petition or go screaming “Boycott Desperate Housewives! Racist Americans!” or something to that effect. I will not try to convince you not to feel insulted, as you are feeling now, because it would be futile to tell one person not to feel something that he’s genuinely feeling. Rather, I’m wishing that you’d listen to what I say, no matter how different it is from your perspective. And still hoping perhaps, from the additional information, you might just change your mind.

If you’re one of those who think that some people have made unnecessary fuss about this issue, then I also wish that you’d continue to read on.

To continue the story, the gynecologist is a Harvard graduate and diagnosed her as being in menopause. However, later, we’d find out that Susan’s actually pregnant, hence the diagnosis was wrong. Moral of the story? Even a Harvard medical school graduate can make a wrong diagnosis. No matter how much we are under the impression that graduating from such schools automatically makes one a good doctor. No conclusion was formed in the episode that Philippine educated doctors is equal incompetency.

Also, I would just like to add that I do agree that what the character, Susan Mayer, said was dumb because it would be rather difficult for anyone, for example, a Philippine medical school graduate to fake his diploma and be able to practice medicine in the U.S. Why? Because in the application process during the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (or USMLE), the applicant is required to submit to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates or ECFMG a copy of their medical diploma and then, in turn, the ECFMG will return this copy of the diploma to be certified by the medical school. The medical school will, then, mail it back to ECFMG, verified that you indeed graduated in the school. An additional measure to prevent falsification of documents is submission of an identification information sheet that is certified by the medical school to ECFMG.

The little statement above from a recent episode of Desperate Housewives, plus the video from Youtube, have spread like wild fire through blog postings and emails and, believe it or not, has prompted Malacañang and several PMA (Philippine Medical Association) doctors to compel the producers of the TV show to apologize to the Filipinos for the “derogatory” remark. The Filipino-American community also started a petition that has been circulating in the health-related and OFW mailing lists. They’re demanding that “the episode be edited to remove the ignorant and racist remark”.And it’s undeniable that the blog postings have been a big part in creating the awareness that there has been a statement like such was made in a certain TV show that some Filipinos watch. Most were hurt, some are annoyed, while some did not feel insulted at all. There are those also who’re calling for a boycott of the show (although at this point, I don’t know if there really is an organized movement out there to really pursue a boycott that could be reminiscent of the Malu Fernandez Controversy).

But if there will be another call for a boycott (aren’t we getting tired of these?), I definitely would not be in it. First of all, I’m a doctor and I didn’t feel insulted by the remark at all. Nor did I think that they’re taking a shot at Filipino doctors and other healthcare practitioners. How can anyone take seriously such a remark coming from a ditzy, bitchy character from a TV show?

And to argue that it’s correct that they can absolutely demand that the TV show remove the offending segment, since majority of those who’ve seen the clip got offended, is a democratic fallacy. Even if a majority of the population in a given society holds a particular opinion, it does not necessarily have a bearing on what’s true. Majorities can also be wrong. Just imagine what would happen if a mob institutes a censorship on what is to be written and what is to be shown on TV. If that time comes, I’ll just fervently wish this mob isn’t composed of narrow-minded blobs or else we’ll be left with Teletubbies all day.

As for the government and the PMA getting entangled in this issue, I’d say it’s not necessary. Why don’t they immerse themselves into thinking how we could improve the status of Philippine health care and give better incentives for our health care professionals to stay in the country than whining about a fictional Caucasian female who’s ignorant of Philippine medical schools?

And lastly, why do we have to bother about all of these? To show them that the community of Filipinos here and abroad is a power to reckon with? That we can topple any writer, institution, or TV show that criticize us? That to hurt the pride of the Filipinos is a sin?

I recall this conversation with a friend of mine in Chikka earlier. He said that he find the DH remark annoying. And you want to know why he said that? He said it annoyed him that the character have to pick Philippines. Why can’t it be Cambodia? Malaysia? Thailand? So, I told him, his last statement is actually racist. Then he just laughed and told me it’s because we ought to love our own. But is that correct? Love our own country while we demean others? Be racist to others while we’re angered that others are racist toward us?

Personally, just recalling the number of times my schoolmates had poked fun at how Korean girls dress up in school and how Iranians smell is enough to convince me we’re damn racists ourselves. Only that we don’t like it when the joke’s on us.

Others who blogged about this: (Links that are in bold typeface are my favorite posts about this issue)

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13 Comments so far
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As for the Specialist making a wrong diagnosis, it is not uncommon.

Today, a convicted rapist murderer, accused of strangling and raping his 4 years old niece at the weight of evidence by a very “respected” pathologist of Sick Kids Hospital of Toronto, was Exonerated of the Crime after 8 years in jail and got the Apology from the Crown in behalf of Attorney General of Ontario.

After a review of panel of Pathologists from 4 different countries, Pathologist Charles Smith was found to have made error in 20 cases, 13 of which resulted in Convictions. Now he is under the review of College of Physicians and Surgeons for disciplinary action and 12 more cases are under review while all convicted subjects are out on bail.. You may check this Articles by the Toronto Star.
http://www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/267211
( I also have an entry on this issue some times back and you may check here) http://truenorthandme.blogspot.com/2007/04/something-terrible-happened-here.html

But again this is where I differ in opinion, maybe we are here guided by our laws, that we can not publicly demean any individual or group ( and that includes print, internet, broadcast and any public address) with regards to their nationalities, race, colour, sexual orientation, age, sex, Physical and Mental disability…that is in our Charter and anybody or individual or group feel that they have been injured has the right not only to protest but Sue.

That is why perhaps, with our proximity to the U.S.A you may not have heard anything of that nature, and if you may that their was no action on the part of the injured party.

It is not a matter of sensitivity, but left unchecked a little racial slur here and there, could turn ugly and may cause a lot of social fragmentation..Some may say, that it’s Political Correctness carried to the extreme, but experience and history will remind us, that some world conflicts or most of them started from hatred of one race or group towards other or others.

The U.S. and Canada are both populated by diverse races and people of different cultures. Although much had been done towards eliminating or at least minimizing discrimination, racial prejudices, and inequality in a very diverse society, much are still left to be done. And laws and Governments can not by themselves left to do most of the works but also involvement by all, to always get involved and voice their protest and also their sentiments every time they rightly feel they’ve been slighted or victims of any discrimination…

I also signed the petition, also for the reason that my sister and brother in law are medical practitioners in the U.S. (Nuclear Medicine and Pediatrician). And I also believe that by doing so, the U.S. society as a whole will look at this issue and may someday emulate its northern neighbour in dealing with its diverse cultures. Thank you again and like you, I express my opinion the way I feel it and take all responsibilities for them.

Comment by vic

I’d say your points are valid, however I feel that they fail to take into full consideration the context of the issue. Here is one massively popular show being watched the world over by millions of viewers being fed with racist slurs and dumb comments about us Filipinos, Filipino doctors in particular.

Sure you have to take credit in being civil, rational and intelligent enough to take this issue lightly, like being not too offended and going all berserk calling for boycotts etc.

However, in my humble opinion, you only thought about yourself and since it barely worked you up, people then should do the same and not even “bother” with it. “I’m a doctor and I didn’t feel insulted by the remark at all” you say, but it is good to remember that you’re not the only Filipino doctor in the world. In particular you’re not a doctor working in the United States where Desperate Housewives was produced, shot and aired and is watched by millions of Americans whom because of their ‘worship’ of this show have swallowed the whole hook, line and sinker, and is now carrying a distorted dumb image of Filipino doctors.

I agree that the majority here has turned into a mob. But look again, where is this mob located? The bulk in the United States where they live and work, temporary or not, where they come face to face with Americans who was just fed by their fellow American with a dumb, racist remark about our race and their profession. Do they have the same level of intelligence to see through “morals of the episode” like you do?

“And lastly, why do we have to bother about all of these? To show them that the community of Filipinos here and abroad is a power to reckon with? That we can topple any writer, institution, or TV show that criticize us? That to hurt the pride of the Filipinos is a sin?”

Comment by jhay

Oops, my comment got chopped up. 😛

It’s true that calling for a boycott is way off, and I say a public apology from the actress, the producers, and the writer/s would suffice. But any self-respecting nation would be dumb to just ignore and not bother with this. Any individual who has self-respect, values dignity and the pride of his race to completely ignore this is also dumb for it tolerates this little incident of racism.

The government and the PMA indeed has lots of bigger things to take care of but it is also their mandate and their responsibility to look after the welfare of the Filipino doctors because hey, the devil is in the minor details.

True that a mob has been formed out of this. But look again, where is this mob located? The bulk is in the United States where they live and work, temporary or not, who come face to face with Americans who have just been fed with a dumb, racist view of their profession.

Sure it is true that we too can be racists ourselves, another form of the “pot calling the kettle black” argument which is a fallacy because we don’t do it on natioanal and cable TV with a global viewership which is the context of this issue. We don’t do this in public because we have a sense of “hiya” or “kahihiyan.” But we also have self-respect, dignity and national pride that is why the majority you refer to here has taken such actions, some way off but we must not turn down completely.

Comment by jhay

“However, in my humble opinion, you only thought about yourself and since it barely worked you up, people then should do the same and not even “bother” with it.”

— That is because I’m speaking for myself and do not claim to be speaking for anyone else. In my opinion and if other people share such a view, I think we do not have to bother with it. Honestly, I was kind of shocked that a lot of doctors would feel so offended by it because when I first heard about it I didn’t hear that much from doctors that I know. Those whom I have talked to either just brushed it off or were not happy about it but not to the point that they want to sue the network for it. However, it was premature and after a while there’s this movement that started (the petition and calling for boycott) so I guess a lot of people do not share my view of this.

““I’m a doctor and I didn’t feel insulted by the remark at all” you say, but it is good to remember that you’re not the only Filipino doctor in the world”

— And neither did I make a remark that I embody the views of my colleagues. Again, I speak for myself and I describe myself as a doctor who’s not insulted by something she heard on a fictional show.

“In particular you’re not a doctor working in the United States where Desperate Housewives was produced…”

— And many have already remarked on that. However, if we follow this logic that your opinion is more valid if you’re a doctor working in the U.S. than someone who works in the Philippines, then, my goodness, that also applies to a majority of those who felt offended by this show’s episode! If you follow this logic, then that would make the opinions of many Filipinos who are not doctors and not working in the U.S. less valid than those made by doctors in the U.S. While it may lend more credibility to the opinions of those who’re working in the U.S. because they’re in the environment wherein they receive a lot racist remarks than us here, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those who’re working here cannot have a say about it.

“I agree that the majority here has turned into a mob.”

— I don’t know which mob you are referring to, but when I refer to a “mob”, I mean a certain group of people who would personally attack those who do not share their views. It may be people who were offended or not offended by this show’s episode. However, honestly, I think there are more people from the offended side who’d go up in arms against those they think do not get it. There’s Doctor Anonymous whose Filipino heritage is being questioned, some people saying that he isn’t Filipino enough to be able to understand them. Say he’s raised in the U.S. and working there. But does that make him less of a Filipino? Already a judgment was pronounced and I don’t like that people are using this approach. And for some who’re reacting to being called overly sensitive, I think the more they rattle about how unfair it is being called such, I think the more they’re giving obvious reasons for other people to say that they really are overly sensitive.

“Do they have the same level of intelligence to see through “morals of the episode” like you do?”

— You well know that I cannot answer that. But can we really control what other people think? Do you think that by forcing TV shows to only show episodes that depict the good characteristics of Filipinos could change the way some racist Americans think about Filipinos? I don’t think so. Racists that they are, they’re already resolved to what ideas they have of a Filipino, brown-skinned people living in cardboard houses under bridges. Yes, that is an ignorant view of a race. But should we be responsible for controlling everybody’s view of us, Filipinos? Not all Americans are that dumb to believe a TV show more than what they see in real life. If you believe that a majority of American TV viewers are dumb enough to believe everything a fictional TV show is saying are true, then I think you’ve just made a rather racist remark without you knowing it.

In my opinion, we could be better off working our asses off so we could be the best individuals that we could be so that foreigners will see that their preformed notions of a race on the other side of the globe are wrong.

“But any self-respecting nation would be dumb to just ignore and not bother with this. Any individual who has self-respect, values dignity and the pride of his race to completely ignore this is also dumb for it tolerates this little incident of racism.”

— Then, am I right to surmise that you mean to say that if some people who’re part of a nation would rather ignore and not bother about something they do not think is racism, you think of them as people without self-respect, values, dignity and pride of race? People who’re dumb? Then, if so, I think that would only be indicative that you’re intolerant of differences in views among people of a nation. Some of those who’re not offended do not see those who’re offended as being any less Filipino than they are, but most of those who’re offended seem to think those who weren’t offended are less Filipino than they are. But isn’t that arrogance? To judge a person’s degree of national pride and dignity by his agreement of what the majority of the nation thinks?

“We don’t do this in public because we have a sense of “hiya” or “kahihiyan.””

— Are you quite sure about this? Watch some pinoy movies shown in cable TV. Are you forgetting that some pinoy shows and movies are shown abroad? Oh well, yeah, a thing that must be noted is that these racist remarks we make are usually in Filipino or Taglish, so that renders it less decipherable by foreigners who might hear it but will not understand it. But no, I disagree. We all make such remarks, in private and in public. And did I forget to mention blogs?

For the record, I will tell you why I believe the DH episode did not make a racial slur. The way I read it,

“can I check these diplomas ‘coz I would just like to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”

the statement does not imply that ALL medical schools in the Philippines produce incompetent doctors. If I were to imply that all medical schools in the Philippines produce incompetent doctors, I would have made the character say:

“can I check these diplomas ‘coz I would just like to make sure that they’re not from A med school in the Philippines.”

Did you hear the difference? With the second statement, there’s no doubt that the character is implying that a medical school located in the Philippines will produce incompetent doctors. But by saying “some med school in the Philippines”, one implies that there are those medical schools in the Philippines that can produce such incompetent doctors. While I do not agree that doctors should be categorized as a good or bad doctor based on the school he graduated from because I believe that a great portion of a doctor’s skills and knowledge is more attributable to individual work rather than to the school where he came from, there really are good and not-so-good medical schools here. The statement then is a remark on these not-so-good medical schools located in the Philippines, not necessarily a shot at Filipinos who graduate from these schools but rather a shot at all graduates, Filipino and foreigners alike, of these so-and-so medical schools.

At this point, I have already grown tired of this issue and I think it would be rather useless to further discuss this. People have decided which actions they should take and NOBODY is hindering them from doing it so let them be. For those who choose not to take action, then let them be too. It’s just sad that some discussions will turn ugly. But what I can say? With complicated issues like this, people’s true colors do come out and are glaring.

Comment by Prudence

Now if only the mob would have the same vigor in dealing with Gloria and her gang. If there is anything good that came out of this, its the Filipinos sense of pride. Proud Pinoy ika nga. Keep writing your thoughts then we can see the bigger picture.

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