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This Is Going To Hurt: Is the hit BBC drama sexist?

While she encourages the need for representation of birth on screen – ”these tragic events could have been a step forward for improving awareness” – she believes that the “lack of warning has the potential to cause huge harm to people who have both been through the system already, and for those currently pregnant who weren’t advised to avoid the imagery.”

Then there’s the way women in general are depicted on screen. I couldn’t help but notice while watching the show how much women were reduced to their parts: “Same shit, different vagina” is one line. Another scene shows a series of close-ups of women’s pregnant stomachs, their faces and the rest of their bodies out of view. It’s inherently dehumanising – and likely contributes to Janice Turner’s reasoning that women are depicted as “slabs of meat” in the series. But whether this is a sexist depiction, or simply an insight into the perspective of an NHS worker driven by the pressure of the job to treat his or her patients with detachment – that’s up for debate.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/02/2022 – Programme Name: This Is Going To Hurt – TX: n/a – Episode: This Is Going To Hurt – Ep 1 (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: Agnieska (AGATA JAROSZ), Supporting Artists – (C) Sister – Photographer: Anika MolnarAnika Molnar

As for the main characters, the dynamic between Shruti and Adam can be uncomfortable to watch: Adam is, in Ambika’s words in her GLAMOUR interview, a “d*ck” to her character at times, and unwittingly proves unsupportive at the most crucial of times, as she is on a tragic trajectory. But it seems this is more a reflection of prevalent toxic hierarchy; the same one which sees Dr Lockhart telling Adam “it’s not professional… shit happens” when he asks to go to a patient’s funeral. And if sexism is behind the way Shruti is overlooked, at times, by Dr Lockhart – it’s not the only form of discrimination featured in the show, which also portrays racism and homophobia.

However, Dr Vandermolen perceives sexism in what the show lacks in terms of gender representation: “I would also have preferred to hear more of the women’s stories, and to hear kinder, more compassionate discussion between the consultants and patients.” And, Shruti and midwife Tracy aside, there does seem to be an unnecessary number of parodied female characters, like the woman who gives her own age in weeks – rather than her baby’s – when asked “How many weeks are you?”, or another who has a Kinder egg removed from her vagina. And while humour is clearly a coping mechanism for Adam, there’s a danger of internalising his dry, scathing comedy that is all-too-often aimed at his patients (for instance, in the opening scene he jokes open performing a caesarean on a patient in the car park “I’ve got a scalpel in my back pocket”.

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