Are Bloggers Exploited? Well, that Depends®.

by Chloe Jeffreys · 32 comments

in Blogging, Favorites

HuffPo-Live-Urinary-IncontinenceA few weeks ago  I was contacted by Dr. Phil’s people. According to the person who contacted me they were shopping me to see if I’d be a good candidate for an upcoming show about female urinary incontinence.

Not that I’m biased or anything, but I know I would be a great guest on this topic. I’m an RN who has worked in women’s healthcare for over 20 years; I’ve personally struggled with the problem; I’ve done a shit ton of research about it; and I’ve subjected myself to several of the various available treatment options (medication, physical therapy, hormone replacement therapy, and ultimately surgery) in my efforts to alleviate my own urinary incontinence problems.

Call me. Maybe?

But despite allowing myself to go through an extensive interview process that included an invasive questionnaire about my personal life, including my mental health history–up to and including the name of my physician and my prescribed dosage of Wellbutrin–and what the fuck my Wellbutrin dosage has to do with female bladder issues I have no idea–I didn’t hear anything back. Then I got a call from The Doctors about appearing on their show for the same topic. Again, nothing came of it, but I was flattered to be noticed.

Bloggers are always flattered to be noticed which is why we’re so damned easy to exploit. We’re all but lying here with our metaphorical legs spread apart begging for it. It’s so hard not to because if you don’t let them use you then they’ll use someone else, and YOU’LL MISS OUT.

Use Me. I’m Yours.

Then HuffPo Live contacted me to come on and talk about bladder leakage. Well, getting on HuffPo Live after being passed over by Dr. Phil is like being asked to the prom by the guy from band who wears headgear instead of the football captain, but at least somebody is asking you to dance. Right?

In my invitation, I was told I’d be a guest with Sheryl Underwood. Now, truth be told, I don’t watch The View or The Talk, so the name Sheryl Underwood didn’t register. In fact, here’s how stupid I am, I thought she was a doctor because the last time I was on HuffPo Live talking about a health problem (Seasonal Affective Disorder) I was on with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the doctor who first described S.A.D. and pioneered the use of light therapy to treat it. I figured it was something like that again. I admit I didn’t look too closely (or at all).

Hey, I’m busy these days having a real life offline.

Anyway, I know I should have looked her up, but I didn’t. That part’s on me. I didn’t know she’s a talk show celebrity, and not an expert on urinary incontinence.

But what I also didn’t know is that Sheryl Underwood is the new spokesperson for Depends®, and that Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Depends®, just launched a social media campaign called “Drop Your Pants for Underwareness.” Nothing about this was mentioned in any of the emails. I thought I was being invited to participate in a legitimate discussion about treatment options for urinary incontinence.

So imagine my shock and dismay when 20 seconds into the show I realized that I was trapped in a fucking Depends® commercial.

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Was I being paid to be in this commercial? No. Was Sheryl Underwood? Uh, hell yes.

I’d bet money, if I’d made any, that Depends® and HuffPo Live considered that they were paying me in the only currency a  blogger apparently needs: Exposure. As though being an unpaid shill for adult diapers builds my brand!

To be sure, I got no problem with Depends®, or pee pads in general. They serve a purpose. And I guess it is to her credit that a self-described strong, independent, self-confident woman like Underwood has no problem telling the world, and her dates before they feel up her ass, that she’s wearing the new, super-sexy Depends®. More power to her!

What I do have a problem with is being unwittingly duped into being an unpaid extra in an infomercial for Depends®.

I Resent Being Exploited as a Blogger Without My Informed Consent

I swear to God, I seriously considered hanging up when I realized what was really happening. But I didn’t. I was too scared. What would happen to my blogging career (stop laughing) if I hung up on HuffPo Live while I was on-air? I’d never work in this town again! So I stuck with it.

But then it got worse when insult was added to injury as I sat there while bad medical information was being given out to the 15 people watching.

After telling everyone how thrilled she was to be the spokesperson for Depends®, Underwood told her own story of urinary incontinence. And a common one it is.

Underwood had several fibroids. Finally, finding no fix for her fibroids, her “wonderful OB/GYN” performed a “partial hysterectomy.” (I’m guessing that what she means is she kept her ovaries, but I’m not really sure.) Anyway, after her hysterectomy, Underwood’s bladder “fell”.

And here’s where I got not just annoyed but really pissed off that I was sitting there a party to women being told, basically, “Oh well! This is inevitable. There’s nothing you can do about it. Now go get yourself some sexy pee pads and learn to be confident about it.”

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Hysterectomy is a Leading Cause of Bladder Prolapse and Urinary Incontinence!

Approximately 30%-40% of women develop some presentation of pelvic organ prolapse in their lifetime, usually following menopause, childbirth, or a hysterectomy (WebMD).

After childbirth, hysterectomy is thought to be a leading contributor to vaginal vault prolapse and bladder incontinence. See, the uterus acts like an anchor holding up the vagina and all the organs attached to it, like the bladder, for instance. Remove the uterus, and the bladder can fall, causing all sorts of problems, one of which is urinary incontinence.

So color me unsurprised when Underwood told us that after her “wonderful OB/GYN” took out her uterus her bladder fell down. In my opinion, her “wonderful OB/GYN” should have anticipated this would happen.  This isn’t new news, by the way. From this article in WebMD, dated October, 25 2007:

Researcher Daniel Altman, MD, tells WebMD that the latest findings provide strong evidence of a link.

“Any woman contemplating an elective hysterectomy should be told that there may be consequences in the future,” he says. “The jury has been out, but I think the evidence is clear.”

Urinary Incontinence isn’t Inevitable After Hysterectomy

I had a hysterectomy, but I don’t have bladder leakage.

(If you do watch the show, you’ll eventually see the part where I kiss a bunch of ass by sort of making it sound like I use Depends too, which I don’t. By then, I’d abandoned my principles. I just wanted them to like me. I wanted to do a good job, because I’m thinking that if I don’t then next time they won’t use me. And aren’t I here with nothing better to do than let multi-billiom dollar corporations use me for free work? If not me, then they’ll choose somebody else, and I’ll miss out.)

Unlike Underwood’s doctor, my surgeon anticipated that I’d have a post-surgical urinary incontinence problem before my surgery. But then I did that shit ton of research I talked about earlier. I had physical therapy for a year before I consented to surgery. And when I decided surgery was my best option, I went to a Urogynecologist, a specialist in female pelvic floor surgery, even though he was four hours away.

My Urogynecologist did a thorough exam, and I endured two days of bladder tests, and other extremely unfun exams, to determine the full extent of my pelvic floor problems before my surgery, so my surgeon would be able to determine the best course of action ahead of time, thereby reducing my chances for further surgery. In other words, he did the job right. The first time.

But most women don’t know that the doctor who delivered their baby is probably not the best doctor for their hysterectomy. Most women have never heard of pelvic floor physical therapy, or Urogynecologists. Most women don’t know that vaginal estrogen can help, or even cure, urinary incontinence in some women. I thought I was going on HuffPo Live to discuss these important treatment options. But that’s not why I was there. Despite being asked at one point about my experiences, I realize that I was there to provide some free, quasi-expert window-dressing for Underwood’s Depends® commercial.

Is Incontinence Inevitable?

Underwood was told by her surgeon after her hysterectomy that she’d need to go through another surgery to fix her bladder. She’s opted for being the spokesperson for Depends® instead. That’s cool. But where’s her outrage that her physician didn’t anticipate something that he should have? Where’s her outrage that there are so few studies being done on this topic that we really don’t know how many women suffer urinary incontinence after the second most common surgery for women in the United States?

But if your real goal is to sell pee pads, and not help women find real treatment options for urinary incontinence, then I suppose nobody need look any further than the pee pad aisle at the drug store. Hell, we’ve got unlimited landfill for this shit, right? And who would want to simply stop having incontinence when there’s now some sexy pee pads out there for the buying?

LaTaya SimpsonOn the plus side? I did get to meet LaTaya Simpson, author of More than Pretty: 7 Beauty Secrets That Could Change Your Life. She was the other guest, and after the show we had a chance to chat. She is AWESOME!

 

 

 

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel @ of Learning and Nesting February 20, 2016 at 11:25 am

It’s appalling that they would do that to you. I’m so sorry.
Side note, I really wish pelvic floor problems were talked about more. And not in a “haha, I pee myself sometimes” kind of way. It affects more people than we know, because many people don’t go to a doctor about it.
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Carol Cassara September 26, 2014 at 7:42 am

Very few bloggers have the integrity to open the curtain on this subject. Many make the argument that they are getting exposure, too, when they appear on these things, and they feel it’s a trade they are willing to make. In my opinion that’s amateur thinking. If we allow ourselves to be used, we are devaluing ourselves. Our “fame,” if that’s what it is, will likely be shortlived. This is a real pet peeve of mine, thanks for bringing it forward.
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Dawn Q Landau September 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Insightful, intelligent and humorous, as always. I love your writing Chloe, because it always tells me something I needed or wanted to hear, and normalizes the experiences. I’m so lucky to have one of the nations leading pelvic floor specialists (PT) here in town… Educating yourself about your body, is the only way! Those short cuts always seem to lead to longer “solutions.” Bravo!
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Estelle August 16, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Chloe,
What a wild experience to go through! Continue being the truth-teller that you are. Maybe that should be the ultimate focus of your book-to-be.
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marcia@Menopausal Mother August 16, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I would be FURIOUS if I got duped like that—but I understand what you mean–you were trapped on air. It sucks that all they’re doing is promoting Depends instead of helping women find alternatives to this problem. Ugh!
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Erica Sandwall August 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

I wish more bloggers would be as outspoken as you. It would help the newbies in it to understand what really happens.

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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 10:12 am

I wish they would, too, Erica. It would help all of us. But they won’t. Most bloggers are making very little, if any, money. First of all, it’s not easy to get selected to write PAID sponsored content. You’ll do a ton of work for free, have to pay your own way to events, etc, to get noticed, and in general do a lot of ass kissing. If you like ass kissing then blogging is for you. If you aren’t so good at it then you might have an uphill battle ahead of you.

What brands don’t seem to realize is that a blogger takes a credibility hit each and every time we promote a brand using our social media voice. If your blog becomes nothing more than a repository for sponsored content the brands will be thrilled, but your readers will not.

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Liz Barnett (@WomanlyWoman) August 16, 2014 at 7:31 am

Thank you for writing this! More bloggers need to stand up to brands and publish stories like this. We all have them. Brands think we’re just sitting around waiting to be discovered, when in reality our blog posts probably have more influence than their T.V. commercial. I mean, sure, you’d like to go on Dr. Phil but there is 100% certainty they would have used your Wellbutrin prescription against you in some way. We need to start valuing our time – a monetary value – and then expecting others to value it as well. We may not have the same celebrity status as the person you mentioned, but we are micro-celebrities. We have a following as well and that influence has value!
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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for reading and commenting, Liz. We’re being exploited in so many ways, and when one of us stops allowing it another blogger takes our place.

I would NEVER have considered asking for payment to appear on a program that was actually about helping women with this all-too-common problem. I already get paid as a nurse. I want to freely share my experience, strength, and information with women. I want women to have access to this information.

But a Depends commercial? First, I would have had to think that over and whether or not it fits with my overarching message which is that these products have their place, but most women, if given the choice, would prefer NOT TO HAVE INCONTINENCE, not have a sexier pee pad!

Offer treatment options first and then pee pads. Not pee pads and then a pep talk about how sexy they can be that we all know is bullshit. There is no way a soggy pad plastered to my ass will make it look sexier, and don’t lie to me that it will.

These products are ESSENTIAL. I’m not against them. But they should be used before, during and after treatment options that seek to cure the problem.
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Donna August 15, 2014 at 5:14 pm

YIKES, Chloe. I’m having a hysterectomy next month. No one has mentioned anything about bladder issues following the surgery – just that they recommend I get it NOW, because my enormous fibroids are not shrinking after menopause as we had hoped. Now I’m conflicted – but glad to have this new information.

Oh – and it sucks that you were not fully informed about your appearance on HuffPo live. Yes, bloggers are exploited and that was not cool. I’m glad you wrote this.
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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Please, unless you have cancer or some other life threatening condition, get a second opinion. If you have any leakage or prolapse now it might get worse, even much worse, if your uterus is removed and no support surgery is performed. I cannot recommend a urogynecolgist enough. And if they suggest mesh or cadaver tissue then get a third opinion. I’ve seen far too much regret to see anyone rush in lightly. And please think very carefully about having healthy ovaries removed. That is a serious decision with serious potential repercussions.

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Jennifer Hall August 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I am so sorry they took advantage of you like that. This post i response, though, is really great.

I am so confused on how to feel about HuffPo when I see so many bloggers striving to be published there. I never have, but I *was* thinking about making it a goal. On the other hand, I loathe bloggers being taken advantage of.
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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 2:12 pm

This is a complicated issue, Jennifer.

I think for bloggers who are trying to create speaking careers, or build an author platform, then writing for HuffPo has some merit. In that case, you are looking for exposure. But realize it won’t bring your blog much if any traffic.

For example, I now write posts about childbirth for Scary Mommy. I’m not doing it for money; I’m doing it for exposure. The pieces I’ve written have been shared tens of thousands of times, and through Scary Mommy I’m able to access an audience that my blog doesn’t really reach: New Moms. I might want to write a book about childbirth someday (I’m a labor and delivery RN), so it makes sense for me to try to cultivate this audience.

And there’s another site I’m currently about to write for that may or may not be valuable. Time will tell. But that one I’m doing for money, not really exposure.

But I wouldn’t write for a midlife site. It’s much better for me to spend my time figuring out ways to increase my search engine reach. That’s the way you find non-bloggers, and having non-bloggers read you is the only way to build a real audience.

The real thing you must ask yourself is who you want to be exposed to. Some sites are really just blogger-only sites, meaning that it’s bloggers writing for bloggers. That’s a dead-end, in my view. Don’t bother. You won’t get traffic from it, and you’ll just become another clanging gong in a cacophony of shouting voices all looking for attention. It would be more valuable to take a writing class and become a better writer.
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D. A. Wolf August 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Yeah… Well… Exactly. (And thus my annoyance yesterday morning when I thought I was reading “health news” and quickly realized I was most likely “consuming” what is known as “native advertising.”

It’s all crap.

And yes, we’re easily exploited because we now live in a culture where 15 minutes of fame has grown to the promise of far more, and with $$$ dancing in our social media mongering eyes.

Little is “depend(s)”able any longer. We need to check everything, then check again, then take it all with a (hundred thousand) grains of salt.
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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm

D.A., the stories I could tell. I’ve become pretty savvy now and can tell quickly if a site is a real site or an advertising site masquerading as a blog. Many health sites in particular are very sketchy. I am pretty sure that one site I know about it funded by a pharmaceutical company. But nothing on the site would let you know that’s the case. An unsuspecting reader would think they are getting unbiased opinions, but what they are actually getting is well-scripted ad copy made to look like a true blog.

Sara Hawkins, an attorney who talks about bloggers and law, commented yesterday on Facebook when I asked her that the FTC is so small and underfunded that they don’t have time to chase down these, well, can I call them charlatans? Snake oil salesmen? Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Pharmaceutical companies are becoming very savvy with social media and are learning quickly how to write the narrative. And we don’t even know it’s happening.
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Tammy August 15, 2014 at 11:08 am

You constantly inspire me Chloe, but I do think you’re lying about your age. Did I miss a post somewhere on your blog about how to make your skin look so freakin fabulous?

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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Tammy, you are the one who inspires me!

As far as my skin goes? I have written about it. I use Theraderm, and I get Botox twice a year around my eyes. Other than that, I stay out of the sun as much as possible. The sun is the enemy of your skin.
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Beverly Diehl August 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

Bravo to you, Chloe! I am sorry you got lured into being in an infomercial without a full heads up, and applaud the things you’ve posted here. I bet this info will help many women make more informed choices about reproductive surgery.
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Chloe Jeffreys August 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for commenting, Beverly. It was awful. I’m so mad at myself for letting it happen. I have no one to blame but myself for my part in it. What is terrible is that corporations have figured out now how to create infomercials that look like real shows. And they appear to have no obligation to the consumer to let them know, “Hey, this isn’t a real show. This is a commercial for such and so.”

Why this makes me so angry is because I believe most women would prefer a solution to their incontinence, not a sexier pee pad. But the way the program was designed, and how my information was treated on the show, it was obvious that the real goal was to sell Depends, not help women find treatment solutions to their urinary incontinence.
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Carol Cassara August 15, 2014 at 10:14 am

It is their loss that they didn’t get your very excellent briefing on this topic, the info that would have really helped readers. It’s no secret that I think HuffPo is abusive of writers and bloggers and this is another example of how they use bloggers for their own financial gain and share none with them. I’m sorry, but I just do not think bloggers should have anything to do with them because it perpetrates their abuse. I know I’m spitting in the wind with this. But your story is exactly why I hold that opinion. I’m glad you posted the info you did on the subject so at least women will have access to it.
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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 10:21 am

The truth is, Carol, I completely agree with you. I’ve never written for them (I submitted one article and never heard from them, and never submitted again) because I don’t see the value in it for me. I got caught up. First Dr. Phil, then The Doctors! Maybe my 15 minutes is coming. Right? But it was all more smoke and mirrors and the same old bullshit all over again. At least I got to have my say here. Here is mine. Nobody owns here but me. And that’s the beauty of blogging for those of us willing to own our own words.

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Mark August 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

first, speaking specifically of the underhanded way in which you were lured into the show, without your informed consent it was nothing more than being bushwhacked for free.

second, the issue of women’s Incontinence is a much bigger issue than most people can truly appreciate. My wife is a registered nurse who, as an undergraduate, co-authored some very good academic literature on micro aggression toward women because of Incontinence. This add ploy seems to capitalize on micro aggressions to shame women into buying a product.
I could be wrong

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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

Mark, oh you aren’t wrong. It was back-handed shaming. The message was clear: If you aren’t PROUD to wear your adult diapers then you aren’t being a strong, independent woman. If you want to be a strong, independent woman then pee with pride!

Now, again, these sorts of products have their important place. But I’ll bet that most women would prefer NOT to have incontinence, and NOT need these products, if they knew the treatment options available to them.

I recently returned from a medical missions trip to Haiti. I carried more than my literal weight in luggage there. I didn’t have room for adult diapers. And where would I have bought them while I was there? And Haiti doesn’t have trash service, so my used adult diapers would still be lying there to this day being chewed on by some goat. In fact, I don’t even think I could have gone there if I still suffered from urinary incontinence, and certainly couldn’t have done the things I did while I was there with any sort of confidence or ease.

Urinary incontinence controls women’s lives. It controls where they do, what they do, and how they feel about themselves. And telling them that they should be proud to be incontinent while not offering them REAL SOLUTIONS is insulting and really offensive to me.
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Liz August 15, 2014 at 9:17 am

Wow, thank you for this. I didn’t know about pelvic floor at all. It all around sucks you were out in this situation, and so many if us do things we aren’t really behind because EXPOSURE.

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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 9:25 am

Liz, it does. And we bloggers don’t talk about it for 1) Fear that we’ll be black-balled, 2) Fear that we’ll miss out on other opportunities, 3) Fear of not being pleasing and not being liked, and 4) Embarrassment because we’re sure we’re the only ones having this happen to us. We’re not.
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August McLaughlin August 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

Trapped in a commercial? You should’ve been paid big bucks! That type of thing sadly happens in Holly-wierd pretty often. I agree that the info you provided is stellar. And thank goodness you made that awesome friend!

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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

That’s what I’m thinking. I was the only one in that commercial with actual medical knowledge. I should have been paid like I would have been for any other product endorsement I do.
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Anne-Marie @ This Mama Cooks! On a Diet August 15, 2014 at 8:49 am

This is GREAT info Chloe. I wish the audience had heard it. Depends is a great product, but women shouldn’t have to put up with incontinence all their lives if there are surgical procedures that can help cure (or prevent) it!
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Chloe Jeffreys August 15, 2014 at 9:30 am

Thank you, Anne-Marie! I did get to talk for a bit, but then I could sense that what I was saying wasn’t helpful to the cause. And the cause was selling Depends, not helping women find answers to their bladder leakage problems.

Urinary incontinence products ARE valuable. I have nothing against them. BUT there are several good treatment options out there today that don’t even necessitate surgery. Pessaries, for example, are an option many women don’t know about. There’s so much information out there, but I fear that not having incontinence doesn’t make anyone any money.
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