My pet peeve du jour. Why is it every time you read an article or blog post about men in nursing, you get the inevitable disclaimer about the “stereotype” of male nurses being gay? “We’re manly men who happen to be a manly nurses” seems to be the general consensus, and advertising campaigns seem to reinforce it.
Are we adult enough as nurses to think seriously about the underlying assumptions of this disclaimer, which are decidedly homophobic and sexist? Think of it this way: assertions of masculinity among heterosexual male nurses play on negative stereotypes of gay men as being effeminate, passive and weak (and trust me, I’ve seen plenty of butch gay men in the Toronto emergency department where I work — more masculine, actually than my straight male colleagues.) And guess who else carries that stereotype of feminine, passive and weak. . . you wouldn’t be talking about, um, your female colleagues, would you? If the aim is to recruit more men, straight or gay, to the profession, starting off with a claim which is simultaneously negative and probably offensive to gay men is not the way to go.
In essence, it’s the attempt to build up one part of the profession by knocking down another which makes me cranky. Yes, Virginia, there are gay nurses out there. So instead of a weak, defensive “Hey, I’m-not-gay” approach based on perceptions and overt demonstrations of masculinity, one might think it’s better and more assertive and just to say, “So what if I am gay? I’m a nurse, period.”
I was prepared to like the advertising campaigns on the right. Straight-forward (so to speak) and showing the diversity of men who are nurses. Having thought about it, I don’t like them quite so much. The tag lines perhaps redeems them a bit: “My nurse is a hero” — “If you want a career that demands intelligence, courage and skill and offers unlimited opportunity, consider nursing”. Some adjectives and nouns I think which apply to all nurses, gay or straight, female or male.