Taking the ‘care’ out of care work?: Men in nursing

This article interests me because it reflects on the gendering of nursing and care and the association of masculinities and femininities with particular forms of work. I am particularly struck by the following point by Cottingham:

“….a majority of efforts to recruit men into nursing attempt to culturally redefine nursing along culturally masculine lines (as tough work, adventurous, involving risks, courage, and life and death decisions). Far fewer efforts to recruit men into nursing took the opposite approach: attempting to articulate a definition of manhood consistent with care work, nurturance, and compassion.”

In my research I am interested in exploring men’s nurturing and caring behaviour in informal familial networks and challenging these essentialist notions of masculinity and care.

Gender & Society

Nurses and doctors have different kinds of work – but there’s a lot of overlap.  Yet, we still culturally associate the “doctoring” with masculinity and the “nursing” with femininity.  The distinction between “caring” and “curing” is a gendered one and it is part of what maintains existing occupational segregation in healthcare.  Indeed, research on occupational gender segregation finds that it persists less because we simply believe men are better than women (stronger, more competent, capable of more complex thinking, etc.) and more because of our beliefs that women and men simply have different natural interests and aptitudes.  This is why male nurses are the butt of so many jokes in our culture.  “Male nurse” sounds like an oxymoron (like “jumbo shrimp,” a “just war,” or my personal favorite, “graduate student”).  So, recruiting more men into nursing or more women into astrophysics is difficult work because it challenges a strong cultural…

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