Journal of Christian Nursing II: Male biases off the deep end

UPDATE: My good friend Zach pointed out that this critique was overly harsh, and after reviewing it I agree with him. I still think most of the points I make are valid (there are still many biases and subtle sexism throughout the article), but my tone was very out of line. I probably should not have just taken a small chunk and picked at it. There are things in the article I agree with, I realize men have some obstacles to overcome in the nursing profession. I’ll leave the original text up for everyone to read and critique and continue to interact with, but know from the start I realize it is harsher then it should be.

Two days ago we talked over a short quote by the editor of the Journal of Christian Nursing and critiquing some of the implications of that brief quote. Today, we are going to look at a longer passage (from an article applying Wild at Heart to nursing), along with my running commentary, and hopefully we’ll learn some important lessons.

From the Journal of Christian Nursing, “Men in Nursing: Hard-Wired for Adventure” page 15:

The way men are wired greatly directs the areas of nursing in which we find ourselves.

Gender exclusive statements like this always bother me a little. It always seems to imply a hint of “unlike women,” as if the way women are wired doesn’t necessarily direct nursing. You might find this being a little too critical, but what if it said: The way black guys are built really impacts the way they play basketball… or The way Muslim’s handle the Christian-Muslim tension is really commendable. Those two statements are a little more awkward (and racist).

Nurse anesthetists, for example, have a male population approaching 50 percent, despite the six percent total of nurses who are men nationally. Emergency rooms, intensive care units, circulating nurses in the operating room and nurse managers in all areas have higher rates of men than are reflected in the nursing population as a whole. Note that these areas have some similarities.

Let me jump in with my notable similarities (thanks Mindy). These positions are more prestigious and also pay more. Similar to management positions which also are dominated by males. Before we start seeing this as commendable, we should recognize that the affect of sexism and oppression has played a role and still plays a role in any place where men (particularly us white ones) are in positions of power and prestige over women. It’s changing, but it’s not their yet.

There are distinct battles that can be fought every day (an operation, an emergency situation, a critically ill patient or a bottom line to meet). Also, the battles have a clear outcome, a reflection of a man’s input into the battle.

Again, the implications here seem to belittle the more “female” nursing areas, as if they aren’t battles as well. I realize this “battle” terminology is important to Wild at Heart, but I read this and I ask, “What’s your point?”

It is not uncommon to hear men in the break room talk about the struggle involved with a particularly difficult case, and how hard it was to overcome those struggles.

Now this one is really bothersome. What in the world do you think women sit around the break room talking about? Their nails? (according to the author, Richard Haas, women, unlike these men, spend their time “gossiping.”). And in a hugely female dominated field I would think the majority of the time the “men” are usually talking to “women” about these cases, unless they are still keeping to their elitist male circles (and that would be a problem).

Some of these battles provide a background for an adventure, an exotic case or a patient whose condition is extremely tenuous.

“Exotic case”? Are you kidding me? You can go hike through an exotic jungle or go on an exotic vacation, but I highly doubt any patient would like to be referred to as an “exotic case.” Listen carefully to that sentence, it’s very self-oriented. I want the adventure for me. “Battle, Adventure, Exotic, Extremely Tenuous,” all these things make me more excited about the mountain I’m conquering. That’s not what nursing is about.
Nursing is about being a patient advocate. It’s not about the nurse and her prestige or exotic adventures, it’s about her patient and their well being. It’s about speaking up for the patients rights when a bunch of doctors walk-in and talk about this “exotic case” as if the patient wasn’t laying their dying of the disease the doctor’s are calling their latest “adventure.” Nurses love with a selfless love.

Further, some of these areas provide greater financial rewards, important to men who are primary wage earners for their families. –

Once again, the implications of gender exclusive language are disturbing. Let it be known that “Greater financial rewards” are important to WOMEN who are the primary wage earners for their families. But maybe “greater financial rewards” isn’t the point. Maybe women aren’t worried about that, they’ve probably got their priorities straight, it’s about helping people.

Let me finish by saying this: I’m not saying men can’t have their adventures and fight their battles. I am saying when we start elevating men’s motives and activities in such a way that it implies the exclusion or the belittling of what women are and do, we have a problem. Men and women are different, I fully agree. We are wired differently, I can agree with that too. What I can’t agree with is when people (Christian’s especially) lean on these “differences” to support sexism and discrimination.

6 thoughts on “Journal of Christian Nursing II: Male biases off the deep end”

  1. Hmm. I guess I don’t really agree with what you’ve written both times about Mindy’s nursing book. It seems to me like you’re dissecting and attacking everything they’re saying so aggresively that it’s unfair. I don’t see half of the things you write about in what the author actually wrote. I know you could write this off as simply that I’m a white and unmarried male who doesn’t realize the gross discrimination and long-standing oppression of women, but just because I disagree with you about these passages does not necessarily mean that I’m wrong and you have the corner on truth.

  2. I might have been overly critical.

    Could you be more specific though in pointing out where you disagree or think I’ve gone to far? (or is this podcast material?)

    p.s. I’m white and male too.

  3. why is it that more men become anesthetists and work in the emergency room and icu? perhaps it is because these are the 2 highest paid positions for their respective degrees and our society definitely puts more pressure on males to provide financial security for their families…just a thought.

  4. Hey Ariah and all,

    I don’t think you were being overly harsh and critical. In fact, as a woman I really appreciate having a man who can recognize subtle power structures without needing a woman to point out what they are. It can get pretty exhausting to always have the burden of proof be on me. (The typical attitude of “Well, I don’t see why that would be considered sexist, therefore until I get 100% proof, I don’t believe it is.”)

    While I would hope that men would feel welcomed and “adventurous” in their work environment, whether in medicine or elsewhere, I simply do not buy the argument that men (unless they aren’t white) are being discriminated against. It’s an issue of power, and as soon as a man walks into a room of all women, like it or not, he is in the power position. Simply by his presence. I say it not to continue to make the white male feel guilty, but because it is true and will be true until white men recognize their power and start giving it up. (So basically until Jesus comes back)

    I think that the reason men do not get into the field of nursing is because nursing is a profession that stresses nurture and care, two characteristics that usually are attributed to the feminine. So this article was sad to me because instead of challenging the culture by saying that it’s about time that manliness was defined by something other than “Not Woman” it tried to put nursing in a masculine light, giving the men in the field a sense of pride in their “Manly, Adventurous Profession.” SOO sad, because I think one of the keys to the gender debate is to equally value traditionally male and traditionally female attributes, and to not limit them to only one gender.

    Sigh, I’ve rambled, but I do feel strongly about this, and I’m glad you posted.

  5. Ariah,

    I just wanted to reiterate a portion of a comment I made on your last JCN posting and add to it a little. I appreciate your update comments.

    As a nurse who has been in the field for nearly fifteen years and who has several male friends in the field, I believe you’re being over-analytical and hard on JCN. My male RN friends have told me (and I have witnessed) instances where they have difficulty doing their jobs since they are expected to have different standards of behavior than their female colleagues in identical situations. An example would be female RNs who go out of their way to tell dirty jokes, etc, usually in the presence of their male co-workers. My male friends could never tell the same jokes without being considered sexist/paternalistic; some even are frowned upon if they laugh at the joke! Also, there is a weird culture in nursing where many female nurses resent male nurses and go out of their way to make life hard for them. They will look for anything in the male nurse’s demeanor, actions or words to use as an excuse to accuse him of sexism. I believe this is what this article is trying to convey.

    I would say that unless a person has consistently worked with male co-workers in the nursing setting, it’s simply theory to express an opinion as to whether or not men are discriminated against. In my experience, they are discriminated against consistently. I HAVE seen patients who see a male nurse and assume they are somehow better than or higher up than a female nurse, but this is not the male nurses fault. Unhappily, it’s a pattern of thought that has occurred in nursing since it’s inception.

    I really feel we as nurses but more importantly, as Christians, need to stop trying to push “women’s rights” and start valuing each and every person for who they are regardless of gender. I believe this is what Christ calls us to do; valuing others more than ourselves is a consistent theme in His Word. If we can learn to see what a great and wonderful work we ALL do and value each other for this and for the work of Christ in each other, nursing will begin to get beyond it’s current “dog eat dog” mentality.

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