Are You Man Enough?

12 Feb

This ad features a long line of men dressed to fit various traditionally masculine roles (snowboarder, martial artist, rugby player) alongside male doctors, medical technicians, and nurses. According to the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN) website, the poster was created “in an effort to inspire more men to enter the nursing profession,” a female-dominated field. I invite you to search “nurse” on Google Images (or just click this link). You’ll note that of the first 18 individuals that show up on the page, 16 are female (and 8 of those are sexualized/fetishized). Two are images of men.

Are you man enough…to be a nurse? If you want a career that demands intelligence, courage, and skills, and offers unlimited opportunity, consider nursing.

By creating an ad that targets men, OCN is doing its part to break down the barriers for men to enter this profession – the stigma that male nurses are not “real men.” This stigma is perpetuated both by the absence of images of male nurses and blatant sexism against this group:

Jack Byrnes: Greg’s in medicine too.
Bob Banks: What field?
Greg Focker: Nursing.
Bob Banks: Ha ha ha ha. No, really, what field are you in?
Greg Focker: Nursing.
Meet the Parents (2000)

As a male in a female-dominated field, seeing this ad fills me with hope. I would love to see more ads recruiting males into clinical social work, K-12 education, nursing and allied health, and library studies. By increasing the visual presence of men in these positions, universities and hospitals can help purify the air of the smog of cultural sexism that we’re all breathing in, all the time.

And yet I feel like there’s something “off” about this poster. In particular, it’s the use of the phrase “man enough.” Asking if the viewer is “man enough” to be a nurse still says something about what it means to be a man. Does this poster elevate men, or does it elevate nursing at the expense of men? According to the print below the image, men are still expected to be intelligent, courageous, and highly skilled, seekers of unlimited opportunities for growth and profit – traditionally masculine qualities. Indeed, in another ad, this time aimed at “recruiting minorities into nursing,” OCN claims that “it’s about community…culture…neighborhood,” suggesting that people of color are supposed to be more community-oriented than white people.

Do OCN’s posters work to elevate men and people of color, or do they inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes of these groups?

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One Response to “Are You Man Enough?”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Last and Worst: Rules for Men « The Conscious Man - April 27, 2011

    […] They’re in the dojo where karate classes are 90% male. They’re in the high numbers of female nurses and social workers. They’re in the way we talk about cars, male friendships, illness, cooking […]

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