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Historical and Contemporary Aspects of Sexism
Sexism is an issue that is concerned with sex-based discrimination; it involves the instances in which a person is subordinated or limited in their opportunities because of their sex (Aranda, Castillo-Mayén, & Montes-Berges, 2015). Historically, sexism was transported to the US from Europe in the form of the gender roles prevalent in the culture of the region at the time (Koppelman & Goodhart, 2016, p. 211).
Therefore, it can be suggested that the roots of the phenomenon are cultural, but it was also institutionalized and has had direct economic and political outcomes. For example, in the 1800s, the women of America had no financial independence: they could work, but their earnings belonged to their husbands. Beginning with the 1830s, the problem was being addressed legislatively, but the issue of inequality is still present (Koppelman & Goodhart, 2016, p. 212).
For example, even nowadays, males tend to earn more than females, which is another example of institutional sexism that is termed “wage gaps” (Potera, 2015, p. 14). Thus, sexism is an issue with a long history that is yet to be eradicated.
Koppelman and Goodhart (2016) demonstrate that cultural prejudices are particularly difficult to eradicate and use the example of occupational stereotyping, which involves sexist perspectives regarding the appropriateness of specific jobs and hobbies for particular sexes. The social role theory suggests that the problem of gender stereotypes in occupations is connected to the gender roles that are present in society (Clow, Ricciardelli, & Bartfay, 2014b).
An example of this issue is the sexism that is experienced by male nurses, and in this case, the problem stems from the sexist attitudes that regard the job of a nurse as a typically feminine activity (Aranda, Castillo-Mayén, & Montes-Berges, 2015). Indeed, from the perspective of a sexist society, the occupation that involves caring for the sick requires “feminine” qualities (empathy, kindness, patience), which are typically supposed to be lacking in males (Clow et al., 2014b). While it is apparent that the stereotypes are based on bias, the issue has tangible consequences.
Male nurses experience sexism in a variety of countries, and its manifestations can include the barriers to pursuing education, the use of exclusive language in nursing environments, social isolation, and some other problems (Clow et al., 2014b). Despite the fact that male nursing has a history, it is often neglected, which is also a manifestation of sexism that can be described as the invisibility of the accomplishments of male nurses (Clow et al., 2014b).
Apart from that, male nurses have to cope with stereotyping. Both benevolent and hostile sexism towards male nurses has been evidenced. An example of benevolent sexism, which is perceived as positive (for example, protective), is the assumption that men need to be cared for by women (Clow, Ricciardelli, & Bartfay, 2014a). In other words, the stereotype implies that men are incapable of caring for themselves and, consequently, cannot care for others or be nurses.
On the other hand, hostile sexism encompasses negative attitudes; for example, the stereotype of men being aggressive and, therefore, incapable of performing nursing duties is an example of hostile sexism (Clow et al., 2014b). The logical consequence of the sexist attitudes towards male nurses is the underrepresentation of men in the profession; it is explicitly dominated by women with the rate of nine to one (Clow et al., 2014a; Potera, 2015). Thus, the sexism in nursing deprives men of the opportunity to successfully pursue education and have the occupation that they are interested in while also reducing the quality of life of the men who manage to enter the profession.
It is noteworthy that the issue of male nurses experiencing sexism is connected to that of female nurses experiencing similar problems. While male nurses are considered insufficiently caring and empathetic for nursing, female ones may be perceived as incompetent (Clow et al., 2014b). Apart from that, the wage gap between male and female nurses is present nowadays, with men being more likely to be recruited for better-paying positions (Clow et al., 2014b; Potera, 2015). The two issues seem to be interconnected, and by addressing them in a similar fashion, the nursing community can contribute to the eradication of harmful stereotypes.
Current Policy Debates: Solutions
From the perspective of the role congruity theory, “the perceived incongruity between the male gender role and the nursing social role” needs to be reduced in order to overcome the sexism that is experienced by male nurses (Clow et al., 2014a, p. 366). One of the approaches to addressing the issue consists of increasing the number of male nurses by hiring and retaining more men in nursing (Clow et al., 2014b).
This approach is expected to eventually result in the acknowledgment of the presence of males in nursing, as well as the elimination of related stereotypes due to the exposure of large groups to non-stereotypical nurses. The primary motivation of the approach is the desire to ensure the representation of men within the field (Clow et al., 2014a). The specific methods of achieving the outcome can vary, but making more male-inclusive hiring advertisements may be a solution (Clow et al., 2014a).
The approach can be criticized since it is difficult to propose any measurable goals relevant to the changes in public perceptions, but the number of male nurses can be assessed, and it has been steadily growing in countries like the US and Canada (Clow et al., 2014b). The mentioned policy might help to make the growth sustainable.
It is also apparent that the sexism experienced by male nurses is a variation of a larger issue, that is, the prejudice that exists with respect to occupations. Koppelman and Goodhart (2016) cite the advocacy for the use of inclusive language as an effort that might assist in addressing the issue. The authors also report that opponents of the approach suggest that the use of inclusive language cannot destroy sexist stereotypes, but this statement may be incorrect.
As shown by Horvath, Merkel, Maass, and Sczesny (2016), the use of inclusive language is proven to have a notable impact on the social perception of occupations. In particular, the employment of gender-related pairs for professions reduces the male bias related to them (that is, the assumptions that the people with specific jobs must be male) and improves the visibility of women. Thus, the employment of inclusive language may indeed be a potential solution to the problem of sexist perceptions.
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Apart from that, as it was mentioned, male nurses can experience exclusive language, which typically manifests in the use of only female pronouns when speaking about nurses (Clow et al., 2014b). Therefore, the advocacy for inclusive language can improve the quality of life of individual male nurses while also contributing to the deconstruction of prejudice as a whole.
Personal Opinion: A Conclusion
Sexism is a rather ancient phenomenon that appears to have ingrained itself into multiple aspects of human life. The present paper uses the example of sexist attitudes to demonstrate that they have the most detrimental consequences. In particular, the discrimination against male nurses results in educational and occupational barriers and decreases the quality of life in the men who manage to pursue a career in the field.
The problem also has some economic consequences, although the latter affects women in a negative way: the wage gap in nursing is notable. The mentioned facts indicate that the issue of sexism is complex; its elements are interrelated. As a result, by addressing one of the problems, the community can work towards resolving related ones.
The examples of the policies that can improve the situation include the efforts to hire more male nurses (in order to eliminate the problem of the underrepresentation of men in the field) and the use of inclusive language. I believe that both approaches have some potential. The employment of hiring efforts that incorporate the image of a male nurse is likely to attract males and foster the perception that a male nurse is a normal occurrence.
Similarly, the use of inclusive language has been evidenced to adjust popular opinions, which is why it needs to be employed to change the sexist attitudes prevalent in the profession. As more male nurses are recruited, their presence in nursing will become normalized, and the issue should be eventually resolved. I agree with the criticisms of the mentioned approaches, and I acknowledge the fact that they are not likely to eliminate the problem, but the policies would still be expected to contribute to the solution of the problem. Therefore, the modern healthcare community can and should participate in the process.
Aranda, M., Castillo-Mayén, M., & Montes-Berges, B. (2015). Has changed the traditional social perception on nurses? attribution of stereotypes and gender roles. Acción Psicológica, 12(1), 103. Web.
Clow, K., Ricciardelli, R., & Bartfay, W. (2014a). Are you man enough to be a nurse? The impact of ambivalent sexism and role congruity on perceptions of men and women in nursing advertisements. Sex Roles, 72(7-8), 363-376. Web.
Clow, K., Ricciardelli, R., & Bartfay, W. (2014b). Attitudes and stereotypes of male and female nurses: The influence of social roles and ambivalent sexism. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne des Sciences Du Comportement, 46(3), 446-455. Web.
Horvath, L., Merkel, E., Maass, A., & Sczesny, S. (2016). Does gender-fair language pay off? The social perception of professions from a cross-linguistic perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-12. Web.
Koppelman, K. L., & Goodhart, L. (2016). Understanding human differences: Multicultural education for a diverse America (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Potera, C. (2015). In nursing it still pays more to be a man. AJN The American Journal of Nursing, 115(6), 14. Web.