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STUDENT LIFE

'I’m aspiring to be a nurse, does this mean I can’t be a feminist?'

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I am about to start my fourth year studying children’s nursing.

Most people respond to this in a “aw, how lovely” sort-of of way. A way that implies it is a cutesy job before I settle down with a husband and my own kids.

Working with children and young people in general is seen as lowly “women’s work”; nursing even more so.

If women want a career in healthcare, they are encouraged by mainstream feminists to aim for medicine rather than nursing

Nursing is often ignored by feminists.

For female emancipation, women are encouraged to aim for top positions in the FTSE 100 or to become entrepreneurs. If women want a career in healthcare, they are encouraged by mainstream feminists to aim for medicine rather than nursing.

This viewpoint not only reinforces the idea that the profession of nursing is merely a subservient vocation but also ignores that women who decide to nurse have as much opportunity to demonstrate their intelligence, strength and creativity as other professional women.

This position also exhibits wider problems with society in general in terms of what is valued; competition and capitalism are viewed as the ideals to aspire for, rather than seeking societal good by caring for others.

I have experienced as much sexism as every other woman. It always shocks me when it happens but especially when it is in what I consider to be a professional context; a single father who feels like it is appropriate to try to flirt with you when you are taking his child’s observations, the two young men sat on the bench at the hospital leering at you before you start your shift.

Female nurses need to be included in feminism as much as any other woman

These personal experiences demonstrate that female nurses need to be included in feminism as much as any other woman.

Being a nurse does not mean that you have somehow excluded yourself from feminism or are complicit in female oppression. However, there still seems to be a dearth of discussion and research around feminism and nursing compared to other professions.

There has been a lot of discussion around feminism in the media lately but it does seem like it is not an area of dialogue that nursing media or social media has picked up on.

With 89.29% of nurses on the NMC register being female (according to statistics in 2008) it is essential to get involved in these debates. This would not only give a more positive image of our profession but would also show that we are prepared to make a stand for those we care for too.

I believe that nurses need feminism and that, even more so, feminism needs us nurses

Some student nurses have criticised me about my open conversations about sexual and gender identity and feminist ideologies saying that it is not professional as an aspiring nurse to hold these opinions publicly.

I completely disagree; both to further our profession in terms of its place in society and to be a full advocate to the people that we care for, it is essential to explore societal and personal opinions in respect of these, often taboo, themes of debate.

I believe that nurses need feminism and that, even more so, feminism needs us nurses.

Kirsty Jones is a third year student nurse studying children’s nursing at the University of Nottingham.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I have been a feminist all my life, and continue to be so. I saw militant feminism in the seventies, and have watched successful feminists ever since. For what it's worth, I see far more success from rational feminism than from militant feminism. Describing "leering men" or other outdated militant comments serves only to increase your own ire and internal stress than actually changing anything. Get on and do a good job. Stand by your ethic and results, but leave the old militant language where it deserves to be - in outdated and largely discredited books from the sixties and seventies by people like Germaine Greer.

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