To Men in Nursing: Consider Your Privilege

I want to talk about men in nursing and privilege. I expect it will be a difficult, nuanced dialogue, but it’s an important one, and one particularly relevant to nursing, a profession so entwined with the ideals of egalitarianism, advocacy and feminism.

Before I begin, I want to clarify: I do not want to challenge the presence of men in our profession, their growth in numbers, their competency, or their intentions. I do want to challenge men in our profession to challenge themselves to analyze their privilege, and I want to challenge men in our profession who have already done this work to challenge others to do the same. Specifically, I want to challenge male nursing groups, particularly NYC Men in Nursing and the American Association of Men in Nursing, that provide networking and career opportunities for their mostly male members. Broadly, I want to challenge all male nurses who use their privilege, inadvertently or purposefully, to get higher positions and higher pay.

I identify as an intersectional feminist. Intersectionality is a term used by modern feminists to define the multiple identities that are subject to systems of oppression. An intersectional feminist holds that arguing against sexism is logically and ethically invalid if you do not also rally against racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, ableism, ageism and religious discrimination in our society. Intersectional feminists work hard to examine their own identities of privilege (I, for example, am white, able-bodied, cisgendered and educated) and how they have benefitted us, and work to dismantle the systems that bolster that privilege. Intersectional feminists “call people in” instead of calling them out.

I often discuss experiences of discrimination in the workplace with other non-male identifying feminists, and through these conversations, I learned I am very lucky to be a nurse. Compared to tech or the restaurant service industry, for example, nursing is a feminist dreamland. Most men I have met in nursing have been respectful and compassionate. Disappointingly, however, only a few have demonstrated a deep understanding of the privilege they enjoy, both in our profession and society at large, due to their gender. Male nurses have great capacity to be intersectional feminists, but because they do not bear the brunt of gender inequality, it takes more work for them to recognize it than it does for women, and because it’s hard to say no to a leg up, it takes more self-sacrifice to shun its benefits.

As an intersectional feminist, I empathize with the position of men as a minority in an industry. They comprise only about 10% of nurses. Male nurses have historically been made fun of for being feminine (I’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents), which I’m sure can be hard for some men. Male-identifying nurses who are gay or queer suffer homophobia in the workplace. Our black male nurses come from identities that have higher rates of imprisonment, police brutality and death by homicide. Men are also more likely to be mistaken for doctors, according to one male classmate of mine, for whom I played my well-worn miniature violin. Seriously, though, I empathize with all of this and readily acknowledge that some identities men have (race, disability, sexuality) put them at higher risk for discrimination than some women. I even empathize with the doctor comment, but mostly just because I am proud to be a nurse. 

But we must remember, a minority population is not always a victimized one. Male nurses are more likely to hold advanced practice positions, and they earn more money than female nurses in comparable positions with comparable accreditation and experience. Men are less likely to be the recipient of sexual harassment from a patient or coworker. Men are less likely to be demeaned and ignored as professionals by MDs and other team members. Men are promoted faster and more often. Ultimately, the privilege men, particularly white men, still have within our profession is difficult to reconcile, and to me, despite my empathy, trumps their minority status.

As a student at NYU, the most active group at my school was Men Entering Nursing. Despite their good intentions, I could not shake my philosophical argument with the group. I keep coming back to one analogy:

Imagine that we had a student interest group for white students. Imagine that the group for white students became the most active group in the school. The group hosted events with all white presenters. The professor leading the group was friendly and available and helped you find jobs and study for tests. The group had a strong affiliation with the citywide white group, which provided excellent career guidance and networking opportunities. Of course, non-white students would be allowed as well, if they wanted to join the group and enjoy its networking and academic benefits. Some non-white students even sat on the e-board, but most avoided joining because they had enough on their plate trying to address non-white issues. To top it all off, one month after the election of Donald Trump, all the white students in the school (even if they weren’t Whites in Nursing members) were asked to gather after the last exam before graduation in their scrubs and take a group photo, and no one questioned it at all.

Even if white people only comprised 10% of the student and professional population, this would be inappropriate. I am a white person, and I would do everything I could to reduce this group’s influence at the university, or I would try to funnel the momentum of the group toward events and dialogue focused on privilege analysis. This is what I suggest men in nursing do in the future. 

This is my perspective, but I am open to others. I am open to being called wrong and being corrected. I am open to dialogue. Please share your ideas.

Jillian Primiano, RN, BSN, recently graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, where as a student, she worked with the Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing to develop education for geriatric care providers and improve health outcomes for older adults. Before earning her nursing degree, she studied History and Journalism at Boston University with a focus on Cold War anti-war activism, feminism and the Civil Rights Movement. After her first stint in college, she spent three years teaching English, American Studies and International Relations at An Giang University in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where she learned about her privilege in ways she could never have imagined.

29 thoughts on “To Men in Nursing: Consider Your Privilege

  1. Not sure this got posted on the first try…

    This is embarrassing.

    Before you would choose to criticize the tiny minority of male nurses and their fledgling attempts at mutual support, you ought first fully explore the privilege you enjoy as a white, female nurse.

    A male, white, engineering school graduate would never, in this day and age, be foolish enough to write an article criticizing women in engineering in this fashion. Yet not only do you feel inappropriately entitled to write this piece, it actually gets published on a site that ought to be far more circumspect about privilege and gender.

    What you presume to be an advantage in leaving the bedside for higher paying jobs is in fact a product of systemic discrimination against male nurses in bedside settings.

    While engineering schools have made great strides in gender balancing their faculties and students, nursing continues to be the most gender polarized profession in the USA. Just look at the lists of faculty members at major schools of nursing. Male faculties members are a tiny minority, leaving male students with few role models among faculty members. If this sort of gender imbalance existed in the engineering or medical professions there would be outraged male and female engineers decrying the practice, yet you presume to discredit their activities as though they represented an oppressing majority voice in nursing.

    I am sure that a male nurse suggesting you are wrong will get far more negative attention that ought to be focused at the flaws in your piece, but then again, that is what one would expect in a situation where “privilege” exists and those with privilege are rewarded despite the obvious flaws in what they say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Thomas,

      Thank you so much for your comment. The idea that men in nursing are discriminated against at the bedside is definitely something I would like to learn more about. I think men definitely need support from women to combat this type of discrimination, and I don’t want to create the impression that I don’t think there should be spaces for you to process that as men without women involved. I would like to hear more on this, but I assume you are talking about the bias against men as caregivers, which I am completely against. I believe men make wonderful caregivers and anyone working to make more men into caregivers is a wonderful thing, and if men’s groups are focused on that aspect of empowerment, I support them wholeheartedly.

      As far as considering my own privilege as a white person, I know you do not know me or my life story, but that is something I have spent a lot of time doing. Of course, I can always do more. I do not doubt that people of color struggle more with discrimination in nursing than I do, but I am not a person of color and I would not speak for them. Men of color have every right to network to improve their positions in the profession, but why do it through a group that is built for their identity of privilege (men)? As far as considering my privilege being a woman, that was the topic of the piece – pointing out that I feel I actually do not enjoy more privilege than you because I am a female nurse. We are paid less. We receive fewer promotions. We are sexually harassed by patients and coworkers. When we are on our way to and from work, we are sexually harassed without an HR department to complain to. Many of us have experienced sexual assault and domestic abuse. Our interests are seen as silly. We are not taken seriously. When we get home, we do more of the chores, child-rearing and emotional labor in our family relationships. Our reproductive rights are topics of debate between men in powerful positions. Many of us live in states where it is next to impossible for us to get abortions. Some of us live in countries where we can be legally murdered for not obeying men. We are systematically oppressed, and men are not.

      I am all about getting more men into the profession, and I have never met a female nurse who wanted to see fewer men. Maybe you have, and I’m sorry for that. I would stand up against someone who said something like that. My main point is that I think that a self-awareness of our own privilege is something that all nurses must have, and I would like to see more men with intersectional feminist values in our profession, standing up for people of color, people who are disabled, people who are not heterosexual, and yes, women, not just themselves.

      Again, thank you for your comment. Like I said, I wanted a dialogue, not a diatribe. I hope you have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jillian

        If you want a dialogue, not a diatribe, I am more than open to that. But it is already seeming like much more diatribe than dialogue.

        You repeat assertions I believe require proof rather than repetition.

        I also challenge your statement: “…and I would like to see more men with intersectional feminist values in our profession, standing up for people of color, people who are disabled, people who are not heterosexual, and yes, women, not just themselves.”

        I don’t need “intersectional feminist values” to recognize unfairness. I could see the unfairness in race and gender when I was an engineering student in the 1960s and I addressed it back then without having to be informed by “intersectional feminist values”. All I had to do is look around, see that there was one female engineering student in a program of 70+ males, listen to the way the faculty and my peers joked about her, and the obstacles they put in her path, and I knew something was wrong. That was simple arithmetic and very basic humanist principle.

        I know all the arguments about why men should adopt the prejudices and attitudes of the dominant majority in nursing in order to even get a seat at the table – I heard them to justify the oppression, and marginalization, of women in STEM programs in the 1960s, and they were used throughout my nursing school experiences by women who were convinced that by being women they could not possibly be oppressors.

        There is little new in the world of oppressive license – the same divisions that always separate, and marginalize people, based on race, gender, sexual identity… continue to be employed, your post being just another example. What is stunning to me is how your post, with its obvious gender bias, is so easily accepted in an environment in which one might hope for more critical thinking.

        Why should men in nursing have to embrace “intersectional feminist values” to have a discussion about the implications of minority status when they, not women, and most certainly not white women, are the minority? Why are you presuming to understand male minority status and the reasons males make the career choices they do?

        Can you imagine the reaction I would get if I were to write your post, word for word, except changing the gender nouns and pronouns and suggesting that “intersectional masculinist values” were the panacea, and the source of insight that everyone ought to adopt? I would be laughed off this site for such arrogance.

        Yes, there are more men, than women, in management positions in healthcare but that ignores the fact that there are far more entry points for management positions in healthcare than through nursing and as is true in so many professions, it is also a consequence of different attitudes toward careers among men and women, pursuit of advanced degrees and outside training opportunities, and pursuit of different career paths. There are also profound differences in the prior work experiences of males and females who are entering nursing. Assuming that gender-based advantages alone account for differences in gender representation in management positions in nursing, and health care, is the product of very flawed analysis.

        While I have certainly seen that there tend to be more men in executive positions In health care than women, I have never worked in any nursing position in which there was a male nurse above me in the nursing department. All of my superiors have been female nurses as have been their superiors, and their superiors.

        But let’s consider the privilege you just experienced – Here is the faculty list of NYU nursing faculty:

        Of 72 non-research faculty members, 8 are males. Among research faculty it is higher, 4 out of 9 faculty members, but none of those males are identified as nurses so out of 81 faculty members there are only 8 male nurses, dropping the ratio to below 10%. I would have loved to have that much gender equality when I went to nursing school.

        Even at 10% male faculty NYU is something of a bastion of gender equity in academic nursing, but it is far from the mark of equity. When I went to nursing school, for my BSN, there were two male nurses on the faculty of more than 50. When I did my masters and PhD there was one male nurse faculty member in a faculty of more than 25-30.

        Washington Square Park and environs are a great place to live and go to school, but it is not at all representative of the rest of the world.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Both female and male healthcare workers are harassed by both female and male patients. Men are sexually assaulted and are sometimes subjected to domestic abuse.
        I think everyone has strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the table. I don’t see a male nurse and instantly think privilege. For instance a former coworker of mine came from a background where no one in his family had ever attended college. His parents were divorced and he had few role models in his life. For him, it was a privilege just to complete an associates degree program. The ability to attend a program like NYU was simply out of his zone of privilege.


      • Not sure where this comes from since I never suggested that female nursing faculty “couldn’t” be role models for male students.

        But, I would suggest that the reason that it would be good to have more male faculty role models for male nursing students would be for the same reasons that female students in every other profession that has faced this issue, have sought same gender role models – they tend to be more supportive. They tend to see the gender disparities that exist more clearly than opposite gender role models do and as a result they can offer better counsel about how to deal with the biases and prejudices that exist and are perpetuated by those who imagine that nursing, of all professions, is somehow free of bias and prejudice because in the USA it is a white women’s profession.

        To see that it has little to do with western culture, all one has to do is look at nursing in Great Britain where such a gender imbalance does not exist.

        Gender inequity exists in the USA because the current members of academia, and the profession, turn a blind eye to discrimination and appear to prefer it that way.


      • I think female professors can definitely be role models for young male nurses…..when I was in nursing school there were no male professors.

        Having watched my son and his friends progress through school there are definitely some male teachers with whom they had better connections. I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeking balance in the profession.


  2. Thank you for this piece! Men are nowhere an oppressed minority. Examining our privilege is essential, and I strongly encourage my male colleagues to do so. It’s sad to always have to say this, but people get so defensive when we discuss privilege: the problem here is not men, but the system that puts men ahead of women regardless of skills and competencies. Furthermore, leaders and administrators in the healthcare system need to examine their racist and sexist biases when discussing promotions. It is not normal for the proportion of women to shrink so considerably as we go up the echelons of power in the healthcare system. I hope we get a piece on racism in nursing as well. It is something that has been researched and is most definitely way too common, both in healthcare settings and in nursing academia.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would love to see a piece on racism in nursing as well! Thank you so much for articulating my goal here, which was to ask men to examine the system in which we live, not challenging them to defend their existence. Male-identity based groups that discuss the difficulties of compassion being seen as a feminine quality and struggling to fight against that – I’m so for that. Male-identity based groups who help each other network and get better jobs – I’m so not for that. The majority of people who get into nursing, men and women, do it out of empathy and good will, and I’m just asking men to extend that empathy and good will to female nurses and do some work to recognize that we experience discrimination in the workplace and out of it.


  3. Well-reasoned, Jillian. I read your thoughts and perspectives with great interest. As a 52 year veteran in the profession, I heartily welcome you to the ranks and wish you well indeed. Well educated nurses are certainly people of privilege with obligations to each other and to society.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement! I will do my best to fulfill my obligations. I chose to become a nurse because I saw it as a way to give back and make a difference. I am starting my first nursing job at an underserved hospital on a Med-Surg/Oncology unit next week. I was worried my ideas would be misunderstood, and it seems they already have been, so your words of support are very important to me. Have a wonderful day!


  4. Jillian, you bring up some interesting points here. I used to work at a school where the dean of the program basically had a male nurses club (unofficially). He met with just the males of the class, mostly he had group meetings for dinners out or socializing at bars, but I do believe he also met with each male student individually throughout the program…and I will tell you it really upset the female students. Meeting with the dean was really perceived as a privilege and they were not privy to it.

    We do need more men in nursing, and I was surprised at the reaction when the study came out (a few years back?) that men make more than women in nursing. Many leaders in nursing were surprised at the findings…and I was surprised that the leaders did not recognize this trend long ago; it certainly reflects our larger issues of pay inequality for women in general. I thought everybody already knew that men make more and progress toward leadership positions more rapidly and at higher pay rates vs their female colleagues. I guess we needed the research to clearly provide the evidence.

    I also find it interesting that while the % of medical doctors who are female has seemed to have increased and created a better gender balance, nursing has not been able to successfully increase our % of male nurses. I think we need to take a closer look at why this is so. I think we need to look at what attracts males to nursing and why they stay or leave the profession. I would be curious to also know male success rate in nursing programs (is it the same as females, or lower) and if males change their majors away from nursing at some point, it would be good to know why we can’t retain them (if this is an issue, but I have an inkling that it is). We have a big need for evidence in this area!

    All of that being said, I had a male RN-BSN student nurse who just graduated: at the end of the Senior Celebration, his father introduced himself to me, and told me he was also a nurse (he was probably in his 60’s), and that HIS father had also been a nurse. I was practically in tears as I asked about the call toward nursing across the generations, as my mother was also a nurse.


    • What a heartwarming story! Three generations of male nurses is certainly inspiring! I would also like to see research on why men do not becoming nurses. I would suspect it has to do with the feminization of compassion-based jobs and the failure to encourage men as caregivers, which is a cultural problem that will be a real challenge to solve. I support male-based groups who help men grapple with this cultural bias, but I challenge the idea that they are discriminated against more than women in our profession, and I challenge the existence of networking groups and events that serve to essentially increase the wage gap and the ascent of men up the career ladder. I also blame the conception that nursing is a less difficult, less professionalized career in the realm of healthcare than medicine and administration. I myself have endured skepticism for why I became a nurse and not a doctor from women who seem to hold the idea that going into a historically male-dominated profession is a sort of unspoken responsibility of feminists.


  5. Any piece that inspires introspection and discussion, even rebuttal is welcome. I’ve been a nurse for 38 years and entered right as more men were beginning to consider nursing as a career. My personal observations are that men who are making more were hired by women in management positions. That says a lot about women as managers.
    Before we condemn men for advancing in nursing, I think we need to learn from them. Men in my generation were raised to expect advancement and to be valued. How many times did I find myself having to fight my “programming” as a female to stand up for myself and my patients? If we expect less, that’s what we get. I’ve also experienced women accusing a male nurse of special consideration for advancement because of his gender, when the truth was that the male nurse was the one that sought out the position actively, while the female nurses had somehow expected the advancement to be bestowed on them for years of service. That’s not how it works, and, if one of them had simply applied for the position, one would have gotten it.
    Men are the minority in nursing and if they need to form support groups, I have no problem with that concept. Do we need more men and minorities in nursing? Definitely. Nursing has been the profession of the white woman for too long. Diversity is the only way to serve our patients and to expand the limits of the profession.
    Thank you for the article, although I disagree with some of your thoughts, having the courage to put them online to open up the discussion about the changing faces of nursing is appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Speechless at ThomasBlahPhdRn .

    Female Leading Medical Assistant here (the British naval type , not the US civilian type ) .
    Methinks someone with a Phd would be able to separate personal feelings from class analysis but wow , I’ve learned that apparanety , they can not .

    Does he know that this is even entrenched in linguistics , that in French a group of girls – les filles – becomes a group of boys – les garçons – the moment a SINGLE boy joins them ? That the existence of the girls , be they one hundred or one million , is semantically erased by the presence of ONE boy ?
    That that tiny minority has the ability to render invisible the majority around ?

    Well as with linguistics as with society . Minority does NOT automatically equate to oppression , or the 1% would be worthy a billion tears .
    Not feeling privileged as an individual does not erase class privilage , especially if one belongs to a class the presence of one such , renders invisible the majority who belong to the other .

    Stop appropriating the language of oppression , it’s rude , self indulgent , illogical and unscientific , a bit like homeopathy . Only worse .


      • To Thomas and all – we expect challenging, substantive discussion that is respectful of all points of view, even those that represent quite opposing points of view. We have zero tolerance for comments that ridicule or demean another person’s point of view, so please cool off and refrain from posting along this line in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Peggy, and all

        At the risk of being deemed offensive, I think this is a great exemplar of the problem I am discussing.

        Sinead was the party who took the discussion off track, made it personal, and did so at great length. Yet you, as moderator, do not name her first, you do not name her at all.

        Oh yes, you do include “and all” and one might assume that this nameless, faceless catch all term is supposed to cover her initiating behavior. Why is it that your admonition doesn’t read: “Sinead, Thomas, and all” rather than “Thomas, and all”?

        I am sure that there will be many who will accuse me of being “thin-skinned” for observing what to me seems so obvious, but isn’t that what oppressors do uncritically to disfavoreds and shouldn’t we all be mindful about how language is used to isolate and demean, as well as include and support?

        Of course, an argument can be made for the economy of expression – why waste the time typing out the extra name and comma, when people will probably understand that both parties to the offensive exchange are meant to be included?

        But isn’t this precisely how men, and their voices, tend to be marginalized in nursing and the voices of women, minorities, differently abled, and sexual/gender minorities are marginalized? If male nurses react to workplace slights, on a far grander scale than this, they are ridiculed for not being “manly” enough to take a little, “good natured”, ribbing.

        I think I am quite thick skinned, and I don’t think I take offense too easily, but I do notice, and reflect on, how language is used, and misused, in academia, other social settings, and the workplace.


  7. I have been a nurse for over 20 years. I’m not sure that I agree with your piece.

    Are there longitudinal studies that track the careers of female nurses vs male nurses, what they earn, if they took breaks from nursing, what sort of environments they worked in etc.

    I live in a liberalish college town. The two largest employers of nurses where I live are a public university teaching hospital and a a VA hospital. For new grads there is a set pay scale and union involvement, so it is in writing who makes what and what you can do to earn more. For someone who wanted to make more money initially you’d probably want to work a lot of weekends and night shifts to earn the shift differential. In my experience, men are slightly more likely than women to do this.

    At my employer, how far you go is really up to my supervisors. I haven’t seen any males nurses with privileges that females don’t have.

    I never thought any of male classmates enjoyed any sort of privilege in nursing school. In fact I thought many of them had it more difficult than I did, because they stood out more.

    There are a couple male nurses I am close to. I would say, instead of assuming one group has privilege, why don’t we talk to men and hear what they have to say.

    I do think that in some circumstances, men stand out more…that can be a benefit or a curse.

    I’d mentioned before that I live in liberalish college town. I think people talk a lot the ideas of intersectional feminism, but what they do in practice is something entirely different, especially when it comes to education related issues.

    I am a mother of a son in high school and a daughter in college. I don’t assume my son automatically enjoys a certain privilege because he is male. For one I am aware of issues that are more likely to affect men and boys than women. The only guaranteed privilege that my son has compared to my daughter is that he must register for the draft when he turns 18.

    I’m all for correcting injustices related to gender. I grew up in a very traditional household and hated being placed in a box of what it meant to be a girl/woman. I often think about how those expectations were harmful to me. However becoming the mother of a son meant that I needed to be aware of the challenges my son might face, and not just the ones my daughter would face.


  8. Pingback: Male Privilege in Nursing? – hot plate kate

  9. Since this overall dialogue is very convoluted and complex, I would ask everyone’s understanding as I return to the original posting by Jillian. Also, I would like to connect with Jillian in responding to her request to learn more. Again at the risk of being selfish, and also admitting to my less than great enthusiasm about modern day forms of social communication, I would like to have an opportunity to speak or communicate directly with you, Jillian, then followed up with a post based on our conversation, if that is acceptable to you. What I really would like to talk about is this one point you make: “Disappointingly, however, only a few have demonstrated a deep understanding of the privilege they enjoy, both in our profession and society at large, due to their gender.” What I would like to talk about is my own personal experience as only the second man to enter nursing in Virginia in 1966 and what I have learned about men’s experiences in nursing, and beyond, over time and perhaps shed some light on why I think your point is often the case. I was stigmatized as being “effeminate” – being 16 years old I didn’t understand how demeaning was to women as well as me or could I appreciate it and embrace it as I would today. To be frank, I would like to have an individual dialogue with you to learn more about how you arrived at your description because I sense it to be thoughtful and grounded – not to challenge it, but to learn from it – so I can appreciate my experience differently and that of other men and women in nursing to have something meaningful to offer you and others on this dialogue in a future post. I am of the mindset, using Marianne Williamson’s ideal, that we can have” dissent without contempt” for one another. My greatest hope in this day of social conversation via new means that we are able to create ways in which dialogues lead to transcending old ways of thinking and acting and that somehow we become more enriched and appreciative of one another.

    “The world is changed by your example, not your opinion.”
    Paulo Coehlo


    • I would love to talk more with you. Your comment has made me tear up a little, as this kind of introspection was exactly the type of dialogue I was looking for when I made this post. I did not want or intend to condemn men, but have had some bad experiences and wanted to challenge them to think more like you and be open to talking more about each other’s feelings of discrimination in our field. The patriarchy affects men in many ways as well, which it seems like you experienced coming into the field. Online communication can be so tricky, as you mentioned, which is why I tried really hard to establish a tone of loving kindness, and I’m sorry if some people could not understand that. I can see on Google that your email address at your university is publicly available, is it alright if I contact you there and then we can discuss more?


      • Would love to connect – that would be fine. I am going to be at a conference for next week so please don’t take slowness of response indicates lessened enthusiasm to pursue this. There is also a remote chance I will be in NYC in June – I will keep you posted. I am also one of founding members of Nurse Manifest and on some of the emails. We will connect.


  10. Hi Jillian

    As a nurse of 20 years I did not see anything offensive in this post towards men in general. I think you had a bad experience with a group of men. I implore you to remember that experience but to base your opinions on the border nursing community. You will truly find few people who are as empathetic and open to seeing the inequalities in the world as your new colleagues.

    Every profession has it’s difficult privileged individuals to work with. I realize you were also talking about a greater awareness of inequities but not all people see social justice in the same way. We have to work with everyone. I have had the great privilege to work with some incredible leaders in nursing of all genders. I have worked with marginalized populations and the privileged it gives you a greater ability to appreciate the diversity of people you meet in the world.

    It has been my great privilege to work for wage equity and towards ending violence towards women. It’s a fight I will never stop having unitl it no longer occurs. There are men who do believe in broader social goals does that mean I don’t live a privileged life… no but it does mean I can have a social conscience. We all experience oppression but not all of us live with it. It effects us all differently and we all react to certain triggers relating to what we have lived.

    I hope you get that from not only this blog but in a meaningful way from colleagues you shall work with over the span of your nursing career. I wish you a tremendous nursing career.


  11. Privilege is a challenging subject to talk about, and so I applaud you for writing an essay on the topic. Men, especially white men, definitely have inherent privilege in society. I am a white man and I have recognized points in my life where my race and sex probably “indirectly” benefited me. Equality of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, nationality, etc. is always on the forefront of my mind though.

    I did not take offense to your essay, but there are points of your essay that are sweeping and fail to consider the perspective and experiences of male nurses. Before I address those points, there were many aspects that I do not dispute. Although you didn’t provide any references in your essay, I don’t doubt that male nurses are more likely to earn more money and be promoted more quickly as compared to their female counterparts. I also agree that male nurses are probably less likely to experience sexual harassment than female nurses. Those unfortunate facts have been established in most professions and industries.

    There are two points in your essay though that do not sit well with me. First, you made a sweeping assumption that men “disappointingly” have not “demonstrated… a deep understanding of the privilege they enjoy…due to their gender.” Again, I will not dispute that men have inherent privilege in society, but that should not warrant the assumption that male nurses don’t recognize or understand this or are unable to critically discuss it. Those statements in your essay paint male nurses as obtuse thick-headed individuals who can’t engage in conversation about privilege. I would expect that most nurses (regardless of sex or gender) probably don’t think about privilege like we do, and would most likely not be able to have an informed conversation on the spot. However, most of the male nurses that I have encountered would listen to your points about privilege and try to understand your perspective.

    The other point in your essay that did not sit well with me was your stance on professional organizations for men. Before I address that specific point though, I want to lay out my own philosophical perspective on organizations for exclusive groups. Every single person is unique – unique upbringings, unique experiences, and unique lives. As a result, there are a lot of unique identities. I do not believe we should ever devalue someone’s unique identity, regardless of our own beliefs. People, even those who may benefit from the inherent privilege of their race or sex or gender, may want to connect with others who share their same unique identity in a safe space.

    So, that brings me to your point about male nursing organizations. Although I have never joined a male nursing organization, I know many men who have belonged to such organizations and benefited from them. I think you need to strip away the idea of privilege for a minute and consider the identities and experiences of some male nursing students and nurses. Is it wrong for a male nursing student to have established a strong identity around their gender? Hopefully not. Is it wrong that a male nursing student wants to find a safe space to discuss topics around being a male in a female dominated profession? Hopefully not. Is it wrong for a male nursing student to join an organization where they can be around other individuals that share their identity and find mentorship? Hopefully not.

    I applaud you for writing about privilege, a highly contentious and sensitive subject. However, I think you need to be careful how you frame your argument. The conversation should be around how society (culture, communities, families, companies, etc.) continues to provide privilege to white men, and should not drift in to “blaming” (for lack of a better word) men for not understanding privilege or in to devaluing a person’s identity.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think this is an interesting opinion (the original piece) for someone who has never experienced life as a male nurse. Are you not aware of the “good ole girl” networks that exist in nursing administration that keep men out of their ranks? During an interview have you ever had a female interviewer say ” it might be good to have some testosterone in the department” totally negating education and experience? Perhaps you should conduct a phenenological study of men’s perceptions of privilege in nursing to get a better grasp on the situation since you can never live our experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 I hear you bro!

      I think the most telling feature of this thread is the number of people who replied with comments suggesting that they know many male nurses and none of them ever mentioned anything about sexism and discrimination. But not a single person asked me to share more, on this site, or individually off this site.

      So are these people ever going to hear anything other than confirmation of their biases about “male privilege” in nursing? Probably not. They already have their perspective set in concrete.

      I think your idea of a phenomenological study would be great – but who would ever conduct a research interview by telling the participants what their experiences were, and then invalidating the participants’ experiences when the participants provided contrary data? Reminds me of John Money and the John/Joan situation.

      Had to laugh about the testosterone bit – every interview I have been in has involved at least one woman making such a comment. 🙂


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