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.
44 thoughts on “To Men in Nursing: Consider Your Privilege”
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.
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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.
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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: https://nursing.nyu.edu/directory/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.
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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.
Jillian — I just came across this while searching for literature on male privilege in nursing (of which there is some, not a lot, more from outside nursing than inside). Your comments are very well said, very thoughtful, and very timely. Sorry you got trolled by the notorious TC.
Good luck in your work, and keep academia in mind for down the road – we need more voices like yours in nursing scholarship! Yay intersectionality!
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Hi Stephen, thank you for your encouragement. No worries about the comments I received here, retrospectively I care even less than I did at the time and wish I had been less apologetic. I didn’t even read most of it. When I posted this, I had the firm support from many, but as a guest writer for this group, was worried about a few from within it who thought I had crossed a line, so I disengaged. Crazy to think this thread happened before “Me Too,” before terms like “gaslighting” and “internalized oppression” (both rampant in these comments) were more well known. Nearly two years later, I’m not so worried about male nurse’s privilege, and would rather just roll my eyes, say “no surprise” and just do more work to correct health disparities or something.
Thank you for doing your work on intersectionality from within academia. I see myself staying in patient care for the foreseeable future. If you see this message, please send along some of the other resources you found in your post!
Also why can female professors not be role models for young male nurses?
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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.
Odd, this reads like a case of assigning privilege to an “other” so that the issue could then be “balanced” in favor of the power holding class thereby insuring their continued authority? No authoritative group in history has ever done such a thing surely!? It’s almost as if the writer wrote this piece for the expressed purpose of reinforcing privilege which is weird since she clearly has none…..
All sarcasm aside, Male nurse here the only “privilege” I have possessed anywhere I have ever worked is getting crappier shifts, being “allowed” to go and respond to “Dr. Strong” calls and lift the heaviest, sweatiest, greasiest patients because intersectional feminism disappears when that needed doing; which would have been acceptable if a thank you were offered more than 1 in 20 times..
Reblogged this on Sasharose31's Blog.
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.
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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.
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.
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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!
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.
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.
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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 .
ROFLMFAO!!! Your barely literate, and intentionally offensive comment, doesn’t deserve any more of a response than this. Go ahead, wallow in your oppressed status.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.”
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.
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.
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.
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On point, check out in-press commentary from Ab Brody and colleagues in Nursing Outlook: Voss JG, Eldeirawi K, Brody et al., 2017 “Diversity Dynamics: Issues and Strategies to Create Positive Organizations: The Experience of Male Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars, Nursing Outlook (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2017.06.005. Link to full text:
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.
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🙂 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. 🙂
To thomas, you spelled you’re wrong while you were criticizing someone else’s literacy. Ironic, no?
That’s honestly your best shot?
No substantive discussion? No insight? Just a grammatical complaint about one word?
Neither is a majority population, regardless of gender, not oppressive.
Abuse is a power issue. In nursing, the power is overwhelmingly held by white women. They make up the majority of the nursing workforce, dominate middle management and executive positions, and have a virtual death grip on academic nursing.
The presumption that women are somehow free of abusiveness is equivalent to suggesting that there are gender-linked, stereotypical behaviors and talents that lead women to be more caring, more empathetic, and more suited to nursing than men.
If you are going to suggest that, would it not also be appropriate to wonder whether maybe there are gender-linked, stereotypical behaviors and talents that favor men in the engineering and natural sciences and reassess the decades long concerns about the under-representation of women in those fields?
Thomas, I know it is difficult to have an open mind, especially if you have been in the profession for a while. However, progress can only be achieved if both parties make an attempt to understand varying perspectives regarding the issue at hand.
It is my understanding that you did not attend the NYU College of Nursing as this author and several other commenters and I have. Because of this, you have not experienced the impact that the Men Entering Nursing (M.E.N.) club has on our student population.
I believe that the root of Jillian’s piece may come from the negative presence this club has on our campus. Although it appears Jillian attended NYU a little more than a year ago, this problem persists at our institution. Members of NYU’s M.E.N. group continue to receive selective educational and professional opportunities that non-male identifying members/female student body do not have access to.
Just last week, the nursing student body received an email from Men Entering Nursing entitled “Work Opportunity for Males @ Memorial Sloan Kettering.” This opportunity, only open to male students, provided selected members with free access to an MSK lecture day awarding 8 CEU credits as well as “a great way to gain access to employment at MSKCC for their first RN job.”
Additionally, as far as the economical perspective on gender inequality in nursing, a 2015 UCSF-led study found no improvement in the earnings gap since 1988. This study found that “Male registered nurses (RNs) make at least $5,000 per year more than their female counterparts across most settings, specialty areas and positions.”
Does this not provide a basic definition for the privilege men have in the nursing profession?
I would be thrilled if more men would enter nursing, as greater diversity in both gender, race, and culture tends to correlate positively with innovation and progression. However, this is not the intended point I have inferred of this particular discussion.
From what I gather, the topic Jillian introduces centers more around why NYU’s Men Entering Nursing club continues to provide its already professionally-desired members with exclusive academic and career opportunities.
Maybe instead of focusing so much on advancing the already-existing desirability of men in nursing, clubs like this could focus on outreach and encouragement to other men who may be interested in nursing?
Maybe instead of competing with the existing female nursing student population, we can work together to break down the stereotypes and bias that men in nursing must endure?
I am interested to hear different perspectives on this situation! I cannot pretend to understand exactly what it is like to be a man in the nursing profession, just as men should not pretend to understand what it is like to be in our situation. However, that does not mean we should not both try!
I do not believe that anyone here has suggested that no women have ever abused power. Neither has anyone implied that all men are unfit to care for people. It has been very well acknowledged on this threat that women are the overwhelming majority of nurses, however, I believe that this is first and foremost due to the historical implications of nursing, in that women were only societally permitted to be nurses and teachers until very recently in our history. I know it must be difficult to be a man in nursing, no one is questioning how frustrating it must be to deal with patients who question your empathy. However, as Amy mentioned, male nurses are promoted more quickly and according to the NYTimes, paid on average 5000$ more in the year than female nurses. This is the point that we are trying to make. I also cannot deny that many men’s experience in nursing may stray from what I have experienced, but I do believe it merits a discussion without bullying or condescension, which is much of what I am reading from this thread. Everyone’s experience adds a valid piece to the evaluation of privilege, and to respond to a comment criticizing someone’s literacy because you don’t like what she has to say is not conducive to a productive discussion. It doesn’t seem as though you want a discussion at all, only a chance to assert your beliefs and put down anyone who disagrees with you.
I wrote almost all of this post in response to your first email and don’t have time to rewrite to adjust to your subsequent posts.
You suggest that I am the one shutting down dialogue in a subsequent email, and I profoundly disagree. The missing voice here is not the suppressed voice of women in nursing. The suppressed voice is the voice of men in nursing. I have been involved in the Nurse Manifest project since the earliest, pre-formative days, and it has always been a predominantly white, female ensemble, primarily espousing views that were emergent and fresh in the 1960s.
I am going to take you at your word and assume that you actually want to enter into a dialogue, do not understand the experiences of men in nursing, despite that later email, and also assume that you have a sincere desire to understand a different perspective. I am going to go into exquisite detail about a handful of my experiences, as a male nurse, in a female-dominated profession.
As with most such stories, it is long, which is why it is going to be ever so much easier for you, and others, to just ignore it. Truth is, there is no guarantee that it will even be posted. Perhaps it won’t be. The ultimate exercise of “privilege” is totally suppressing the voice of the suppressed voice. Peggy will ultimately make that decision. But the one thing that should be obvious given the level of detail, Is that I am committed to dialogue! This will be divided into four separate posts due to WordPress length restrictions. I will put the post section # at the top of each post.
So maybe I have just wasted quite a bit of my time preparing something to give you some insight into what the experience of the “other” is like, that none but me will ever know exists. Well, that isn’t quite true either. There is someone who could validate some of what I describe, but I am not counting on that happening.
Men in nursing do not come to each other’s aid. Like most female colleagues of women abused in workplace, academic, and domestic situations, male nurses observing abuse of other male nurses say little, turn the heads, and hope that it will not happen to them. Not dodging abuse of other male nurses opens them to be future targets, heopardizes relationships of years/decades, and exposes their past silence.
That said, I must confess that this thread is a lot like looking at the #metoo movement and suggesting that the women in the #metoo movement, or Rob Porter’s ex-wives, need to be able to understand the perspective of the males who took advantage of them, because in many ways that is exactly what it is like.
Yes, men do tend to earn more in nursing. I have already conceded that. The difference is that I suggest that there are far more cogent explanations than mere gender-based income disparity that explain those pay differentials.
Men entering nursing are more likely to be older and pursuing 2nd or 3rd careers. They also tend to work longer hours. They tend to have more managerial experience, work experience, and they often earned more at former professions that staff nursing positions will ever offer.
But, there is also the fact that the lower down you go in nursing (the closer to bedside), the greater the concentration of women, and the greater the impact of sexism, racism, discrimination, and abuse directed against male nurse, and other marginalized populations in nursing. This is also the domain in which the greatest dangers for men exist in the profession. Men, more than women, are more likely to have the way they must touch patients questioned. Male nurses don’t have the opportunity to bring female aides, or fellow nurses, along with them to protect them from false accusations. But it goes so much deeper than that.
I’ll give you several personal vignettes. My hunch is that you, and others, will probably not bother to read them, or will jump to a conclusion that my experiences are outliers. Some will conclude that I no doubt brought these things on myself. You, and others, may conclude that these events are me over-reacting, or the result of some personal inadequacy, or aberrant manifest “masculinity”. The same arguments have been made against women who report domestic violence, rape, sexual battery, and employment discrimination. It is so easy to marginalize the voices of minorities, and so difficult for those voices to break through the glass ceiling of resistance to reality on the part of those in power.
I took a long time preparing this so it will really be interesting to see how much attention to the details is paid in the responses, if any.
But first, let’s just clear the air about the real outlier: NYU. I grew up in NYC. I used to live at 210 Sullivan Street, up from Bleecker Street and a few blocks South of Washington Square Park. I have always been a big fan of Martha Rogers, who you may or may not know, because NYU nursing sometimes tries to forget her years of leadership.
My point, of course, is that I, unlike many potential readers, know exactly how unique NYU is. NYU is embedded in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, embedded even more tightly, in what is likely to be the most culturally diverse 22.83 square miles on the planet. So, is NYU even remotely representative of nursing academia, or nursing? No!
There is, unfortunately, no reason to imagine that men and women differ fundamentally in their treatment of “other”. Male and female concentration camp guards treated concentration camp victims equally badly. Female nurses delivered fatal doses of drugs to mentally and physically disabled people in the Third Reich along with male doctors. The capacity for depravity is clearly not gender-specific.
Men tend to feel more comfortable in social and professional situations with men, and the same is true with women. I have seen absolutely nothing, in any research, that suggests that there are gender-linked, specific advantages: intellectually, emotionally, in sensitivity, in empathy, or physically.
I believe, and always have, that anything a man can do, a woman can do, barring of course, things that require primary sexual characteristics, and that is probably subject to change in the future. But I also believe that anything a woman can do, a man can do, with only the same reservations.
The differences that we see, in our culture, are the consequence of socialization in our culture. The traits, behaviors and characteristics we observe in nursing, in our country, are not seen, as starkly, in most first world countries.
Men of my age, can certainly remember the selective service system, the fact that only men were drafted and subjected to brutal training exercises and war. Women who entered the armed services did so voluntarily, unlike the overwhelming majority of men who entered military service, through most of the 20th century. My hunch is that you are far too young to remember any of that.
I can actually remember as a child growing up hearing phrases like: “Man the life boats! Women and children first!” Such events made indelible impressions on me, and other men of my era.
If you look at men and women in Scandinavian countries, you won’t see anywhere near the same patterns of sex-role stereotyping that exists in the USA, nor will you see the same sort of gender imbalance professionally that you see in nursing in the USA. My European male nurse colleagues have never quite understood the gender issues in nursing here because they don’t face those issues in the same measure. Gender imbalance in nursing in the USA is a distinctly American thing. Yes, gender imbalance exists, in a lot of 2nd and 3rd world countries, but not anywhere near as much in industrialized, “advanced” countries.
Now, as to openness, here we have two women, who go to NYU, and who find a club for men in nursing to be an affront. You seem to see it is a distinct advantage afforded men, that women do not have. You see the male nurses club as opening doors, passage through which, you are denied. So let me give you some perspective on things you might not have thought so much about, but which I have thought a great deal about throughout my time in nursing, because I have been interested in the issue of racial, gender, religious, economic, social, educational, and physical “privilege” for a whole lot longer.
I did my BSN, after I had already earned a bachelors degree in mathematics, a masters degree in applied mathematics and statistics, and a masters degree in social work. I had also done graduate work in philosophy at the New School for Social Research, across Washington Square Park, and a few blocks North from where I used to live and very close to the non-health care NYU Campus. I also did additional graduate work in mathematics and statistics at two other universities, and I had already taught mathematics, statistics, and social work at several colleges and universities, at the community college, undergraduate or graduate level. So I had already been around academia quite a while before deciding to go to nursing school.
Still, I was stunned by the amount of cheating in my BSN program. What was the vehicle for this stunning amount of cheating for an academic who thought he had already seen just about everything? I earned my BSN at a school with one of the strongest reputations as a “party school” in the country. It had one of the highest proportions of “Greek” membership of any university in the country. In my class of 135 students there were about 8 males.
Members of sororities, which probably included at least 35-50% of my nursing school class, had access to decades of past, graded examination questions, past graded papers, and other previously graded assigned projects. While I, and most of my fellow male students, and yes, many non-sorority female students, struggled to complete assignments, take examinations, and do papers, some of our sorority sister competitors simply reviewed a few years of old tests, made minor edits on papers and projects that had already been graded, and on which faculty comments for improvement were made. Needless to say, these students got really easy “A”s.
The grading scheme was unlike anything I have ever seen in any other institution of higher education. I may be off by a point or two, it was a long time ago, but as best I recall an “A” required a class average of 98-100. An “A” was something like a 95-97, and I think a “B” was 93-94. Now at first glance that doesn’t necessarily ring any alarm bells. What difference, after all, does such a unique grading system entail as long as it is applied to all students?
In many ways it may seem entirely fair. The problem was that other colleges and universities, in the same state, even in the same state University system, had completely different, and far more consistent grading systems, as did the other departments in the same University I attended. In other departments, within the same university, and within the State University system, a grade of “A” was awarded for a class average of 90%, or higher. The distinct grading system used in the College of Nursing also didn’t align with the grading system used by the University Registrar.
If you wanted to go to graduate school, and came out of my BSN program, and had a solid class average of 90, you had a low “B” average, not the “A” average that students from other state institutions had for the same exact classes and average class grades. This incredibly contrived, faculty created, grading system in the nursing school (think critical social theory here), disproportionately favored people who were able to cheat, and who were more likely to secure the highest grades, which ultimately translated to just an “A” in the registrars office. The people favored by this arcane grading system also translated to white, female, sorority sisters.
Did my classmates realize this was happening? Nope. Not a clue! I knew it was happening because I was familiar with grading systems used in lots of different institutions of higher education. I also had the benefit of being a mathematician and a statistician. I take numbers very seriously and I am infinitely curious about numbers.
On the single occasion that I actually got a chance to look at a prior, graded exam, five minutes before an in-class test, roughly 1/3 of the 55 questions on the test I took were from the test I had just seen. When I reported this to the teacher, minutes after submitting my test paper (I was almost always the first person to complete exams), I explained that I had seen a prior test, just before taking the exam. Merely making that statement meant that I was exposing myself to a charge of cheating as the official school policy was that no exam information was ever to be taken. In exam review sessions students were specifically told not to take notes. That didn’t stop people from taking notes, or recording the review sessions. It was a farce. But I stuck my neck out because I didn’t feel the cheating was fair and I wanted to stop it for the benefit of all the students in my class. I also asked my teacher for a copy of the 55 question test I had just taken.
As we sat there I reviewed the test, marking the questions I believed were on the earlier test, and not marking the ones I thought were not. When my test was scored, I got 100% on the questions that were on the earlier test, and 67% on the questions that were not on the earlier test. None of the questions I marked were not on the earlier test, and none of the questions I did not mark were on it. My recall was perfect and that 33 point grade differential was the marginal advantage, for me, of seeing just one single prior test, for just 5 minutes, before taking my test.
If I had had 2-3 prior tests to review, I would have had a 100% class average throughout my BSN program without ever opening a book because most tests had a sufficient number of questions with the most obvious answers. If all I did was attend lectures, I could easily score 50% on the tests, even without taking notes. Two to three prior tests would have been sufficient to make up the balance because so many questions were repeated. This isn’t at all uncommon. Most teachers don’t spend a lot of time preparing true/false. multiple choice, column matching, and fill-in tests. They may change the wording slightly, resulting in a change from true to false, or vice-versa, but they do not tend to make up completely fresh tests every semester. All that is needed, to cheat in such an environment is a vehicle for the cultural transmission of old course tests, papers, and projects – sororities and fraternities, though of course, in my BSN nursing school, it was the sororities that served that function.
Did my sorority sister fellow students sit around debating the “fairness”, “privilege”, or “inequity” of this “white, female advantage”? No. It was just the way things worked. Most of them entered sororities expecting to have such resources available. They had parents, and siblings, who were members of “Greek” organizations, friends who were members, or had heard about the advantages of “Greek” membership and sought membership to reap those advantages. We aren’t talking about people studying philosophy of ethics and trying to count how many angels there are on a pin point. They were being 20 somethings, doing what 20 somethings do at a school well known for parties, football and beer kegs.
I, on the other hand, and far more so than my male and female peers, was acutely aware of the advantage this gave my female competitors, for high grades and curve setting test results. I actually did more to expose this than any other student ever had. I forced the cheating issue into the open. Trust me when I say that my actions were not warmly greeted as an effort to reduce gender-based discrimination by the female students and faculty.
That particular teacher lectured the entire class about the unfairness of cheating, and accessing prior materials, when she returned our tests. That was pretty much the corrective action zenith for my time at the school. I still got an overall grade, on that test, of 77% (100% * 0.33 + 67% * 0.66), a low “C” grade in the aberrant grading system.
Of course the word soon got out that I was the most likely source of the complaint addressed. I hadn’t been asked over to take a look at the prior test, I noticed really strange behavior on the part of 5 people, who were looking at a piece of paper. I walked over and asked what they were looking at. I honestly didn’t expect them to show it to me, but the person who had it just handed it to me, and nobody objected. Chances are she was never supposed to see it herself. Sometimes non-sorority sisters were beneficiaries, often without knowing it, of this distinctly white, female “privilege” at my BSN school, because they wound up in project groups with people who did have access to previously graded materials.
A few students thanked me years later, because some modest efforts were made to deal with the cheating, but that is a really long story, and most of the remaining faculty still resent what I did. I actually still live in the same relatively small town that I got my BSN in, but trust me I am not, by any means, the favorite former student of any of the faculty. I have run into a few faculty members along the way, most shy away, only two people have encouraged any further contact and they faced backlash when they asked me to come to school functions and sat with me.
I’m on a roll, so I decided to come back and add in another vignette about my BSN program. In one of my classes we have to do a group project. The groups are assigned by the teacher. I have no choice. I am in a group with five sorority sisters. After class they take off and I follow, asking when we can get together to discuss the project. They say they can’t talk now, but we will work it out. It never gets worked out. My repeated efforts to coordinate are ignored or deflected. They don’t want to meet, they don’t want to discuss who will cover various aspects of the assignment and how we will do the presentation that we are supposed to make, and this continues.
Fast forward. It is the day of the presentations, the teacher asks which group wants to go first, and my five sorority sister group members all say: “We will!” No consultation with me. Teacher says fine, let’s get started. My group members all turn to me and say: “Tom, you’re up, do the introduction”. None of these people have ever talked to me about this plan. As far as they know, I have nothing to say, having been left out entirely from their work, having never been assigned a role or a piece of the project. Their assumption is that I won’t be able to say anything and will look like a fool, because they have a sheet of paper thas has my name on it as the person who is going to do the introduction.
What these folks didn’t realize is that I’m nothing like the other male nursing students they know. I am actually prepared for just such an event. Entirely on my own, I have completed the entire assignment. Once again here, while they are using an old, previously graded assignment, for this class project as their starting point for their work, I am having to do all the work, that six people are supposed to do, on my own.
I get up, go to the front of the class, and I deliver the longest, most thorough, “introduction” anyone has ever delivered. I cover every aspect of the assignment, leaving absolutely nothing for any of them to add. They are literally sitting there, mouths open, and dumbfounded. A couple of them stammered, trying to add something, but it was obvious that I had already covered everything, in greater detail than anything any of them could possibly add. The teacher took pity on them, let them off the hook, and moved on to the next presentation. I have no doubt whatever that the teacher understood exactly what had just happened.
Sexism? Probably not. It was probably an example of “male privilege”. After all, my sorority sister group members gave me an opportunity to shine, didn’t they? There has to be some “privilege” in that.
Who then, in the nursing profession, needs to be open to new perspectives, and who needs to be open to the perspectives of others, specifically those of the “other” gender? I would argue that it is not at all male nurses who need to be more open, but female nurses, and overwhelmingly, white, female nurses!
Let’s fast forward. I was recruited into a doctoral program in my junior year. That didn’t work out for obvious reasons, but I did eventually enroll. That program had bi-annual starting sequences, so I began a masters program the September after I got my BSN to give me something to do while I waited for the doctoral program to begin. The person who recruited me ultimately acknowledged that I was only offered the masters in psych mental health nursing, rather than family nurse practitioner program which I was interested in, not because there weren’t openings in the FNP program but because they knew that the FNP faculty would do their best to sabotage me and interfere with my academic progress.
That was actually true. While most of the psych faculty were very encouraging, the predominantly white, female faculty in non-psych courses were fairly brutal, graded me more harshly, were less forgiving of errors on my part, than they were with regard to my female peers. It was obvious – My peers and I frequently talked about it. Unlike my BSN peers, my MSN peers were a lot closer to me in age and a lot less overwhelmed by the environment. Besides, I was always very helpful, explained things that they didn’t understand from lectures, and otherwise ingratiated myself. Oh yes, I was the only male student in my psych mental health program cohort.
I couldn’t detail all the discriminatory acts that occurred during my MSN and PhD programs without writing a multi-volume book. However, one faculty member stands out by a wide margin. I will no doubt take a lot of flak for the way I am going to describe this faculty member, because some people will know exactly who I am describing, and the description I am going to give, is critical in every detail to fully appreciate exactly what happened.
Obviously I am talking about a female faculty member and she happened to be white. She was also THE “critical social theory” loving, radical, lesbian, feminist faculty member. As I say, there are people here who will recognize who I am talking about immediately. Guess what, being outed, a decade or two after your abusive behavior, is just the way things go nowadays. It is exactly what the #metoo movement is about. This isn’t an anti-LBGQT polemic. My masters program advisor was a lesbian, my doctoral program advisor, and dissertation chair was gay.
Now, long before nursing school, I was already well versed in critical social theory. So one might think that there would have been some similarities and areas of agreement and that we might actually have a lot in common, and might even develop a pretty good relationship. I attempted this, introducing myself, in an email, shortly before I arrived on campus. Critical social theory isn’t exactly mainstream nursing lore so we were both outliers in even understanding the most basic terminology and concepts. I can count the “critical social theorists” I have met in nursing, outside the Nurse Manifest project, on one hand, with many extra fingers left.
But, to be completely honest, the term “male loathing” would be a far more apt description of this particular faculty member. So let’s explore some of the most obvious things that just this one faculty member did.
One of my first classes in my masters program, was a large class, with perhaps 100+ people in it. All the first semester grad students took this class. Unlike almost every other class, it was not held in the nursing school building. The classroom was in the medical school building, and the room was filled with portraits of the most illustrious past faculty, and heads of the medical school – all white males as one might expect in the Capitol of the Confederacy.
This teacher immediately started into a polemic about how much she hated that room because of the obvious sexism. I could certainly understand that feeling. I had looked around the room, and noted the portraits, and thought about the obvious sexism and racism it represented before she ever entered the room. Remember, I am a New Yorker, I am used to cultural diversity, I went to integrated schools, and I had friends across the entire spectrum of race, religion, social and economic class, educational and professional classes. Richmond VA was unlike anything I had ever experienced when I first lived there 22 years earlier, and the earlier impression, my first real experience of in your face, overt racism, was indelibly etched in my consciousness.
I certainly didn’t need a lecture on that – it was obvious. I could not have missed that issue in a thousand years. But, I felt some empathy on the basis that she was probably assigned to use that room because of a class size issue. Had I been in her shoes, I thought, I would likely be annoyed as well. What, I thought, might it be like to repeatedly have to use that room, semester after semester, year after year.
But what didn’t become obvious, for another year, was the fact that this faculty member requested that room every semester that she taught the class. The “social reality” was that she didn’t get assigned to teach in that room at all. She made an entirely free choice to use that room. There were many, many alternative rooms she could have requested. She never needed to expose herself, or we students, the students of color, the men, or the women to that room. All the discomfort she created, for herself, and others, was a free choice.
She manipulated the situation to make a cheap point. She wasn’t honest about what she was doing. She could have made the same point, by announcing to the class that she chose that room, just to highlight the history of racism and sexism in the Capitol of the Confederacy. If she had done that, she would have been intellectually honest, and it would have probably been an even more powerful point.
Fast forward. She taught one of my first PhD courses the next Fall. There was only one person in my doctoral program that was anywhere near me intellectually, or academically. My math GREs were 780, my Verbals were 700, her’s were 780 and 710 if memory serves correctly. I over-performed in every aspect in my PhD program. My assignments were almost always the best, at worst maybe once or twice second best. Unlike most of my peers, my work was always timely, and I published several papers during my PhD program. I also did a great many presentations at professional conferences during my PhD program.
In her course, we had the option of doing a paper, or a presentation. But we could also do both because her standards were supposedly completely open. She stated that she wanted “us” to choose on what basis our performance would be graded. I did both because I had already had experience with her grading practices from my first class, had been warned about how malicious she was, and that she openly discriminated against male students, by people in the preceding two doctoral program cohorts, and by people in my masters courses. I lapped most of those people, finishing my doctoral program before most of the people who entered in the two prior cohorts. I don’t think I set the record for the fastest transit time but I was probably the second, or third fastest program completer.
Most of the presentations for that class were simple, questionably worthy of doctoral students. But despite being the most active participant in classroom discussions, being the student most thoroughly versed in the course content, having done a clearly better presentation than most, and having also submitted a scholarly paper, which was published a few months later, the only grade I got was a “C-” for my paper. One student did neither, missed most of the classes, and was still enrolled in the doctoral program the following semester. I have no idea if she got a grade in that course, or not.
This faculty member intended to give me a “C” as a course grade. In graduate school a “C” is a failing grade. You get kicked out of doctoral programs over grades of “C” and in this case, I would have had to wait two years to repeat that course, if I was even going to be allowed to do that.
When I shared my graded paper with my fellow doctoral students, they were shaken. When they realized that I was going to get a “C” in the course, and what that implied, they took it upon thmselves to complain to the doctoral program director. That was easy, because the doctoral program director was the teacher of the class we were waiting to begin. Eventually this teacher was forced to review her grading of my paper. The result was a “compromise” of a “B+” in the course. I got one other grade that low in all my masters and doctoral courses in nursing.
This clearly sexist teacher was supposed to teach another course in our PhD program. All but one of my fellow PhD students refused to register for the course if she taught it. Another faculty member had to step in ad teach it at the last minute. You may not understand the significance of that rebellion. Teaching classes, and grading students, is a sacrosanct faculty right. Issues of academic freedom abound and nobody in acadrmia takes kindly to short-termers, like doctoral students, who make such waves.
Did my peers understand what they were doing? No, most of them did not have the background in academia that I had, they just knew that this faculty member was untrustworthy, that she was unfair, that her lectures were vacuous, and that she was the worst teacher any of them had ever had. She literally used to simply sit at the front of the room, pad and pen in hand, and say nothing to start the class off. I was usually the student who started discussions of our assigned reading.
Do I think that this teacher sat around reflecting on what she was doing, how discriminatory her actions were, how unfair they were, how sexist she was being? Not for a second. I don’t think she has enough insight, today, to reflect on what she was doing, how unfair it was, and how professionally inappropriate it was.
I’ll give yet a third example to really pin this faculty member’s abusiveness down, though I could go on for chapters, just about her. These were not isolated incidents, but merely a small number of scenes from what were constant, never-ending, discriminatory practices primarily directed against men, engaged in by this teacher, in every facet of her professional behavior at the School of Nursing. Worse still, she was the faculty Chair of the faculty committee that was supposed to ensure the equal treatment of all students regardless of race, color, ethnic origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion… How do I know she was the Chair? Because I was the graduate student representative on the committee. You get the picture, right?
One of my last courses in my masters program was a summary class about professionalism, taught by this same person, the semester after the incident with my downgraded paper. Remember, I had already been abused by this faculty member, she had already been directed to re-evaluate my work by the doctoral program director and the Dean. She didn’t just volunteer to review my paper, she was compelled to, and yet I still had to take a mandatory class with my abuser. Just another example of “male privilege” in nursing I suppose.
During one class session she had a female MD and medical school professor, from another university, who came to talk about professional relationships between MDs and RNs. They spoke glowingly of their work together, the seamless nature of their professional interactions, and encouraged everyone in the class to seek opportunities for inter-professional collaboration of the sort they enjoyed. It was actually quite inspiring and I actually enjoyed the interaction between them, and it opened my mind to ways in which I might emulate their behavior. I should however note that I used to work as a biostatististican, at a major cancer center, and I already had lots of experience with inter-disciplinary relationships, long before I entered nursing school.
But it wasn’t all positive. The two of them began to make light of students who described the problems they were having working with doctors. They even disparaged people who felt that doctors and nurses could not work together as peers, and in essence suggested that those people, my fellow students and I, who couldn’t do the same, just weren’t working hard enough to develop such relationships. That sort of took the glow off that class session but it was still an overall positive experience.
The only thing they left out was the fact that they were a couple, that they lived together, and had been living together for years. I didn’t learn about that for another year. When I realized how entirely fabricated that classroom scene had been, I felt a level of outrage way, way beyond the outrage I felt over the issue of my unfairly graded paper and course presentation. The two of them had been playing out that delightfully manipulative vignette together for years. Almost none of the students ever knew the truth. I have no doubnt that the faculty knew about their “special” relationship, perhaps not the absence of disclosure, but nothing was done about it during my time at that institution.
Again, do I think this person has ever reflected on her behavior, ever thought of herself as anything other than a victim of sexism? No. I don’t think she has a clue to this day.
Okay, enough of her. Let me give you an example of possible student – student sexism. In my second year PhD classes we covered statistics. As I said, I have a masters degree in applied mathematics and statistics. I offered to help my peers, including all the students in my cohort, and a new cohort of students from Thailand, who were taking the second year courses, without having taken the first year course. I could fill the details in on that one but there isn’t enough time in the universe to explain all the little discriminatory nuances that occurred during my masters and doctoral programs.
I discussed the idea of helping my fellow students with mastering the course material with the course teacher. So she knew I was tutoring my peers and had no problem with it. My lead competitor, remember, the one with the nearly identical GRE scores, for reasons unknown to me, decided to accuse me, and… wait for it, the only other male student in the class of cheating. The charges were ultimately dismissed, after I spent more than a month defending against the charges, and going through a formal inquiry. The irony here is that she was the first person I offered help to, suggesting that she, I, and the other male get together for a study session because at that point we were the ones that were on campus most of the time, because we were all TAs/GAs, while the other students tended to head to jobs, or home right after class.
The harm to me was great. My competitor and I just happened to be nursing school representatives on the student committee that handled issues of academic misconduct. As a result of her charges against me, I became persona non grata. It didn’t matter that the charges were dismissed after an investigation that included interviews with me, with the other male student, with the person who made the accusation, with the teacher, and with the other students I tutored. The damage was already done. I stopped going to the committee meetings because it was really uncomfortable to be there.
I did counter by charging her with submitting false charges of academic misconduct. But I ultimately dropped that because I just didn’t have any more time or energy for BS. I wanted out of there as soon as I could manage it. Why just me and the other male student? Beats the hell out of me? There were at least 7-8 doctoral students I was tutoring, only one of whom was male. Surely that must just be a coincidence. No way that could be sexism.
OK, fast forward. I am the first of my cohort to complete my PhD and I accept a teaching position in nursing as a result of a relationship with a member of the faculty who promoted my candidacy, based on numerous presentations I had done, at professional conferences at…. Wait for it. Conferences of the Society of Rogerian Scholars. Remember my earlier comments about NYU and Martha Rogers? I have actually even been to conferences held at NYU. But I digress. I’ll come back to that and wrap everything up, with a neat little bow, eventually.
The Associate Dean at the school was tasked with the responsibility for handling my interview and other details. She was a problem throughout the recruitment process. Despite multiple efforts at sabotage, which only started to make sense, once I was already there, she either failed to respond to emails, or made excuses for unnecessary delays. Frustrated, I finally emailed the Dean and explained that I was considering another position and that I had been unable to make arrangements for my interview through the Associate Dean.
I was interviewed the next week, on my return trip from the interview for the other position. Two emails back and forth with the Dean and all the arrangements were finalized.
So here we are, at my first week in school. Through no effort on my part, because I already know that I am going to stand out like a sore thumb, as the only male, tenure track, PhD faculty member, I am inexplicably assigned an office three doors down from the Dean’s office, on the most valuable section of College of Nursing real estate in the building. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. Of course, the office came with a lot of baggage.
Continuing and new faculty members stopped by, admired my office, made a lot of negative comments about my proximity to the Dean’s office, and the value of that cherished real estate. I wanted to be able to be a wallflower, going about my work, teaching, doing research, meeting new colleagues and students and developing professional relationships. Instead I was fending off criticism and jealousy from my peers that I did absolutely nothing to bring on, over an office I not only didn’t want, but had actually asked not to be given when I was told where it was. I asked for a smaller office, in the area furthest from the Dean’s office. My request was turned down because, I was told, the Dean wanted me to have the bigger, nicer, closer office.
Just a wild guess here – I guess that was an example of “male privilege” in nursing? Thanks, but no thanks. Do I think that the Dean considered how my fellow faculty members would react, the “social distance”, jealousy and animosity that her choice of office assignment would create? No. I think she just appreciated having a male faculty member because it created a better “gender balance” on the faculty.
You may not realize it, but in academia the gender and racial polarization in nursing is actually an issue. Nursing , much like social work, is often disparaged in academic institutions. Traditional faculty tend to look down on nursing and social work. The assumption is that these “service” professions don’t really have similar academic standards as main campus programs.
So, you are correct, there is demand for male, minority faculty members. I was male, hispanic, and the Dean got to check a couple of more boxes off on the faculty profile checklist for gender and racial diversity. It didn’t hurt at all that she also had another PhD faculty member who just happened to have three masters degrees, two baccalaureate degrees, and decades of experience in research and statistics. I was also offered a position as an Associate Professor, which was yet another issue for negative comments. I had years of teaching experience behind me at that point, and was surprised that I was offered that rank, but it certainly wasn’t outlandish. So I spent a lot of time dealing with people who wanted to know why I had a high profile office and an appointment as an Associate Professor.
Okay, so unpleasant experiences, but certainly not conclusive evidence of sexism, right? For some reason I can’t get ANY of the curriculum materials for the courses I am supposed to be teaching. No first day course handouts, not even the simplest course description normally handed out on the first day. No lecture materials, no handouts, no reading lists, no course outlines, no bibliographies, no previous assignment descriptions, no PowerPoint presentations, and no prior tests. Unlike all the other new faculty, who are being given piles of paper and computer files of lecture presentation materials, I get nothing handed down to me. What is the single, most obvious difference between me and my fellow new faculty members, with tons of papers and computer files? Well, I’m gonna have to stretch for something that makes sense, oh yeah, I’m male.
The story I am given is that my predecessor took everything. Over many months I go everywhere, including multiple visits to the clerical staff, the people who are supposed to keep copies of all this stuff, independent of anything that individual teachers might have had, because such materials are needed for site visits by accrediting organizations. I know this because I have been a faculty member at other institutions of higher education, and I have served on curriculum committees in several academic settings. But none of these people think I know what is happening. It is very similar to my sorority sister course project group members. They really think they are pulling the wool over my eyes, like I am some dumb rube.
So I struggle through two semesters of teaching, having to create course materials for entirely new classes each semester. I am also never told by the Associate Dean, or my direct superior, my Department Chair, that my salary is funded by a federal grant. Of course, the course materials for my classes are part of that grant, and there actually ARE copies of everything that was financed with those federal grants, including the job description for my position, that has specific activities I am supposed to be engaging in, and on which I would be evaluated at the end of my first year. But I don’t know any of those details for another two years.
One of the clerical staff actually went so far, in the second semester, as showing me an empty filing cabinet drawer, where all of the materials, for all the classes I was supposed to be teaching, were supposed to be located, replete with empty Pendaflex and manila folders, with labels on them. Yeah, they actually did do that! The story was that this was where the materials had been kept but my predecessor was angry when she left and she took everything.
As I say, I didn’t find all this out for another 2 years. Why did these things happen? Was it just sexism? No, it probably wasn’t JUST sexism. But it was tolerated, in an environment in which all the administrators were white women, and almost all my faculty peers, were white females. There were two other males, neither of whom had a PhD on faculty. I think they were both “Instructors”. The behavior was tolerated, as so much poor behavior against women is tolerated, because otherwise good people, who could have prevented it, did not.
Good people, who might have tilted the playing field in favor of gender equity, didn’t do anything to prevent gender inequity. Maybe these people would have done the same exact thing if I was a female colleague. Who knows? Maybe people didn’t like me because I was a mathematician or a statistician? Maybe they didn’t like me because I was Hispanic? Faculty loyalties to current and former colleagues range from none at all, to total, undying, life-sacrificing.
Good people probably just “went along to get along”, the same way many men don’t confront sexism and racism in the workplace when it is directed against others. It is just easier not to speak up. It is easier to remain silent in the face of discrimination, than it is to draw attention to yourself, and maybe suffer the same fate as the person who is first in line for the abuse.
It would be a lot easier for me, in this setting, to just say nothing. I could have let that original post slide. I didn’t have to speak out. I didn’t have to question the assumptions in the original post and I certainly could have ignored the post the other day. Good people do that all the time. Rob Porter’s male and female colleagues did it in the White House for a year.
As I found out much, much later, my Department Chair knew where the course materials and job description were all along, and she knew I was being barred access to them. But she covered for the abuser, repeatedly telling me to talk to the Associate Dean, even though I explained, on multiple occasions, that the Associate Dean kept telling me that the materials didn’t exist. Forget about the job description – I didn’t see that until the middle of the first semester of my third year, despite the fact that all along my role was one of the principal roles in the grant that funded the course materials and my position.
But guess what! Federal grants for nursing education aren’t rocket science. The money flows like Niagara Falls, and the duties of faculty members are pretty obvious: Be a good colleague. Talk to peers, students and working professionals. Share ideas with peers, students and working professionals. Encourage peers, students and working professionals to share their interests in doing research, writing papers, preparing and delivering presentations. No brainer!
Consulting with peers, students and working professionals is my shtick! I do this stuff for fun! Going to conferences and delivering papers with peers, students and working professionals, sharing my ideas and helping to forge links with the interests of other people is just me. I am a walking, talking multi-disciplinary research group all on my own.
So, I actually over-performed on precisely the criteria I didn’t even know existed. I had 17 articles, comments, or book reviews published. I did 13 presentations/papers with peers, students and working professionals, most of them at Sigma Theta Tau conferences.
There wasn’t anyone at that University, in any department, that worked harder with peers, students and working professionals than me. Not because it was in my job description, but because collaboration is my nature. I don’t collaborate just with men, just with women, just with nurses, just with social workers, just with scientists. I’ll collaborate with anyone, doing interesting things, and a lot of things interest me.
Was it enough? Not even remotely. The sabotage just continued. In the end, the Associate Dean, who I knew, during my first three weeks had plagiarized a course website (more about this below), conspired with another faculty member, and three graduate students, to generate complaints about my teaching. I was approached, hours before that class was to meet the first time, and asked to teach the course, as an extra, over-load course, in the Spring semester of my second year, by my Department Chair.
I must pause for a moment to explain something at this juncture. What I am about to describe was a totally unnecessary escapade for all those involved. I had already decided not to return for a third year in the Fall semester of my second year. I did not file the mandatory paperwork for re-appointment. I had no plans to come back. I was completing the second year of my contract, as a distance educator. I was at school that day as one of 3-4 visits to campus I was going to make to attend faculty committee meetings, including attending meetings for the soon to begin doctoral program.
When I explained that I couldn’t attend the class that night, because I had dinner plans with another faculty member, I was told that the co-conspiring faculty member would cover the first class for me. It was, as I say, supposed to be done on-line, using the “exemplar” of the College of Nursing’s online online course websites… Yes, you may already be anticipating this one…. the plagiarized course website.
My Department Chair was unusually insistent, literally begging me to cover the class because a scheduling conflict supposedly prevented the co-conspiring faculty member from teaching the class, because she had to cover another class that nobody but her could teach.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I do have a wee bit of a problem with plagiarism. As a professional courtesy I did not report the suspected plagiarism. I deliberated about it, but the truth was that I didn’t know whether the bulk copied course website was copied with permission, or not. I did however make a comment to the Associate Dean, one afternoon early in my first semester, when she popped into my office, that I really liked the original website and I mentioned the name of the faculty member, at the other university, who created the original website. No sign of recognition at all. I just filed it in the back of my mind as odd that there was no recognition at all.
So, as I say, there was no way for me to know how the site was developed and asking the question would actually potentially be making an unfounded charge of plagiarism against a very senior faculty member and senior administrator. Perhaps the course website had been copied with permission from my school, and the original creator. Junior faculty do not open Pandora’s Box unless they are very foolish.
I also did not know, at the time that I discovered the plagiarized course website, that the Associate Dean had been paid to create that course website and was being paid royalties every time that course website was used. In fact, royalties had been paid every time that course had been taught for several years. But, like I say, I didn’t know that when I made my original decision to ignore what I could only speculate might be plagiarism.
Okay, I can already anticipate it. What has this got to do with sexism, NYU, and the male student nurses club? This is just really, really bad, unprofessional behavior. I will grant you that. It is really, really bad, unprofessional behavior. We will get there, I promise!
But remember, I did not ask to teach this class and could not attend the first class. The situation was entirely contrived, as I would discover much later, just to set a trap for the only male faculty member with a PhD. After the formal meeting of that first class, an agreement was struck between 3 of the 4 students enrolled, and the co-conspiring faculty member. These three students would not have to do the course on-line, and they would ultimately be graded for the course, by the co-conspiring faculty member, who met with them at the first course meeting. All they had to do, to complete the course, was make complaints about me! The 4th student was approached but wanted nothing to do with it.
I, of course, was not privy to this agreement. I began emailing all four students, assuming that they had been instructed on how to access the course website, which I had been told had been covered during the first class session. I was clarifying my understanding about how the course was to unfold, when assignments were due, course reading lists, and required forum discussions.
The problems began immediately. I received emails from the three students who had, unknown to me, been promised that their course would be graded by the co-conspiring faculty member. These three students said they were having trouble accessing the course website. did not have reliable internet access at home or work, and had myriad other computer problems, despite requirements that they have internet access and computers to participate in the programs in which they were enrolled.
Thus began two months of constant complaints, through emails and during on-campus sessions I held especially for them. I lived 1,000 miles away at that time, and was not supposed to teach any of my classes in-person, during the Spring semester. None of my appearances on campus were to entail holding on-campus course meetings.
The final culmination occurred during my 3rd unscheduled class meeting, especially held for those three students, the 4th student having never had any problem with the course website, assignments, or maintaining contact also attended but that was just to give us a chance to talk face to face about her class project. She was doing all the work, working on her course paper, and she was easy to communicate with.
Purely to make it easier for those three students. I had even created my own course website, which was much easier to navigate than the official course website. It didn’t require logging in to the campus computer system which was repeatedly cited as a problem, the materials were organized in a far more user friendly format, and the 4th student actually preferred my website to the jumbled, plagiarized course website.
I used materials I put together, again having to largely replicate the curriculum for a course, and unlike the Associate Dean, I gave appropriate credit and citations for my sources. A good deal of it provided links to the newest version of the original, copied, course website, at the other university, the one that had been copied without crediting its author. The difference was that my links were current and they all worked. Many of the links in the plagiarized website led to links that no longer existed. More about the missing link issue later!
But those three students were still refusing to use either website. They actually refused to do anything they were asked to do the entire semester, except attending the 3, on campus sessions I held just for their benefit.
During this last session, after extremely nasty comments by one of the three co-conspiring students, I pointedly asked her whether she had read the assigned readings? We were well past the halfway point and they were already supposed to have read about one third of the book. She yelled that she was not about to read a 1,000 page book because she had better things to do with her time, picked up her book, and slammed it on the conference room table.
One thousand pages was an exaggeration, though it was a thick book, but she probably didn’t have any idea how many pages the book had because it is unlikely that she ever opened the book. None of her emails ever referenced her course assignments or course readings, they just addressed the problems she was supposedly having with the internet and accessing the course materials.
At the end of that class meeting, after yelling at me for quite some time, the lead student turned to the other two co-conspiring students and said: “We have an appointment to go to!”. I thought that was pretty damned strange since it was pretty late at night – their choice not mine, and almost nobody was ever there that late at night except me. As well, I had no reason to believe that the scene that had just unfolded was planned, not spontaneous. The 4th student and I talked for a few minutes and then she left and I went back to my office.
I thought about what happened a lot that night and decided I had really had my fill. The next day I dropped in on my Department Chair and explained what had happened the night before. I described the interactions, the refusal to use either website, the refusal to do assignments, the statement that the student was not going to do any of the assigned reading, and the cryptic comment about the “appointment”.
My Department Chair told me that I had to go talk to the Dean. I said I didn’t need to talk to the Dean because I wasn’t going to come back and subject myself to any more of this sort of behavior anyway. My Department Chair asked me to stay in her office and went and got one of my favorite administrators, one of the Assistant Deans. My Department Chair asked me to recount what I had just described, which I thought was also a little strange, because I thought the whole story made absolutely no sense at all. I was seriously doubting my own experience. Again, I said that I would prefer not to, but they both continued to ask, and I ultimately agreed.
When I finished recounting what my experience had been like, while teaching that class, the scene in the conference room, and the constant complaints and excuses in emails about completing assignments, the Assistant Dean also told me that I needed to talk to the Dean immediately! We discussed this, at some length, with me saying it was just not a good fit for me, and it would probably be better for all concerned if I just didn’t come back in the Fall.
Again, recall that I had not submitted the paperwork for re-appointment. There really wasn’t any issue about my not coming back. They prevailed, and I agreed to talk to the Dean, on condition that the Assistant Dean went with me. If nothing else, I was certainly curious about why they were so eager for me to talk to the Dean?
We’ll see, if you choose to engage in dialogue, whether you can understand how I was feeling at that point, whether you can empathize with my experience, or whether you will dismiss it as irrelevant to this thread.
As it turned out, at precisely the moment that I entered my Department Chair’s office, the co-conspiring faculty member was sitting in a meeting with the Dean. She was telling a wildly different story. In that story, it was me who abused these three students. It was me who refused to respond to emails. It was me who refused to work with the students.
The Assistant Dean called the Dean’s secretary. She, in turn called the Dean out of the meeting with the co-conspiring faculty member. The Dean’s Secretary told the Dean that she needed to meet with me, and the Assistant Dean, immediately. The co-conspiring faculty member was shooed out of the Dean’s conference room and I, accompanied by the Assistant Dean wentin from the opposite side of the conference room. Me, the Assistant Dean, another high level administrator, who had just attended the previous meeting, met with the Dean. I once again stated that I really preferred not to have the conversation but I was once again asked to explain what had happened the previous night, and remember, by this point I am really, really curious about why this is so important to all these people. So I explain again about the trouble the students were making, and the strange comment about the “appointment”.
The contra-story did not involve an appointment between the students and the co-conspiring faculty member. In that story, I was yelling at the students. The co-conspiring faculty member heard the commotion and was walking toward the classroom, when the three co-conspiring students ran into her as they fled the classroom. In the contra-story, the faculty member tried to encourage the students to go back and work things out with me, because I was the teacher, but the students refused, and despite her reservations she invited the three, emotionally distraught, students to come to her office and talk things through. After talking to the students, the co-conspiring faculty member felt compelled to report a problem with me to the Dean.
Of course, the contra-story, and my story, were incompatible. I am really a logical positivist, with just a twinge of critical social theorist. I don’t believe contradictory statements can exist. It wasn’t very hard for anyone to figure out which story was true. In their story there was never an appointment, so how would I know about the appointment and their meeting? Their interaction, according to their story, with the co-conspiring faculty member wasn’t planned, it was a spontaneous event. In my story, there were three poorly performing students, who refused to do assignments. In the contra-story the students were trying really hard to do the course, and faced obstacles presented by an uncaring, faculty member, who disparaged them, and thwarted their efforts to master the course material.
But the real zinger! In the contra-story the students complained that I had created an alternative website, rather than using the original course website. Their story was that they had not had problems accessing the course website at all. In the contra-story, I refused to use the course website without any explanation, and created a course website that was harder for them to use. When I say that these people weren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree, it is a gross exaggeration.
I, of course, was in the dark on this issue, but right out of left field, the Dean asks me: Is it true that you made the students use an alternative website? I sucked air, because I really didn’t want to get sucked into this issue at all. explained that the students had been telling me they couldn’t get into the school system, had trouble using the course website, and that I had created a site, on my own web server at home, where I kept all the materials for all my classes. I did not, though I debated it, say anything about the fact that I preferred not to use a course website that I believed was plagiarized. Remember, I knew nothing about their little plot at this time. I knew nothing at all about the role of the Associate Dean.
So, I have the meeting with the Dean, and the Dean is, pardon my poor French, really PO’d. She has just been lied to, for half an hour in person, as well as during several phone calls, with the Associate Dean and the co-conspiring faculty member, who have already been freely sharing the contra-story with other administrators and faculty, which is why my Department Chair wanted me to talk to the Dean in the first place.
This is what happened – It is not what I knew. I didn’t get all the details for quite a while. All I knew was that something really stunk, the Dean didn’t like it, and I was being messed with.
I could explain, in far more detail, what the underlying issues eventually turned out to be, the palace intrigue, an attempted Dean coup, but I won’t. I will however, share what I did next.
I spent a lot of time the night after my meeting with the Dean, thinking about what had happened in the last 24 hours. Although I reaffirmed my committment that night, that I was not going to return for a third year, I took the time to prepare two loose-leaf binders. One had the pages from the original course website. The second binder had the pages from the plagiarized website.
My hunch was that I was going to toss both binders. I was heading home the next night, and as far as I was concerned, I was not going back for a third year. I had better things to do with my life. Having not applied for re-appointment months earlier meant that I was just finishing out my second year contract. I did reverse my position on this. months later, and only with repeated promises that I would be protected from such maliciousness in the future, but it wasn’t where I was that night.
But I am ahead of myself. I went to meetings the next day, talked to a variety of students and colleagues, and the loose-leaf binders just sat in my office. Late that afternoon, I was wandering around the building. I was one of the few people that was ever there late on Friday afternoons. I noticed that one of my favorite administrator’s office door was open. Nobody else was in the building. That was typical on Fridays and this administrator and I often talked on Friday afternoons.
I think I was, at that time, still helping her with her dissertation research. Since I had already made my decision not to reapply and certainly didn’t anticipate many more visits to campus after the meeting with the Dean and the three students, I figured I wasn’t going to be seeing much of her in the future and I went in to say hello and goodbye. I had no intention, at that time, to do anything with the two binders. We talked for a few minutes and she shared her knowledge of what had happened the day before.
She was closer to the Dean than anyone else, and already knew the time-line of what had been happening from the moment those three students left my classroom, two days earlier. She brought it up. She filled in a few, very sparse details. As we talked, it was clear that there was a lot more going on than what I had known when I spoke to the Dean. She shared enough, specifically the involvement of the Associate Dean, for me to decide to share the two loose-leaf binders with her.
So, I got the two binders, put them on her desk, and started turning the pages that showed the plagiarism in black and white. I made no claim of plagiarism. I just pointed out that the pages in both binders were from two different course websites. The text spoke for itself. Most of sections of both binders contained long stretches of identical text, identical structure, and identical sequencing.
I pointed out my annotations of places where website links from the plagiarized copy led to the original site, making special note of the website links that no longer worked on the official school website, because of changes that had been made in where materials were located. I’d guess that way more than 50% of the text was straight out of the newest version, having remained unchanged when the newer version was rolled out. It took a few seconds for my friend to realize what she was looking at.
That is how bad the plagiarism job was. It literally reminded me of one of the plagiarized papers submitted to me by one of my students who had copied and pasted a section of text from a website, replete with inappropriate HTML formatting code, and the most absurd, non-APA format imaginable. The plagiarized website made no effort to conceal the links to the original site. The plagiarized website had been repeatedly used, by faculty and students, and nobody had ever said anything about the website links to another university. Nobody ever mentioned that many of the website links were broken. Nobody questioned what was obviously a plagiarized website, and nobody but me had ever reported the plagiarism.
As I said, I didn’t know about the payments and royalties for the use of the website when I created mine, nor did I know about it when I met with the Dean. I found out about them as I was going through the loose-leafs with my friend. My friend explained that released time, and a cash payment, had been provided for the initial development of the course website. She also explained that royalties had been paid every time the course website was used. My friend was also PO’d.
By developing my own alternative website, just to help my students navigate more easily, I had unwittingly jeopardized the agreement for future, undeserved royalty payments. If nothing else that happened, had been pre-planned, that alone might have provoked the Associate Dean to retaliate. But I didn’t know that when I created my site – I was just trying to help my students get through a class website that they repeatedly said they couldn’t access. I didn’t know that they were probably talking with the Associate Dean and co-conspiring faculty member throughout the process.
So, I left that night feeling like I had just taken a long swim in a cesspool. I felt dirty, humiliated, abused, and used. But the person I showed the binders to knew exactly what the real takeaway was: fraud. My teaching, my efforts to help my students, and my reputation had been assaulted, and had I never gone in to speak to my Department Chair, nobody would have ever known the truth. I would have been labeled as a bad teacher, unwilling to help students, and nasty as well, and I would have been forgotten about in a few months.
So, one might think that this would be the end of the matter, right? Lies exposed, truth revealed, the bad people get punished, and the good people get rewarded for their, above the bar, efforts?
Not quite. I was asked to say nothing about the situation. The two co-conspiring faculty members and the three co-conspiring students went about their business, thinking that they had gotten away with their deception. The three students never responded to multiple emails from me asking for their course assignments, while the 4th student who had had never had any problem using either course website, completed the course in a timely manner, and I was going to give her the “A” she deserved.
But, when it came time to enter the grades for the course, I discovered that all four students had already been awarded “A” grades. I thought that was also sort of strange because, I was the teacher, and I hadn’t submitted grades for the course. I let that one lie for several weeks. I was under no time pressure at all to do anything.
But, my Department Chair and my friend were beginning a campaign for me to come back for a third year. Phone calls and emails asking me to re-up. So, curious, I emailed the Registrar and asked how it was that the grades had been assigned for my course without my doing it? Our conversations unfolded over a couple of weeks. The students’ transcripts had long since been mailed out.
Now, I don’t know how much you know about Registrars. Registrars rank right up there with accountants and FBI agents when it comes to their sense of humor about fraudulent representations. They have no sense of humor about fraudulent grade submissions. You can mess with almost anyone in academia with relatively little consequence, but not Registrars. Registrars take grades really, really seriously.
The Registrar reported back to me that the course grades had been submitted by the co-conspiring faculty member who had met with the Dean, just before I exposed the deception. The Registrar also asked me what I wanted to do about it? I asked the Registrar what my options were? The Registrar made it very clear that I was the assigned faculty member, the grades had been fraudulently submitted, and I could fail the students, enter “Incompletes”, or submit grades, but if I did nothing, all the grades would become “Incompletes” because I had never submitted grades for the course and that was the default consequence of a fraudulent grade submission.
One of the students had finished the course, and she certainly deserved her “A”, so the Registrar deleted the fraudulent grades and I replaced the fraudulent grades with one “A” and three “Incompletes”.
Now the three students, who thought they had their “A”s, and had already received transcripts, had already applied for tuition reimbursement from their employers. The three students, the Associate Dean, and the co-conspiring faulty member all thought that their little scam had succeeded, undetected. But, I knew that the grades had been changed to “Incompletes”, and one of my obligations, as a faculty member, during the Summer, was to remind my students that they were not finished with the course. My contract wasn’t completed and I did need to resolve the grades for the three students as one of my final duties. I am sure you can imagine how well that email went over.
More complaints from the students because neither the students, nor the Associate Dean, nor the co-conspiring faculty member knew about my meeting with the Dean, my submission of the two binders, which were delivered to the Dean the next Monday, though the phone call that original Friday night, from my friend to the Dean, was the real notice.
None of these five conspirators understood at all why the grades were changed to “Incompletes”. When the co-conspiring faculty member left her meeting with the Dean, just before my meeting with the Dean, she thought she had been authorized to finish the course with the three complaining students. When she submitted the grades, which were signed off on by the Associate Dean, they both thought the co-conspiring faculty member had been authorized to replace me as the students’ teacher, and they both thought the assignment of grades was going to be backed up by the Dean.
But, of course, that wasn’t what happened. Instead, the fraudulent payments for course development and royalties were known to a tiny minority of the faculty and administrators. The conspiracy was known to a tiny fraction of the faculty and administrators. The three students, faculty member, and Associate Dean continued talking about the situation, assuming that nobody knew what had actually happened. Of course, my reputation suffered considerably, but honestly, I didn’t care. I wasn’t there, and I had no plans to ever be on campus again.
So a lot of nasty emails were sent by the students. They sent nasty emails to me, to the co-conspiring faculty member, to their advisors, to the Assistant Dean for their program, to the Associate Dean, the Registrar, the Dean and eventually to the Provost’s Office. For many months, everywhere the three students turned, they were being told that they needed to speak to me, complete their coursework, have their assignments graded, and course grades submitted, by me.
The Associate Dean and the co-conspiring faculty member were told that this had to be done due to a “glitch”, they weren’t told anything at all about my meeting with the Dean. As far as thy were concerned, I had raised an inappropriate issue with the Registrar, and the Registrar was trying to sort out who was responsible for assigning the course grades. But that wasn’t the case at all. The decision about changing who was responsible for assigning the grades had never been implemented by the Dean. The acedemic co-conspirators didn’t know this but that is because they were dumb as dirt.
The three students didn’t understand. No big surprise there. They had been promised “As” with no course assignments, after the first course meeting, and all they had to do was make complaints about the course, and me as their teacher.
It took a year before the Registrar was over-ruled. During that time the students turned on the Associate Dean and the co-conspiring faculty member, explaining in exquisite detail, the promises that had been made to them. They were the nastiest nurses/students I have ever encountered in my life. But they were also desperate.
They had submitted fraudulent transcripts to their employers and had already received their tuition reimbursement funds. They had been also registered for the second semester of the course sequence, to take place during the Summer session and it was the last course before they were to graduate. But, the “Incompletes” menat that their registrations for that followup course were cancelled because they had not completed the first semester of the course sequence. They were having trouble explaining to their superiors why they weren’t going to be graduating on time, and getting their master’s degrees was an issue at work. It also meant higher pay.
The students were caught between a rock and a hard place, as was the Associate Dean, and co-conspiring faculty member. They just couldn’t understand why they were were caught between a rock and a hard place.
The Dean tried to get me to file plagiarism charges, but I absolutely refused. I knew that as a junior faculty member, submitting plagiarism charges against a tenured faculty member, and senior Administrator was a sure loser. I wanted no part of it. I had finished out the Spring semester in a tense situation, had made it clear that I was not returning in the Fall, and my only interest was in fulfilling my duties as the person who had to grade and submit the grades for the three remaining students. Well, that isn’t entirely true, I did have a lot more involvement than that, but I considered the probability of returning in the Fall to be 0.00 through most of the Summer.
I went to campus a couple of more times during that Spring semester, but, unfortunately, even those few trips, brought me into direct contact with the Associate Dean and co-conspiring faculty member. They were continuing their abusive behavior, keeping the story going that I had been relieved of the responsibilities for that class, and that in June, when the grades were reversed by the Registrar, they started telling people that I was making trouble with the Registrar and they were explaining that they didn’t understand why that was being allowed to happen?
Like I said, these folks aren’t the brightest bulbs on the tree. All I heard was one statement that three of my students, who were chronic complainers, had a previously scheduled appointment, and I figured out enough of what was happening to expose the plot. I also noticed the plagiarized course website the first time I accessed it. So, I had, without their knowledge, exposed a really, really big issue. Still, even after weeks/months of being told that the students needed to work things out with me, none of these five people seemed to be able to grasp what was happening to them and how a noose was tightening. Karma is a real beach!
So, did it go well for me? Did the bad guys get punished? Mixed results. The same two abusive co-conspirators accused me of bullying them by exposing the truth. The Dean never announced to all the faculty what had actually happened. What few friends I had left within weeks of that classroom fiasco, were goners by the Summer. I had decent relationships with the administrators I had direct contact with, but that isn’t enough to make it as a faculty member.
All Summer long I was getting pleas from my Department Chair, my admministrator friend, and through them from the Dean, to come back in the Fall. I made it clear that I wanted nothing to do with these people and I was eventually told that the Dean had filed plagiarism charges against the Associate Dean.
Ultimately, stupid as I can be, I was assured that I would be left out of the entire mess. I agreed to come back on those terms. One of the first things that happened upon my return, was being contacted by an Assistant Provost about the plagiarism charges. I explained that I did not file the charges and wanted nothing to do with them, or the inquiry about them. I acknowledged that I had prepared the binders, acknowledged giving them to my friend, and that I had no idea at all of what happened after that, whether the site had actually been plagiarized, or what the nature of the Dean’s plagiarism accusation entailed.
Despite my preference to be left out of it, the committee investigating the plagiarism charge demanded to interview me and though I initially refused, they persisted and I eventually relented after being threatened. They had absolutely no interest in the plagiarized materials, how I had found the original course website, which I had actually found while taking my doctoral program research classes, and only wanted to discuss my “animosity” toward the Associate Dean, the co-conspiring faculty member, and the three students.
They also didn’t care about the fabricated “appointment”. The only thing they were really acutely interested in was why did I prepare and turn the two binders in, why had I contacted the Registrar, and why had I changed the grades to “Incompletes”?
In the end, the co-conspiring faculty member was granted tenure the next year, the Associate Dean resigned, and the student’s grades were changed to “As” by the Office of the Provost, over my objections, and the objections of the Registrar.
You can’t make this crap up – it is just too bizarre.
So, getting back to NYU, as I promised above, where all of this thread actually started. It is sort of like Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant”, in that it all sort of comes together in the end. Where does the co-conspiring, Associate Dean end up, after resigning her position, because she submitted a plagiarized course website as her own intellectual work product, collecting financial payments, over many years? Wait for it… It is coming… Yep, NYU! Go figger!
So, are my experiences unique? No! Are most men in nursing going to be so open, especially on the Nurse Manifest site? No! Just as do women in sexist environments, men tend to duck their heads, avoid acknowledging the degree of discrimination and sexism we face, and just try to “get along by going along”. We often simply don’t want to attract much attention.
Men work harder to advance in nursing than you realize, as discriminated peoples always have. Although you don’t see it, male nurses face higher barriers, and get criticized for their extra efforts, and get criticized when their extra efforts lead to managerial advancement. That is how sexism, racism, and discrimination have always played out, and it is how sexism, racism, and discrimination will always play out.
It doesn’t matter whether the discrimination is directed against men, women, people of color, people of different religions, ethnic origins, gender identities, political affiliation, or sex-object preferences. Unfairness and discrimination are always rationalized, by the abusers, as appropriate because of some perceived inadequacies, or unacceptable characteristics, of the abused.
If you are a woman in nursing, in the United States, in the 21st century, and you want to examine “privilege” in nursing, you need to look at your privilege, not try to conjure up privileges enjoyed by men. White, American female nurses have vastly greater “privilege” in American nursing than African-American male and female nurses, White male nurses, Muslim male and female nurses, Asian male and female nurses, and green card holding male and female nurses.
Stop looking at the leaves on the trees, and start looking at the forest. Think about the privilege you may enjoy, at NYU, of having a predominantly white, female faculty. Think about all the opportunities you have, to interact with female nurses/students in class, in health care settings, in your practicums. Think about the composition of the groups you are assigned to do class projects with, the fellow students you can go to for help. the teachers you can go to for help. What is the most obvious, striking characteristic of most of those people? Female gender.
Think carefully about NYU, which because of the urban location, the long history of association with counter-culture movements, the long history of protests at Washington Square Park, near the historic main campus, the cultural richness and diversity of NYC, makes NYU stand out as a really, really extreme outlier. The disparity between NYU and most nursing schools dwarfs the statistical significance of the marginal disparities between male and female nurses pay that you cite. The female “privilege”, in nursing is what literally screams out for discussion.
Open your eyes to the fact that most nursing schools are nothing like NYU. They are in small cities and large towns, rural areas, community colleges, even embedded in hospitals. The faculty are overwhelmingly white female nurses, the precticum site mentors are overwhelmingly white, female nurses, the student populations are overwhelmingly white female students. Yes, there are a few places where these statements are not true, in extremely demographically outlier communities, but it is true almost everywhere.
Go to conferences. The conference attendees and presenters are overwhelmingly white, female nurses. The nursing school admissions committees at the associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels are overwhelmingly white female nurses. The faculty who attend candidate interviews for new faculty are overwhelmingly white female nurses. When you graduate and go on job interviews, even in NYC, there is a good chance that most of the people who interview you will be white and female. Truth is, every job interview but one that I have had as a nurse has been with white, female nurses.
So, if dialogue is your goal, let’s all talk about what is really happening, why men in nursing don’t really talk about their experiences, and why a male nurses club is not really deserving of your attention and animosity. Your fellow male students have one place at school where they actually feel safe and feel free to be themselves, free to network, and free to gripe if they choose about the female “privilege” all around them, and you want it taken away because you think it is a “privilege” afforded to them because they are males in nursing?
That notion, that it is reasonable for you to deny male nursing students a safe harbor, in what is an overwhelmingly female dominated profession, is the ultimate, dictionary definition, of unacknowledged “privilege” in nursing.
Join in, let’s discuss this! Let’s hash this out and maybe we can develop a safe place for some of the men in nursing who lurk here to join in without feeling that they are going to be criticized automatically for sharing their stories that don’t confirm the dominant bias in this setting…
I’m doubting that will happen. Instead, this post may never appear, or people will probably ignore this post. People might say that my post is too long, too detailed, and they couldn’t get through it. People might criticize me for sharing my experiences, marginalize me, suggest that my story is unbelievable.
What I certainly do not expect is an outpouring of empathy, a call to dialogue about this issue, a lot of men to back me up, or a meaningful, continuing dialogue about the most obvious problem: female “privilege” in nursing.
But, predicting outcomes is also my shtick! Let’s see if I am right.
I would also like to posit that perhaps younger generations of men in nursing have a different experience. More and more males are becoming nurses, and the social difficulties of men in nursing seem to be diminishing for classmates of mine. In New York, there are often at least 3 to 4 male nurses working on each of the units I have visited or worked on, and more and more female nurses are accepting men into their social circles and unit cultures. As a nursing student preparing to graduate, it seems that more and more of my male classmates are getting opportunities to network amongst the greater community of male nurses in New York. Perhaps male-female relations in nursing are also different from place to place. I can only speak to my experience, but in my experience, male nursing students are valued by universities in a way that I have never felt valued myself. Male students are recruited heavily at New York University, and given many privileges to encourage them to stay the course. It does not seem to me that they are excluded in the hospital or in nursing school culture either. Perhaps that will change when I enter the hospital system as a new nurse, but from many of these comments and reports of nurses that I have worked with, it does not seem to be so.
I am shocked and grateful for the extensive time and effort you have put into sharing your story regarding the sexism you have experienced in your past academic and professional nursing career. Your experience sounds incredibly disheartening and I can absolutely see why you are defensive and skeptical of the sexism we are attempting to discuss. You seem very doubtful that anyone would be willing to take the time to hear your perspective, so it may surprise you that I have read every word.
Just as I have taken the time to hear your perspective, I would hope that you also took time to look at the statements Anabel made and the statement I made earlier.
We, in no sense whatsoever, want to disband the Men Entering Nursing club.
In fact, as I stated earlier, I would be absolutely thrilled if more men would enter nursing.
Greater diversity will only improve our profession.
As per my previous post regarding Men Entering Nursing’s intention: “Maybe instead of focusing so much on advancing the already-existing desirability of men in nursing, clubs like this could focus on outreach and encouragement to other men who may be interested in nursing? Maybe instead of competing with the existing female nursing student population, we can work together to break down the stereotypes and bias that men in nursing must endure?”
It may encourage you to know that at NYU Meyers, I have had the same number of male professors as female professors. Maybe this is because, as you point out, NYU is located in the heart of an incredibly diverse city. I am very aware of the privilege we have being able to educate ourselves through the resources New York City provides. I grew up in a suburb in the south with very little diversity where no one was willing to engage in conversations such as this.
As I’ve said, and will say again, we are not trying to exclude men from nursing, that would be completely out of line. We are fighting for equality, not majority or superiority.
Again, thank you for sharing your experience. It is very interesting to hear such a different perspective.
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Thanks for your response.
Dialogue is good. Understanding each other’s experience is good.
As to competition: Competition, unfortunately, is a basic economic fundamental, not because it needs to be. If you look into the work of people like Norbert Wiener, you will know, as do I, that we had the vision, and ability, to eliminate most human labor, certainly the human labor needed to meet the most basic human needs, almost 3/4 of a century ago. Check out his book “The Human Use of Human Beings”, originally published in 1950. He distills, for a lay audience, the advances in automation, robotics, and computer technology that his far less accessible books, such as “Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine”, published in 1948, describes in far more mathematically intricate detail.
The future Wiener imagined, and played an instrumental role in creating the paths to, way back them was one in which food scarcity, housing scarcity, even healthcare scarcity would be abolished. It hasn’t played out that way, not because a lot of us wouldn’t prefer that it be that way, but because some people in society want way more than other people need just to survive.
If you sincerely want to avoid competition, avoid focusing on the male nurses club. Engage with the male students, ask them what it is like to be male in a female dominated profession. Encourage them to share their experiences. They probably have the least resources of any group of nursing students at NYU, regardless of the superficial appearances. If you can genuinely make that overture, it will be good for them, and you may be really surprised at how good it will be for you.They aren’t the problem.
As to my BSN program, I didn’t create the platform for grade competition in my BSN program. The faculty created that. The unique grading system, the failure to put copies of all course materials, all prior tests, all prior class project submissions in the library, where all students would have equal access, and which I asked be done, is what created, and sustained the imbalances that existed, and created the desperate efforts to get the highest grades, and sustained the advantage that members of sororities continued to have over all non-members of sororities.
The extremely limited opportunities to score “As” created exactly the opposite sort of atmosphere, that many of us in nursing wish we could create for students, and patients. In place of cooperation, to which a great deal of lip service was paid, including the description of why we were compelled to engage in group work projects such as the one I described, created the “social reality” that there were going to be winners and losers in every course, and since we had been hearing from day one that they were looking for advanced nurse practitioners, not bedside nurse, the competition for limited slots in graduate programs was a very critical resource scarcity issue, especially in competition with students from other nursing schools.
I’ll add another interesting vignette. In our senior year, we all had to take a predictive clone of the NCLEX. Before we took that test we were all told that if we did not pass it there would be dire consequences. So a lot of us took that endeavor very seriously. But many of the honor students simply didn’t understand that they didn’t really earn their “As”. They figured they would nail the clone test because they consistently aced their tests, papers, and group assignments. Yeah, they really were that dumb. About a dozen honors students failed, while the poorest performing student, as measured by class average, passed. He was one of my friends.
That test had never been used before. We were the guinea pig class. The results of that test alone should have been a wake up call to the faculty that there was something fundamentally wrong, even if I had not been raised the issue of cheating a year and a half earlier.
Before the tests we had been told that students who failed would have to add remedial sessions to their schedules. That didn’t happen. Then, the cohort that failed were told that they would be closed monitored during the retest process. That didn’t happen either. The mostly honor students that had to retake the test, were left in a small computer lab, totally unsupervised, to take the test. One of my friends was also in that group. People failed the test, and were automatically recycled to do the test again. In very short order people realized that the monitor wasn’t going to come back at all, because she had told people if they finished before she got back, they could just leave when they finished. They soon realized, as some of them failed and were recycled, that they could just keep taking the test until they passed.
So, within an hour people were openly sharing the right and wrong answers. Most of the students were satisfied with simply passing the re-test. but there is always an outlier. One of the students kept re-taking the test, collecting correct answers from others, and didn’t stop until he scored 100%. Again here, this result should have raised the hackles of every faculty member who heard about it. Not only was his stunning performance turnaround not questioned, he was offered a fully paid ride for an accelerated PhD program. 🙂 I am an equal opportunity iconoclast.
I stress this point about scarcity and competition for a really good reason. Scarcity, as in scarcity of nurses, scarcity of all health care professionals, scarcity of supplies, scarcity of equipment, in health care organizations is the main thrust of my passion in nursing. Again, my point here is not to endorse scarcity, nor is it to decry scarcity, but merely to acknowledge scarcity as an artificially created, social reality, I actually encourage redundancy and many of my publications address how scarcity comes to exist, in nursing environments, as a consequence of common health care finance mechanisms that transfer financial risk to health care providers.
This is a lot of mathematical stuff, risk theory, economics, but the bottom line, is that most of our extant healthcare finance mechanisms transfer insurance risks to health care providers: Hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, home health agencies, and of course, ultimately to the locus of patient care, and the meeting of nurse and patient.
The consequence of healthcare provider insurance risk assumption, is inefficient health insurance operations, extreme fluctuations in operating results the nearer to bedside the risk lies. The corrective actions taken by healthcare providers, budget cutting, staff cutting, mandatory overtime. You will, if you have not already, experience these effects when you enter the nursing work force.
You may have heard about “fee for service”, “bundled payments”, ,”capitation”… We have little fee for service healthcare in the USA. Almost all of our health care finance mechanisms, involve insurance risk transfers in one form or another. When you get out there, are working, and begin to question why there are scarce staff, equipment and supplies, get in touch. I’d love to talk to you about it. It was what my dissertation was all about.
I want to remind people that it has been almost three months since I wrote a very detailed description of the fallacy of male privilege in nursing. I was criticized back then for being unwilling to dialogue, being unwilling to acknowledge my “male privilege”. I think I responded honestly and openly. But in these last three months there has been no discussion at all of “female privilege” in nursing. Not one word.
Since then, there have been a couple of dozen tributes to, as far as I can recollect, all female nurses with no tributes to male nurses, though there are certainly many male nurses who deserve tributes for their activism in nursing and as nurses.
Luther Christman comes to mind immediately as someone who was innovative, popular and who deserved far better treatment than he got. For those who have never heard of Luther Christman a brief biography can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Christman but it is really, really brief. His contributions to nursing were epic.
At the very end of my four part post I predicted exactly what has come to pass – A lack of any significant discussion of “female privilege” in nursing. Remember, I am a statistician – I like predicting things and I especially like it when my predictions prove to be accurate, even if I don’t like my predictions.
This is how I ended my fourth post:
“Join in, let’s discuss this! Let’s hash this out and maybe we can develop a safe place for some of the men in nursing who lurk here to join in without feeling that they are going to be criticized automatically for sharing their stories that don’t confirm the dominant bias in this setting…
I’m doubting that will happen. Instead, this post may never appear, or people will probably ignore this post. People might say that my post is too long, too detailed, and they couldn’t get through it. People might criticize me for sharing my experiences, marginalize me, suggest that my story is unbelievable.
What I certainly do not expect is an outpouring of empathy, a call to dialogue about this issue, a lot of men to back me up, or a meaningful, continuing dialogue about the most obvious problem: female “privilege” in nursing.
But, predicting outcomes is also my shtick! Let’s see if I am right.”