The refusal of an NHS trust to accept charity money because it was raised by men dressed as nurses has highlighted the sexual stereotyping of the profession. How serious a problem is it – and does it encourage harassment in the workplace?
The lipstick is a bit smudged and one or two of the breasts have slipped, but the guys who dressed up as female nurses to raise money for Shropshire community health NHS trust look pretty happy. Presumably because the photograph was taken before the trust rejected their £2,500 on the grounds that “the presentation of men dressed as female nurses in a highly sexualised and demeaning way is wrong, outdated and insulting to the profession”. One of the men has a lacy bra showing. Another a suspender belt. The NHS is not exactly awash with money, yet the Shropshire trust felt strongly enough to reject the donation. So how serious a problem is the sexual stereotyping of nurses? And is it feeding sexual harassment in the workplace?
“People see us as these lovely little handmaidens. They see us as objects. We’re a profession. Society needs to respect us as a profession,” says Danielle Tiplady, 30, who works as a nurse in London and is the only one I speak to who objects to the photograph of the fundraisers. “I find it bamboozling that people can’t see there’s a problem with it. Even now people dress up as sexy nurses on a night out. But (a) we’re not all female and (b) I don’t go to work with my bra hanging out and suspenders on. I find it demeaning. They are sexualising what we do. How are we expecting people to take us seriously?”
People dress up as nurses on a night out, sexualising what we do. How are we expected to be taken seriously?
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