Welcome to STEMinism Sunday! As a former woman in science, I have a deep and enduring interest in the experiences and representation of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). This series will be an opportunity for me – and you – to get to know some of these intellectual badasses.
Today we’re branching out – rather than talking about a specific woman in science, we’re going to talk about the perception of women – and men – in medicine. Specifically, the perception of nurses.
It all started when Tech Support and I sat down to watch Netflix’s Point Blank. Less than five minutes into the movie, Paul, an emergency room nurse, comes home to his pregnant wife Taryn:
Taryn: Yes, Doctor.
Paul: (speaking to baby bump) That’s a very mature response for you . But… I’m not a doctor.
At which point, Tech Support turned to me and said, “Because, remember, it’s only OK for men to be nurses if they’re actually trying to become doctors.” *
Where to begin, where to begin…
How about with a very firm statement that the profession of nurse is in no way inferior to the profession of doctor. And that people do not choose to become nurses because they couldn’t get into medical school. And that, while doctors have specialized training that nurses don’t have, nurses have specialized training that doctors don’t have.
Nursing is not a stepping stone into something “better” or “more prestigious.” It’s a difficult and demanding career practiced by talented people dedicated to helping other people. People like my mom, and Tech Support’s mom, and Tech Support’s sister. People without whom our modern medical system would cease to function.
And yet, nursing is stigmatized, because it’s considered “women’s work.” And “women’s work” is stigmatized because, well, it’s full of women.
The fact that a majority of nurses are women doesn’t mean that the work is in some way lesser.** And because the work has value, men who choose to pursue it shouldn’t be stigmatized, any more than women who chose to pursue it should be.
STEMinism isn’t just about promoting the work of women in traditionally male-dominated fields, just like feminism isn’t only about elevating the rights of women. STEMinism is about supporting the rights of all people – women, men, non-binary, and everyone else – to use their talent and hard work in the pursuit of any career, calling, or lifestyle they choose.
End of rant.
Have you seen Point Blank? What are your thoughts on this issue, or on the movie in general? I love hearing from you!
* The fact that Tech Support gets why this is so enraging is one of the reasons we are married.
** Actually, what it means is that, for a long, long, time, women have been actively excluded from pursuing so many other “unsuitable” careers.