Our executive director's letter to Helen Mirren about her public statements on nursing. (Our petiiton is now closed)
Dear Dame Mirren: I am writing about your June 14, 2010 appearance on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman to promote your film Love Ranch, and particularly to protest your suggestion that many prostitutes "come from the nursing industry." In describing the real Reno brothel that you visited to do research for the film, you noted that many prostitutes are "damaged" and "come from dysfunctional backgrounds," but you also observed that "a lot of girls who work in that industry actually come from the nursing industry, which kind of makes sense, because they're used to naked bodies, it's not intimidating to them, you know, the body and the bodily functions, if you like." We assume that there is some basis in your personal experience for these comments, but we're not aware of any data showing that a disproportionate number of prostitutes first became nurses. Suggesting as much reinforces the naughty nurse stereotype that has undermined nursing for decades, not least because of the activities of the "film industry." And it's not helpful for anyone to compare nursing care directly to acts of prostitution. Our understanding is that what prostitutes do tend to have in common is a history of serious abuse and few other skills. It seems unlikely, to say the least, that many "girls" with valuable nursing skills would become prostitutes. Of course, nurses do use those advanced skills to help prostitutes cope with the consequences of their dangerous work. We urge you to think more carefully before making statements that damage nursing. Please make amends to the nursing profession by making a positive statement about nursing, or working to create a film about nurses. I think you would make an excellent Florence Nightingale. Thank you.