JibJab uses "naughty nurse" images to mock Clinton--and idea of national health care plan! Dude!
January 29, 2005 -- Internet video kings JibJab are currently marketing an extensive array of merchandise under the label "National Healthcare" featuring an image of President Clinton as a hospital patient with his arms around two provocatively dressed "naughty nurses" as he grabs their breasts. The cutting-edge message of the products is that Clinton likes to have sex with women who are not his wife. But this is not just a questionable reference to the former president's recent quadruple bypass surgery, his late mother's profession, or even the idea of a national health care system. It also perpetuates the "naughty nurse" stereotype that has long held nursing back, at a time of critical shortage, with the same young audience the profession needs to resolve the crisis that is threatening lives worldwide.
The products feature actual photo images of the heads of Clinton and two women placed onto figures that combine probably unrelated photos and color illustration. The "nurses" are wearing very short white dresseswith their tops unbuttoned to reveal their cleavage and black lace bras. A large message appears at the bottom, presumably words from Clinton: "What'd I Do?" The products are marketed with the title "National Healthcare," as if to imply that Clinton's ill-fated 1990's health plan was basically designed to expand access to hot hospital chicks, oh, sorry, we think they're technically called "nurses." Available merchandise with this image includes the "Good to be in DC" video as well as t-shirts, caps, buttons, mousepads, stickers, totebags, coffee mugs, boxer shorts and women's thongs.
JibJab, a Santa Monica, California company run by brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, produces a variety of web-based video and other gag products--including a children's book called "Are You Grumpy, Santa?" Through JibJab's web site, major entertainment world clients like Disney, and high profile exposure on television comedy shows, JibJab influences college-aged and internet-connected youth--an important population for nurses to reach with positive messages, not messages that nurses are some kind of in-hospital prostitute.
Center supporter Terri Polick effectively summarizes some basic problems with this image for nursing:
Jib Jab is a very popular website. The company did a parody about the election that was featured on the David Letterman Show and the Tonight Show, and won a lot of awards. That parody put these guys on the hip-cyberspace-map.
Their site is popular on college campuses and it was my two college age daughters who told me about it. They are upset about how their friends view nursing and say this isn't going to convince anyone to go into the nursing profession. The parody is making the rounds at fraternity parties--the guys love the little sex-kitten nurses--and at other campus events. The parody isn't a mainstream eyesore, but it is getting a lot of play with the same young people we are trying to get into nursing.
More broadly, linking easy sex so closely to the profession of nursing--to even the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients--reinforces long-standing stereotypes. Those stereotypes continue to discourage practicing and potential nurses, foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect, all of which works against the profession in the midst of a critical global shortage that threatens lives. Desexualizing the nursing image is an important part of building the strength the profession needs to meet the challenges of 21st Century health care.
In the United States, in 2005, what frat boys think clearly matters a great deal. We urge the Spiridellis brothers to reconsider this product.
We have closed our letter-writing campaign, but this is the letter that hundreds of us sent to the company at firstname.lastname@example.org:
Dear Messrs. Gregg and Evan Spiridellis:
I am writing to urge you to end all use of nurses in all your products. Your merchandise marketed under the label "National Healthcare" features an image of President Clinton as a hospital patient with his arms around two provocatively dressed "naughty nurses" as he grabs their breasts. Linking easy sex so closely to the profession of nursing--to even the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients--reinforces long-standing stereotypes. Those stereotypes continue to discourage practicing and potential nurses, foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect, all of which works against the profession in the midst of a critical global shortage that threatens lives. Desexualizing the nursing image is an important part of building the strength the profession needs to meet the challenges of 21st Century health care.
Depicting tens of millions of nurses around the globe as female sex objects suggests that nursing work consists primarily of satisfying the sexual needs of patients and/or physicians. Such images discourage men and self-respecting, talented women from entering the profession. This adds to the chronic underfunding of nursing research, education and clinical practice since it is seen as a profession which is all about sexual servitude/pleasure/pain instead of education and hard work.
Nursing is a distinct science and an autonomous profession. Registered nurses receive 2-10 years of college-level training, and studies have shown that patients' lives depend directly on the availability and qualifications of the nurses who care for them. For instance, one recent study of nurse short-staffing--a primary cause and effect of the shortage--found that when the patient load of a nurse is doubled from 4 to 8, post-operative mortality increases by 31%. In essence, nurses save and improve lives every day. As patients, the less nursing care we have, the more likely we are to die. The nursing shortage affects us all.
Many who display negative images of nurses doubt that such images can really harm the nursing profession. However, as public health professionals at the University of Southern California's Hollywood, Health and Society project and elsewhere can tell you, entertainment media do affect how people think and act with regard to health issues. A 2000 JWT Communications study found that US youngsters in primary and secondary school got their most striking impression of nursing from the fictional television show "ER," and consistent with that show's physician-centric messages, the youngsters found nursing to be a technical field "like shop," a job reserved for "girls" and one too lowly for private school students. Nursing is none of these things. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that "ER"'s message is so influential that one-third of their viewers use information from the show to make health care decisions. Please see the research here.
A key reason that nursing is in its current state--understaffed, underfunded and underempowered--is that the work of nurses is undervalued by the general public and health care decision makers, all of whom are consumers of media and advertising.
Please be part of the solution to the nursing shortage and the improvement of public health by removing the "naughty nurse" images from all of your products. Help us improve public understanding of nursing at this critical time.