Too Darn Hot
February 2012 -- Late this month press entities around the world gleefully reported that a real Swedish hospital was seeking to hire "TV-series hot nurses," which allowed some of the media to embrace the naughty nurse while seeming to just be telling the story of a notable hospital recruiting tactic. Lee Moran's February 22 Daily Mail (UK) piece, for example, not only reported on the summer recruiting ad by South General Hospital, but also included an unrelated naughty nurse image (helpfully labeled "picture posed by model"), just to show curious readers what a "TV-series hot nurse" might look like. In response to the press attention, nurse managers at the Stockholm hospital stressed that they were just trying to "catch people's attention" -- mission accomplished! -- and that professional nursing qualifications were all that really mattered in their hiring. But this is a "joke" that has been repeated countless times worldwide for decades, and it is one that some of the media seems happy to amplify whenever there is an opportunity. The result is to reinforce the association of nursing with female sexuality that makes it harder for real nurses, like those at South General Hospital, to get the respect they need to do their work. We urge the hospital and the Daily Mail to find other ways to "catch people's attention."
The Daily Mail piece is headlined: "'TV series-hot nurses need only apply': Swedish hospital spices up summer recruitment search for sexy staff." The lead sentence notes that "Sweden's sexiest nurses are being targeted." Accompanying the piece is that "picture posed by model" photo, which shows an attractive female "nurse" in a very short white dress with white stockings. So we're not exactly looking at a critical appraisal of the recruiting campaign.
The piece reports that the hospital's Internet ad says:
You will be motivated, professional, and have a sense of humour. And of course, you will be TV series-hot or a Söder hipster. Throw in a nurse's education and you are welcome to seek a summer job at Södersjukhuset's emergency department.
The article also includes the hospital's response to apparent criticism that the ad is "sexist," though the Daily Mail doesn't spoil the fun by giving more than that one word to the ad's critics. But we get dozens of words in defense of the ad. Nursing manager Jörgen Andersson reportedly
told The Local: 'We're looking to recruit competent nurses above all. But we wanted to stick out a bit with our advertising campaign. We managed to do that. We think that people understand that it was written to catch people's attention. There's been no negative feedback. … Of course, being good looking is no requirement at all. … We want a nurse who is qualified and good at their job, regardless of looks.'
And the piece adds that head nurse Elisabeth Gauffin says that the hospital "want[s] people to be curious and have a little imagination.'
It's kinda funny she should use that phrasing, because it is "curious" that anyone would associate the naughty nurse with "imagination." No image of nursing could be more tired--or more damaging, since even though it's always "just a joke," jokes are a very common way in which harmful stereotypes are reinforced. Even humor and fantasy images affect how people act. A 2009 study at the University of Granada (Spain), found that men who had listened to a series of "sexist jokes" later displayed more tolerance for violence against women than those who had not listened to the jokes. Presenting nurses as sexual playthings, over and over for decades, suggests that that is really what their job is mostly about, and that it doesn't really require advanced health skills (even if you throw in a passing reference to "a nurse's education"). "Just joking" is not usually considered an adequate excuse for stereotyping other disempowered groups.
We urge the South General Hospital--and the Daily Mail--to see if they can do their work without undermining nursing, even in the summer, when it can get pretty hot.
See the article "TV series-hot nurses need only apply': Swedish hospital spices up summer recruitment search for sexy staff" by Lee Moran posted on the Daily Mail's website February 22, 2012.
See the study "Exposure to Sexist Humor and Rape Proclivity: The Moderator Effect of Aversiveness Ratings" by Mónica Romero-Sánchez, Mercedes Durán, Hugo Carretero-Dios, Jesús L. Megías, & Miguel Moya, from the University of Granada, Granada, Spain, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, December 2010, vol. 25 (12) pp. 2339-2350.