I'm awaiting you
July 11, 2005 -- Several news outlets have run Mary Sibierski's Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) piece about a new ad campaign by Poland to lure tourists with a poster featuring a mildly suggestive photo of a female "nurse" with the words "I'm awaiting you." The nurse poster follows one featuring a hot male plumber who assures viewers that he is staying in Poland, a joke about Western European fears of an influx of Polish "tradesmen." This is one of the least naughty "naughty nurse" images we have seen, but "trading" on that nursing stereotype remains a problem.
The piece has been headlined "After 'Polish plumber,' "Polish nurse' lures tourists." It explains that the plumber campaign was initially intended as an "ironic riposte" to fears in the European Union, especially France in the run-up to the failed May constitutional referendum, that many Polish plumbers and other workers would come to take local jobs if the continent went forward with the proposed integration. Moving quickly to make lemonade from the "Polish plumber" image, the Polish Tourism Organization created the clever plumber ad. It proved to be the most successful such campaign the nation has ever produced. The nurse ad was the follow-up. It shows an attractive young nurse looking over her glasses and smiling, in a proper long white nurses' dress, complete with cap. However, the dress is unbuttoned farther than would be considered professional (only a sliver of skin can be seen). And the look in the model's eyes, combined with the "awaiting" message, confirms that the ad is more about flirtation than the professional skills of the nurses who work at Poland's "top-grade but still inexpensive spa and health farm facilities," which the ad is also supposed to highlight. Not surprisingly, the business-oriented DPA piece does not note that the ad plays on a long-standing stereotype of nurses.
Of course, the nurse ad is really no more suggestive than the plumber one, in which the T-shirt clad hunk seductively holds what the piece describes as "a rather large wrench." But we are not aware that plumbers are experiencing a critical global shortage driven in part by regressive notions that they are bimbos. Even such a mild association of nursing with sex--with the fantasy idea that working nurses are sexually available to patients--reinforces these stereotypes, which discourage practicing and potential nurses, foster sexual violence in the workplace, and contribute to a general atmosphere of disrespect. Desexualizing the nursing image is a key part of building the strength the profession needs to overcome the current shortage and to meet the challenges of 21st Century health care.
Having said that, we do not plan to launch a formal campaign about such a mild naughty nurse image. But if you would like to send your comments to the Polish tourist office, please click here. (We have sent them a copy of this analysis.)
See Mary Sibierski's Deutsche Presse-Agentur article "After 'Polish plumber', 'Polish nurse' lures tourists" on Monsters and Critics and also on the IOL South African news website.
See the nurse front and center on the Poland tourism site at www.polandtour.org