Men in nursing: Re-evaluating masculinities, re-evaluating gender




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eContent Management Pty Ltd



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This paper critically interrogates and re-evaluates the notion that it is somehow difficult being a man in nursing and suggests some ways forward which will allow us to gain a more politically astute purchase on gender, nursing and the socio-political context in which the profession operates. Men appear to be well served by a career in nursing. Despite their lesser numbers they are likely to earn more and be promoted into leadership roles more readily. Yet there is a pervasive sense in the literature on men in nursing that they feel unhappy as a minority in a predominantly female occupation and feel a disjuncture between masculine identity and the nursing role. The genealogy of this idea can be traced to a more extensive literature in the ‘men’s movement’, in sex role theory and masculinity studies which has tended to focus on the putative hurts that men suffer as they are socialized into the male role. This is itself informed by experiences and discourses from therapy, and privileges these kinds of experiences over and above more sober consideration of the respective powers of men and women and the sociopolitical context of the profession. This ‘poor me’ discourse deflects attention away from the business of tackling material inequalities and enables men to encroach further into the agenda of nursing discussions. Instead, a view of men and women in nursing is proposed which is attentive to the historical and political operations of power and which sees subjective experiences as the effects of power rather than as a starting point for analysis. We must place individual experience coherently and exhaustively in the material environment of social space and time. It is in this way that we can genuinely advance the interest of men and women and build an effective profile for the profession as a whole.


The copyright of this article belongs to e-Content Management. The attached pdf is the authors final peer reviewed copy. The publishers final version of this article can be found at:


masculinity, nursing, men, inequality, power, professionalism


Brown, B. (2009) Men in nursing: Re-evaluating masculinities, re-evaluating gender. Contemporary Nurse 33 (2), pp.120-129.


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care
Mary Seacole Research Centre