Not only do men in caregiving work roles find themselves at odds with traditional western gender norms, those within nursing are often considered to be partaking in ‘the most feminine of all female-dominated occupations’ (Abrahamsen, 2006). Examining the ways in which men reconcile their non-traditional occupations with their sense of masculinity is vital not only in ascertaining a well-rounded understanding of masculinity, but more practically in bridging the gender divide that is prevalent in nursing today (Loughrey, 2008). Raewyn Cornell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity acknowledges that while masculinity is phenomena that varies with time and context, there is a dominant form of masculinity that society perceives as the most respected, which above all is in direct opposition with traditional ideas of femininity (Cornell, 1995). Studying men in nursing through the paradigm of hegemonic masculinity can help explain certain trends the nursing, such as the disproportionate rates of promotions given to men over women (Abrahamsen, 2006). However, there is danger in hegemonic masculinity being treated as an absolute and irrefutable lens through which to study male nurses, as it often leads to an oversimplification of the complex and varied driving forces at play. An additional model used to study this topic, is the theory of gender performance. Coined by Judith Butler, it suggests that human beings learn their gender, through conscious, and sub-concious pressure to identify with their biological sex (Butler, 1990). Gender is thus constantly re-affirmed through individual’s gendered performance of ac...
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...urther highlighted by one study of men in non-traditional work roles, which found that half the respondents lied to their friends about the nature of their work (Bagilhole & Cross, 2002). In order to maintain a sense of their masculinity in these circumstances a number of strategies have been noted, which include ‘distancing themselves from female colleagues, and/or partially (re)constructed a different masculinity by identifying with their non-traditional occupations’ (Bagilhole & Cross, 2002).
Although Butler has been criticised for writing overcomplicated ‘high theory’, with limited ‘everyday’ application (Butler, 1993), her simple message that there is “nothing about femaleness that is waiting to be expressed” as female gender is not pre-determined by sex, is equally true for men who avoid caring roles because of perceived social ramifications (Butler, 1998).
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