Masculinities and Men in Nursing: A Life History Study
Gender relations in the lives of male nurses were explored through life history methodology. Twenty-one participants’ life stories were gathered in semi-structured interviews. Each life story underwent a structural analysis, using a four-dimension structural model of gender relations and was written as a case study. In a second phase of the analysis, the case studies were re-analyzed in groups to explore similarities and differences in the trajectories of male nurses and to understand their collective location. Three patterns of masculinity were uncovered, each pattern having different relations with hegemony. ‘Broken masculinity’ is seen among those men who throughout their lives have struggled to maintain the advantages of hegemonic masculinity but are damaged by the struggle. They have unsatisfactory relations with women, becoming victims of women’s power and agency, and become subordinate to other men. ‘Complicit masculinity’ is seen among those men who are rewarded by patriarchal culture and reap the rewards of hegemonic masculinities. These men engage in gender practices that structure unequal opportunities for women. A third masculinity, ‘soft men’, was found in some participants. These men structure gender practices that promote gender equality. Whilst this study highlights patriarchal practice in some informants, it also offers an alternative way of being for male nurses. Being a male nurse brings with it contradictions and tensions. In order for male nurses to be fully accepted, both traditional hegemonic masculine identity and ideology, and the representation of nursing as feminine, need to be deconstructed and alternatives presented.
Keywords: Masculinities, Male Nurses, Gender Relations
Dr. Murray J Fisher
Senior Lecturer, Associate Dean, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney