Perspectives on Masculinity

Future of Men and Future of Work

Men’s Style Articles

Interview with a Male Nurse

By David Michael Newstead.

Nursing has been frequently mentioned as a career alternative for men as blue-collar industries like manufacturing and coal mining disappear across the United States. However, gender differences between these jobs and our views about them complicate the need for a steady paycheck. This was recently articulated in a not-so-subtle New York Times piece entitled Men Don’t Want to be Nurses. Their Wives Agree. To get more perspective on this, I decided to reach out to a male nurse I know to discuss the apparently contentious issue of men in nursing.

David Newstead: So, what’s it like being a male nurse?

Male Nurse: I don’t mind, though occasionally you’ll find a passage in a textbook about the role of nurses and it’s clearly written toward a female audience.

David Newstead: How do female nurses react to you?

Male Nurse: They’re happy about it. The whole gender issue has never come up. Pretty much every nurse you talk to will say they need more male nurses.

David Newstead: Why’s that?

Male Nurse: Combative patients and heavy patients are probably the two biggest reasons why male nurses are valued. Otherwise, it just comes down to some people feel more comfortable if the nurse performing a particular procedure is a particular gender.

David Newstead: What are some of the negative impressions you’ve encountered?

Male Nurse: Well, it’s definitely been seen as beneath men who are supposed to be the doctors and decision-makers, but it’s also because the profession of nursing perpetuates that their value is in being caring individuals rather than highly skilled and knowledgeable healthcare personnel. Nurses over-humanize themselves because for reasons unknown to me they don’t want to be seen as technicians. No matter how skilled.

David Newstead: Do you think people would react differently if male nurses had a different job title? Like maybe that would fix everything.

Male Nurse: My wife says yes. Nurse has an inherently female connotation. I’m not so sure myself. I think having a different job title for male nurses would be more of a hassle than just having folks deal with the fact that some nurses are men.

David Newstead: I guess you’re right. I can’t think of any good replacement titles. Orderly? Health Technician? I don’t know…

David Newstead: In your view, is nursing a good replacement for blue-collar manufacturing jobs? This gets talked about a lot.

Male Nurse: Not really. For one, we need manufacturing jobs. America shouldn’t stop making stuff. For another, nursing requires minimum two years of college education, which many guys who can make a good wage manufacturing out of high school wouldn’t be able to hack or even care about like high level anatomy and physiology courses.

David Newstead: Are they going to have many other choices as technology continues to impact the job market?

Male Nurse: Probably not, but that’s why we need to fight automation and artificial intelligence in such jobs.

Blue-Collar / White-Collar

By David Michael Newstead.

A lot has been said about blue-collar jobs and white-collar jobs, but you might be wondering what shirt collars have to do with our economy or how that became shorthand for class distinctions. The basic difference is this: blue-collar workers perform manual labor and white-collar workers don’t. The functional benefit of blue shirts is that they hide the dirt, smudges, and stains of manual labor better than other colors. So, this is advantageous for mechanics, factory workers, and plumbers. Meanwhile, the average white-collar office worker only has to worry about spilled coffee no matter what color shirt they wear.

On a deeper level though, the divide between blue-collar and white-collar has always entailed differences in their levels of education, income, and their social status with issues of race and gender not far behind. Historically, white-collar workers have been on the higher end of all these indicators, enjoying careers as lawyers, accountants, and the like. Blue-collar workers less so. However, these generalizations never applied 100% of the time and are no longer that accurate in today’s economy.

So in 2017, this is sometimes a difference without a distinction. For instance, office interns are certainly white-collar workers, but they don’t enjoy much in the way of income or social status. The same goes for the current surplus of lawyers, professors without tenure, and many others who have seen their benefits and career prospects dwindle in a crowded and very educated labor market that’s concentrated in major cities where your barista might have a graduate degree. Likewise, blue-collar work is fast becoming more technically sophisticated than it once was as well as more susceptible to automation like in the case of coal miners. The result, in both cases, is more people struggling to find work.

Strangely enough, even our proposals for economic progress still show a lingering blue-collar / white-collar schism. Becoming a successful entrepreneur, for example, comes with definite white-collar social status. Meanwhile, one widely discussed idea is to retrain blue-collar workers to become computer programmers. The irony of this being computer programmers perform no physical labor whatsoever. However, they might work long hours writing code, while wearing t-shirts or Mark Zuckerberg style hoodies and drinking Red Bulls. That’s a big change from the days of the assembly line. Another proposal is to retrain blue-collar workers so that they can make up for labor shortages in the healthcare field, becoming nurses, technicians, and physicians assistants. The difficulty here is trying to make largely female professions appealing to people used to male-dominated industries. Fortunately for everyone, hospital scrubs come in blue.

Extras: Blue-Collar / White-Collar

When Everything Changed

By David Michael Newstead. 

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present chronicles fifty years of social progress for women in the United States, measured across economics, politics, and American culture and is reinforced with personal stories from our recent past. In fact, it’s the personal stories that help connect us to those events, which may seem like ancient history for some people but are within the lifetimes of our parents and grandparents. A few excerpts stood out to me in particular and I share those below to illustrate the stark differences between the world of 1960 and the world of today.

  • In 1960 women accounted for 6 percent of American doctors, 3 percent of lawyers, and less than 1 percent of engineers. Although more than half a million women worked for the federal government, they made up 1.4 percent of the civil-service workers in the top four pay grades. Those who did break into the male-dominated professions were channeled into low-profile specialties related to their sex. Journalists were shuttled off to the women’s page, doctors to pediatric medicine, and lawyers to behind-the-scenes work such as real estate and insurance law.
  • Jo Freeman, who went to Berkeley in the early ‘60s, realized only later that while she had spent four years “in one of the largest institutions of higher education in the world – and one with a progressive reputation,” she had never once had a female professor. “I never even saw one. Worse yet, I didn’t notice.”
  • If all the working women were invisible, it was in part because of the jobs most of them were doing. They were office workers – receptionists or bookkeepers, often part-time. They stood behind cash registers in stores, cleaned offices or homes. If they were professionals, they held – with relatively few exceptions – low-paying positions that had long been defined as particularly suited to women, such as teacher, nurse, or librarian. The nation’s ability to direct most of its college-trained women into the single career of teaching was the foundation upon which the national public school system was built and a major reason American tax rates were kept low.
  • If a stewardess was still on the job after three years, one United executive said in 1963, “I’d know we were getting the wrong kind of girl. She’s not getting married.” Supervisors combed through wedding announcements looking for evidence of rule breaking. They discovered one stewardess was secretly married while the young woman was working with Georgia Panter on a cross-country flight. When the plane was making its stop in Denver, a supervisor met the flight. “He pulled that poor woman off,” Panter said, “and we never saw her again.”
  • Not long ago Linda McDaniel, a Kansas housewife, came across the deed to the house she and her husband had purchased when they were married in the 1960s. “It was made out to ‘John McDaniel and spouse.’ My name wasn’t even on it,” she said.
  • Men, in their capacity as breadwinners, were presumed to be the money managers on the home front as well as in business, and women were cut out of almost everything having to do with finances. Credit cards were issued in the husband’s name. Loans were granted based on the husband’s wage-earning ability, even if the wife had a job, under the theory that no matter what the woman said she planned to do, she would soon become pregnant and quit working. A rule of thumb that banks used when analyzing a couple’s ability to handle a mortgage or car loan was that the salary of the wife was irrelevant if she was 28 or under. Half of her income was taken into consideration if she was in her 30s. Her entire salary entered the calculations only if she had reached 40 or could prove she had been sterilized. Marjorie Wintjen, a 25-year-old Delaware woman, was told her husband’s vasectomy had no effect on the matter “because you can still get pregnant.” Even when a woman was living on her own and supporting herself, she had trouble convincing the financial establishment that she could be relied upon to pay her bills. The New York Times was still reporting horror stories in 1972, such as that of a suburban mother who was unable to rent an apartment until she got the lease cosigned by her husband – a patient in a mental hospital. A divorced woman, well-to-do and over forty, had to get her father to cosign her application for a new co-op. Divorced women had a particular problem getting credit, in part because of a widely held belief that a woman who could not keep her marriage together might not keep her money under control, either.
  • Many upscale bars refused to serve women, particularly if they were alone, under the theory that they must be prostitutes.

Other interesting topics covered in the book include the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Women’s Liberation movement, and the life of Jeannette Rankin. Likewise, the reader can observe changes overtime through the effects of Roe v. Wade, how divorce proceedings were conducted, and the growing education attainment as well as workforce participation by American women. Skip ahead to the present and women are 47 percent of the workforce, 55 percent of college students, and 15 percent of active-duty military personnel: all watershed developments from a historical standpoint. And while many of the excerpts above probably wouldn’t take place in 2017, it’s important not to downplay the challenges on the horizon. Today’s progress took decades. Confronting misogyny will take even longer. And the next fifty years of women’s history has yet to be written.