Nursing and Feminism

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    I have considered myself a feminist since I read Mary Wallstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, many years ago. I have to admit, I was drawn to it because she's Frankenstein's grandma (Mary Shelley's mother), but I thought it made a lot of sense, even though it's a bit dated.
    She argued that women should be educated and able to earn a decent living, to support themselves and their children if they didn't have a man in their lives, and while I would hope we would take those assumptions as given, today, I thought her down-to-earth pragmatism was timeless.

    Since then, I haven't always agreed with everything every modern feminist has said, and I'm sure not impressed with male-bashing (some of my best friends are guys!), but one of the things I like about nursing is the company of strong, capable, down-to-earth women. Most of the women I work with fit that description, and while that might be true of waitresses, over all, it seems like one of nursing's hallmarks. I tend to count Florence Nightengale among early feminist leaders, though some of her ideas of propriety may seem a little prudish, today.

    So, anyway, I guess what I'm asking is: Can men save feminism? Er--no, wait! I'm certainly not asking that!
    But I am curious what others think. If there was a nursing and feminism forum, I would at least lurk on it.

    Who am I kidding? I'd jump in feet first. I have no sense at all.
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    Hmmmm... it really depends what you mean by feminist. I mean, if my understanding is correct, there are different kinds. From the really radical to the more reasonable.

    Maybe a different question, would feminist ideology help nursing or hurt nursing? My own belief is that one of the strength of modern nursing is its diversity which in the context of this discussion, would include people who are "feminist" and people who are not. We as a profession serve the public who themselves are diverse (you get people who are "feminist" and people who are not).

    Remember we serve people from all cultures and lots of these cultures are very conservative (very anti-feminist) and one of the nurse's training is to be culturally sensitive (we don't have to agree with what a culture belief but we do need some respect).

    Another question might be with a OVERT "feminist" ideaology divide the nursing profession even more than it is now? Will we loose some really good nurses who are not "feminist"?

    Instead of having a "feminist" ideology, I think we should develop a "nursing" ideology instead which can include people of most political persuasions from Democrates to Republicans to Independent to Libertarians, to whatever. Also it would somehow include most religious traditiions. Now a "nursing" ideology will take the best from different ideologies (it is more inclusive than "feminist" ideology) .

    -Dan
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    I like that idea, of a "nursing" idealogy. Certainly, a lot of the lessons of nursing can apply to all walks of life. If we could maintain an attitude of non-judgemental caring toward everyone--even the jerk who cut me off on the freeway--it could profoundly affect the world we live in.

    Of course, it can be a pretty big challenge, just applying it to nursing.
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    A good "nursing" ideology actually can be a way of life if it can be generalized beyond nursing.

    Just for fun, why don't you start, what would be something that would be good in a "nursing" ideology? It can be drawn from different religious/moral/ethical traditions, from different political idealogies, from your life experiences, from ...

    -Dan
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    Quote from danu3
    A good "nursing" ideology actually can be a way of life if it can be generalized beyond nursing.

    Just for fun, why don't you start, what would be something that would be good in a "nursing" ideology? It can be drawn from different religious/moral/ethical traditions, from different political idealogies, from your life experiences, from ...

    -Dan
    One of my concerns with nursing has been patient autonomy (I don't mean I see anything wrong, by and large, just that it's something I feel is especially important, but sometimes complicated). So autonomy would be an important principle in the "real world", too. I think people ought to be as free as possible to make their own decisions, especially when those decisions affect only themselves.
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    Quote from nursemike?
    One of my concerns with nursing has been patient autonomy (I don't mean I see anything wrong, by and large, just that it's something I feel is especially important, but sometimes complicated). So autonomy would be an important principle in the "real world", too. I think people ought to be as free as possible to make their own decisions, especially when those decisions affect only themselves.
    Ok, let's play with this one. Autonomy has something to do with power actually. Or rather one's power over one's life. In the nursing world, we do try to give the power back to the patient. For example, we don't do things for a patient if s/he can do them. In nonNursing world, that is a good goal to have in terms of doing things that enable an individual to have control over his/her life (or at least as much as reasonable within real world's limit).

    Hmmm... if one is a nursing manager... a good manager actually will try to give as much autonomy as much as possible to the people under him/her. The manager will also encourage and support his/her staff to aquire skills that will enable them to be as autonomous as reasonable. This may be good not just for nursing managers, but any kind of managers. Actually if one is a RN, one will have to delegate, so how does a RN do it in such a way that helps people she is responsible for to have autonomy also.

    If one has children, then that is one of the goals also as the child grow - to be autonomous and as parents to develope them the tools they need.

    Now being autonomous is probably related to the fact that we value individualism to the extreme in the US (US is rated number 1). If I remember right, lots of other cultures do not value individualism to the degree US does. Other cultures value more a group or relational identity instead.

    So take a traditional Asian family as an example. Emphasizing individual autonomy probably won't come over very well. However, emphasizing a family unit autonomy may communicate better. This may have some applications, for example - a traditional Asian mother spend 150% of her time taking care of her child who has cancer and she is getting sick and burning out. Helping her to take care of herself might not work because she does not place such a high value on individualism. However, if one can communicate to her that taking care of herself will also take care of the family unit, or that it is important to take care of the whole family unit and thus she needs to care for herself, that might go over a lot better.

    What else, autonomy can be apply to combat situation actually. You want as much autonmy as possible to the people at the trench because solders who can think and be flexible in a combat situation are probably more valuable (but also take longer to train and more expensive).

    Autonomy can be related to the person's dignity. So maybe underneath the value of autonomy is the value of a person.

    In government or any big organization, autonomy can also be applied where decision making is pushed downward, or at least as close to the real action as possible.

    In a marriage situation, that could be an interesting question in terms of the role of autonomy playes. Just on top of my head, probably you want a nice balance between autonomy and unity, or you have autonomy in unity in a marriage situation.

    Well... that is all that popped into my head... now you have to put it in some nice formal academic form which nobody could understand

    -Dan
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    Excellent points--and as I think about it, autonomy has a lot to do with feminism, or at least the parts of feminism that most speak to me. A woman's right to make her own decisions and make her own way in the world is so basic that it's hard to grasp that it hasn't always be recognized.

    I hadn't thought a lot about the connection to dignity, but I'm sure that's a big part of my emotional investment. I hate to see an adult patient--especially an older one--treated like a child. Having to ask "permission" to toilet, for example, is a terrible thing. I've done it myself, but I really hate referring to an incontinence brief as a diaper.

    And you're right--different cultures have different attitudes. Which complicates things enormously. Your Asian example seems rather benign, but in some Middle Eastern cultures, women are still property. We all hear of the atrocities under conservative Islamic rule, but a lot of conservative Judaism would be offensive to American women. And there are still parts of Africa where women are routinely mutilated...

    And so, as in nursing, we have to consider tolerance and sensitivity to other cultures. From my limitted experience, I think we do a decent job of that in nursing. At my hospital, we have a number of international patients, and we do our best to accommodate them. We don't send a man in to bathe a woman who would be disgraced by that; often, we don't send a man in to empty the wastebasket.

    Clearly, we need to accept the validity of other cultures (and even cultural differences within our own society) in our day-to-day lives, as well. In my locale, some rural folk see things a lot differently from us city dwellers, but in many instances, we could profit from a more rural attitude.

    But that may be one of the harder nursing values to implement in the broader context. Some cultural values, by our standards, are absolute evils. I mean, a case (a weak case) could be made that the Nazis were simply exercising their cultural perogatives in the Holocaust.

    I suppose about the best we can realistically manage is not to leap to judgement, but to maintain a degree of humility about our own cultural assumptions, while balancing that with our own sense of right and wrong. I suppose part of the key, in nursing and elsewhere, is recognizing that when we arbitrarily impose our morality, we are apt to do more harm than the act(s) we seek to prevent.
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    I enjoyed reading your posts...….so I can readily assume you both have made it past philosophy 101. I needed those takes on your positions...I am playing online and came to these posts...its been such a day from heck and a brief respite from mundane subjects all day....lol ..i am so brain dead but that statement in itself would be admitting to I even have a brain and thats debateable......thanks again and have a great day…dave


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