Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nurses in America

The two images I have selected are drawn from what is considered by many to be one of the most feminine and respectable job available to women.
Nurses have typically always been women, serving at their doctor's sides, providing a feminine touch to the sterile wards they patrol. They can be found in wars, tending to the heroes of various military campaigns, and they can be found in hospitals, schools, offices, providing a caring, tender touch to offset the pain of any injury.
Or so we believe.
Throuhout modern history, we have been taught through films, books and tv that nurses are one of three things; the blowsy matron (think Hattie Jaques in Carry on Doctor) the ingénue, a sweet woman who seeks only to care and tend, and the sex pot fantasy. However, while we all know this is untrue, it has somehow tainted many people's vision of the nursing profession, and changes the idea of what these woman are actually like when they work.

Image one is a picture taken in a prison camp in Philippines. While the woman is not blowsy, innocent or sexy, she is doing a job and her look of determination shows how she cares for her work. There is no romanticism, no glamour. This photo was taken by a photographer for Life magazine, a publication famous for publishing one of the most famous kiss' ever - post WW2 a soldier celebrating imminent victory in Japan with a kiss from a nurse. A magazine famous for its photo journalism, and for its up close and personal images of world events, I feel that this photo says a lot - taken in 1944, while the wars in Europe and Japan still raged on, women had become more important than ever in the day to day. Women like the nurse in this photo were applauded for their determination and spirit, and they in turn came to enjoy their new independence, however grisly the situation allowing it was. I have chosen this image because it is free of what modern society feels nursing means - it is often unpleasant, nasty work and it takes character to do.

Image two is one made purely to excite. An image born from the minds of those that find the nurse's uniform to be among the most exciting they have ever seen. The example I've chosen is of a glamour model posing as a nurse, and I have chosen it for two reasons. One, the fact that the image of a nurse has been so sexualised, and is treated with an almost sexist attitude. Secondly, that there are women in the world who get paid to look good, have the dream body, and dress up like nurses for the benefit of men. In the image, a model poses in a sexy nurse costume, and it not only reminds me that men are sometimes simple creatures, but that also, as Naomi Wolf states in The Beauty Myth, that women now more than ever are judged on appearance, their figure and whether they measure up to the girls of the glamour industry. Of course, there have always been fantasies about nurses, but now in tv and film, a female nurse is no longer the sweet, homely girl she once was, instead she is the ultimate temptress and a fantasy come to life.

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