Nurses have been sexualized in the media for decades. The “naughty nurse” stereotypes have been fed to our culture so much that when Halloween rolls around each year, we always expect to see some “sexy nurses” roaming the streets. The now traditional sexy nurse Halloween costumes has become a staple in our society every fall.
The creation of the “sexy nurse.” Where did this stereotype come from?
The sexy nurse has always been a stereotypical part of American culture. In fact, it’s always been part of every Western-society. If you think about it, a nurse has always been conceptualized as an image of pure health, right? Health, of course is associated with youth, motherly nurturing and attractiveness. This is what contributed to the creation of the sultry and overtly feminine nurse. Currently, the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland is featuring an exhibit that just opened in September entitled “Pictures of Nursing.” The exhibit is compiled of postcards that indicate early 19th century nurses were used as almost advertising, recruiting, and even propaganda in the field.
According to the Smithsonian website, the early 1900’s nurse had a distinct stereotype in Britain and the U.S. This was the young, white, middle-class, and Christian young women. Nurses that didn’t fit into that category were ignored in the popular media. By the 20’s and 30’s, relevant actresses of the era played nurse roles while the male-counterparts played soldiers or dapper doctors. When television became available in the 1950’s and 1960’s, nurses began being portrayed in racier lights than ever before. By the 1980’s, society accepted and perpetuated the sexy nurse image. And of course now, every costume shop or adult dress-up website has a risque nurse costume in stock.
What do nurses think of the sexy portrayal of their profession every Halloween?
We can expect to see the revealing cartoon-like versions of nurses at almost any Halloween party we attend. But, how do actual registered nurses feel about this portrayal of their career? Opinions are torn down the middle. While some nurses find it extremely disrespectful to tarnish the image of their beloved livelihood by portraying it by adorning themselves with lingerie-like garb; some are okay with it. Additionally, some believe it is sexist to make nurses be associated with the “sexy” identity just because the majority of nurses still are women. With the shortage of nurses and the progression of our modern society, it is seen as taking steps in the wrong direction to assume that nurses are all women anyway.
Others find no reason to find fault in it. In fact, some nurses support the notion of a vixen nurse. They feel that there’s no reason to be insulted. Sexy costumes are made for any type of jobs these days. And its not even just the quote on quote “feminine” jobs that have scandalous portrayals every Halloween. Construction workers, firemen, and even lumberjacks have sexy costumes manufactured and sold these days. It’s just a fun part of our culture to be able to dress in a sexy manner once a year, in some people’s opinions.