Twitter challenged over ‘outdated and appalling’ imagery of nurses

Posted: 20th October 2021

Social media site Twitter is being urged to remove sexist, misogynistic and “appalling” imagery of nurses currently available on its platform.

Several nurses, including the chief nurse of Health Education England, have raised concerns that moving images of nurses on Twitter, known as GIFs, are fuelling stereotypes and disrespecting the profession.

The alarm was first raised by social media nursing community, We Nurses, which shared a selection of concerning GIFs available of nurses being potrayed in a sexualised way.

They called for a “conversation” with Twitter on the matter and encouraged nurses to give their views.

The post sparked a wave of comments from nurses on Twitter, including Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse of HEE, who described the images as “appalling”.

“An enduring societal image of nursing that has real negative impact, reinforcing misogyny and everyday sexism in society,” he added.

Meanwhile, Professor Alison Leary, who is a professor of healthcare and workforce modelling, also slammed the images by using the hashtag “everyday sexism” and stressing “this needs to change”.

Emeritus professor of nursing, Professor June Girvin, also called for action. “Please do something about these gifs. Disrespectful. Mysogynist,” she wrote.

Separately, Leanne Patrick, a specialist nurse in domestic abuse and sexual violence, told Nursing Times: “It is frustrating, though not surprising, to see nurses represented in this way.

“As a predominantly female workforce, nursing is commonly sexualised and taken less seriously than other healthcare professions.

“These attitudes perpetuate structural inequalities, low pay and even sexual violence, which affects over 60% of nurses.”

She added: “Unfortunately, GIFs like these are just the tip of the iceberg; unregulated social media platforms like Twitter are increasingly considered unsafe places for women where sexual harassment and threats of violence are common.”

Meanwhile, Nick Chinn, co-founder of We Communities, of which We Nurses is part, told Nursing Times that the group wanted to use its “voice to highlight best practice” and open a conversation with Twitter on the issue, but it is yet to hear back.

“It’s just always useful to have an opportunity to highlight the correct way to represent a skilled workforce to any organisation,” said Mr Chinn, who highlighted the influence of social media sites like Twitter in terms of its “reach and impact”.

He recognised that it was not often that nurses were recorded in practice, but stressed that this was no excuse for inappropriate imagery to be used.

“Nursing is multifaceted, it is multiskilled and there are not many appropriate GIFs out there, but that is mainly because you wouldn’t expect there to be GIFS of nurses in practice,” he told Nursing Times.

“So, you end up relying on media related content, and that is quite often outdated.

“I think the concept is not without its complications but just because you don’t have something that is appropriate, doesn’t make something that is inappropriate and available, acceptable.

Source: Nursing Times

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