October 27, 2019 - Today the rap star Cardi B posted a photo on Instagram of herself in a naughty nurse costume, the same one she had worn the night before while performing at the iHeart Radio Powerhouse in Newark, NJ with her husband Offset. (Offset, to his credit, did not dress as a physician.) Cardi's red-and-white "nurse" costume came complete with the usual--very short dress, nurse's cap, cleavage. But she went the extra mile with a "stethoscope," and the red theme extended even to her hair. Cardi also accessorized with the Instagam text, "I'm here to assist your shhhttaaaankin ass." That managed to capture both her unique charm and a key element of what's wrong with the naughty nurse--it defines nurses as people who "assist" with bodily functions. The outfit quickly gained massive media and online exposure. We know the naughty nurse seems fun, but the problem is that it associates the profession of nursing with female sexuality. That in turn encourages the public to think of nurses as disposable sex objects rather than serious health professionals who need respect and resources in order to save lives, especially in the midst of a global nursing shortage. The image encourages sexual harassment in the workplace, which 72% of nurses report. And it does little to address the nursing profession's still-enormous gender imbalance. Of course, naughty nurse imagery has a long pop star history, from Christina Aguilera's 2004 Skechers ad campaign to the Mariah Carey / Nicki Minaj video for "All Up in My Face" in 2010. But that doesn't mean it's a helpful trend. Cardi B actually does seem to care about public policy issues. So we urge her to consider the harm that this kind of outfit does to public health, and to refrain from sexualizing the nursing profession in the future.
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With striking examples and an irreverent style, Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nursing Puts Us All at Risk explores nursing stereotypes from TV shows to the news media, and it explains how these images affect real-life decisions about nursing. The book also offers a comprehensive plan to help everyone improve nurses' image--and public health.