Talk in feminised occupations

exploring male nurses’ linguistic behaviour

Authors

  • Joanne Mcdowell University of Hertfordshire

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v9i3.17496

Keywords:

Gendered occupations, workplace discourse, nurses, masculinity, femininity, community of practice

Abstract

It is widely accepted amongst scholars that gender is socially constructed. Gender identity is not something one has but does, and language is one resource that is crucial when constructing, maintaining and performing one’s identity. Recent sociolinguistic research has illustrated that a speaker’s linguistic behaviour can be shaped by their surrounding context, and one such ever-growing area of study is that of workplace discourse, especially within jobs which could be classified as gendered. Scholars have focused mainly on women’s linguistic behaviour in non-traditional employment (i.e. police, engineers, Information Technology). To date, there has been relatively little research into the linguistic behaviour of men working in occupations seen as ‘women’s’ work (i.e. nursing, primary school teaching). To address this gap, this article focuses on men’s discursive behaviour in the occupation of nursing to investigate whether they utilise language to perform a masculine identity in line with hegemonic characteristics, or whether they use the language indexical of the feminised environment in which they work. Empirical data, collected by three male nurse participants specifically within nurse-nurse interactions whilst at work in a Northern Ireland hospital, is explored using discourse analysis and the Community of Practice paradigm. Results indicate that the male nurses’ discursive behaviour does not differ from that which sociolinguistic literature has repeatedly classed as ‘feminine’. It is then argued that the nurses’ language fulfils discourse tasks essential to the work role. In short, the men are doing being a nurse.

Author Biography

Joanne Mcdowell, University of Hertfordshire

Dr Joanne McDowell is a senior lecturer in English Language and Communication at the University of Hertfordshire. Her specialist areas include gender identity in workplace discourse, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and educational language. Dr McDowell has recently published a paper on the topic of workplace discourse and community of practice in the journal of Gender Work and Organisation, and a collaborative book chapter on the trajectories of European students aged 14–16 years old. She is currently working on a book chapter for the Handbook of Workplace Discourse, and leading two projects that examine the language of male and female primary school teachers.

References

Adams, A., Anderson, E. and McCormack, M. (2010) Establishing and challenging masculinity: the influence of gendered discourses in organised sport. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 29: 278–300. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0261927X10368833

Angouri, J. (2011) ‘We are in a masculine profession …’: constructing gender identities in a consortium of two multinational engineering companies. Gender and Language 5: 373–404. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.373

Angouri, J. and Bargiela-Chiappini, F. (2011) ‘So what problems bother you and you are not speeding up your work?’ Problem solving at work. Discourse and Communication 5: 209–29. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1750481311405589

Barrett, M. (2004) Should they learn to interrupt? Workplace communication strategies Australian women managers forecast as effective. Women in Management Review 19: 391–403. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09649420410570207

Baxter, J. (2010) The Language of Female Leadership. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Baxter, J. (2012) Survival or success? A critical exploration of the use of ‘double-voiced discourse’ by women business leaders in the UK. Discourse and Communication 5: 231–45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1750481311405590

Brown, B., Nolan, P., and Crawford, P. (2000) Men in nursing: ambivalence in care, gender and masculinity. International History of Nursing Journal 5: 4–13.

Brown, P. and Levinson, C. S. (1987) Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Britton, M. D. (2000) The epistemology of the gendered organisation. Gender and Society 14: 418–34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/089124300014003004

Burke, S. and Collins, M. K. (2001) Gender differences in leadership styles and management skills. Women in Management Review 16: 244–56. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09649420110395728

Butler, J. (2004) Undoing Gender. London: Routledge.

Cameron, D. (1997) Performing gender identity: young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In Johnson and Meinhof (1997): 47–65.

Cameron, D. (2000) Stylising the worker, gender and the commodification of language in the globalised service economy. Journal of Sociolinguistics 4: 323–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9481.00119

Cameron, D. (2007) The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Coates, J. (1996) Women Talk: Conversation between Women Friends. Oxford: Blackwell.

Coates, J. (1997) One-at-a-time: the organisation of men’s talk. In Johnson and Meinhof (1997): 107–130.

Coates, J. (2003) Men Talk: Stories in the Making of Masculinities. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470755617

Coates, J. (2004) Women, Men and Language: A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language. Harlow: Pearson Longman.

Connell, W. R. and Messerschmidt, W. J. (2005) Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept. Gender and Society 19: 829–859. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243205278639

Cross, S. and Bagihole, B. (2006) ‘It never struck me as female’: investigating men’s entry into female dominated occupations. Journal of Gender Studies 15: 35–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589230500486900

Eckert, P. and McConnell-Ginet, S. (1999) New generalisations and explanations in language and gender research. Language in Society 28: 185–201. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404599002031

Eckert, Pe. and McConnell-Ginet, S. (2003) Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791147

Eckert, P. and Wenger, E. (2005) Communities of practice in sociolinguistics: what is the role of power in sociolinguistic variation? Journal of Sociolinguistics 9: 582–89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00307.x

Evans, J. (1999) Men in nursing, issues of gender segregation and hidden advantage. Journal of Advanced Nursing 26: 226–31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997026226.x

Evans, J. (2004) Men nurses: a historical and feminist perspective. Journal of Advanced Nursing 47(3): 321–8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03096.x

Fletcher, K. J. (1999) Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power and Relational Practice at Work. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Fran, H and Salager-Meyer, C. (1997) ‘I think that perhaps you should’: a study of hedges in written scientific discourse. In T. Miller (ed.) Functional Approaches to Written Text: Classroom Applications 105. Washington, DC: United States Information Agency.

Hearn, J., Nordberg, M., Andersson, K., Balkmar, D., Gottzen, L., Klinth, R., Pringle, K. and Sandberg, L. (2012) Hegemonic masculinity and beyond: 40 years of research in Sweden. Men and Masculinities 15: 31–55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1097184x11432113

Heikes, J. (1991) When men are in the minority: the case of men in nursing. Sociological Quarterly 32: 389–401. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.1991.tb00165.x

Hendel, T., Fish, M. and Galon, V. (2005) Leadership style and choice of strategy in conflict management among Israeli nurse managers in gender hospitals. Journal of Nursing Management 13: 137–46. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2934.2004.00525.x

Hertiage, J. and Clayman, S. (2010) Talk in Action: Interactions, Identities, and Institutions. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781444318135

Holmes, J. (1982) Functions of tag questions. English Language Research Journal 3: 40–65.

Holmes, J. (1990) Hedges and boosters in women’s and men’s speech. Language and Communication 10: 185–205. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0271-5309(90)90002-S

Holmes, J. (1995) Women, Men and Politeness. London: Longman.

Holmes, J. (2006) Gendered Talk at Work. Constructing Social Identity through Work Place Interaction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Holmes, J. (2009) Humour, power and gender in the workplace. In N. Coupland and A. Jaworski (eds) The New Sociolinguistic Reader 631–46. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Holmes, J. and Marra, M. (2011) Leadership discourse in a Maori workplace: negotiating gender, ethnicity and leadership at work. Gender and Language 5: 317–43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.317

Holmes, J. and Meyerhoff, M. (1999) The community of practice: theories and methodologies in the new language and gender. Language in Society 28: 173–83. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S004740459900202X

Holmes, J. and Schnurr, S. (2006) Doing femininity at work: more than just relational practice. Journal of Sociolinguistics 20: 31–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-6441.2006.00316.x

Holmes, J., Burns, L., Marra, M., Stubbe, M. and Vine, B. (2003) Women managing discourse in the workplace. Women in Management Review 18: 414–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09649420310507505

Holyoake, D.-D. (2001) The Male Nurse: Addressing the Myths of Maleness in Nursing. Salisbury: APS Publishing.

Huppatz, K. and Goodwin, S. (2013) Masculinized jobs, feminised jobs and men’s ‘gender’ capital’ experiences: understanding occupational segregation in Australia. Journal of Sociology 49: 291–308. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1440783313481743

Issacs, D. and Poole, M. (1996) Being a man and becoming a nurse: three men’s stories. Journal of Gender Studies 5: 39–47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589236.1996.9960628

Johnson, S. and Meinhof, H. U. (1997) Language and Masculinity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kelan, K. E. (2010) Gender logic and (un)doing gender at work. Gender, Work and Organisation 17: 174–94. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2009.00459.x

Kiesling, F. S. (2007) Men, masculinities, and language. Language and Linguistics Compass 1: 653–73. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-818X.2007.00035.x

Kiesling, F. S. (2011) The interactional construction of desire as gender. Gender and Language 5: 213–40. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.213

King, W. B. (2014) Tracing the emergence of a community of practice: beyond presupposition in sociolinguistic research. Language in Society 43: 61–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404513000870

Lupton, B. (2000) Maintaining masculinity, men who do women’s work. British Journal of Management 11: 33–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.11.s1.4

MacDougall, G. (1997) Caring: a masculine perspective. Journal of Advance Nursing 25: 809–13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025809.x

Marquis, L. B. and Huston, J. C. (1998) Management Decision Making for Nurses. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott-Raven.

McDowell, J. (2015) Masculinity and non-traditional occupations: men’s talk in women’s work. Gender, Work and Organization 22(3): 273–91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12078

McDowell, J. and Schaffner, S. (2011) Football, it’s a man’s game: insult and gendered discourse in The Gender Bowl. Discourse and Society 22: 547–64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0957926511405574

McDowell, L. (2001) Young Men Leaving School: White Working Class Masculinity. Leicester: Youth Work Press and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

McElhinny, B. S. (1995) Challenging hegemonic masculinity: female and male police officers handling domestic violence. In K. Hall and M. Bucholtz (eds) Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self 217–47. London: Routledge.

Milani, M. T. (2011) Re-casting language and masculinities. Gender and Language 5: 175–86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/genl.v5i2.175

Miller, E. G. (2004) Frontier masculinity in the oil industry: the experience of women engineers. Gender, Work and Organisation 11: 47–73. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0432.2004.00220.x

Mullany, L. (2007) Gendered Discourse in Professional Communication. Basingstoke: Palgrave. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230592902

Murray-Grohar, M. and DiCroce, R. H. (1997) Leadership and Management in Nursing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Nevile, M. and Rendle-Short, J. (2009) A conversation analysis view of communication as jointly accomplished social interaction: an unsuccessful proposal for a social visit. Australian Journal of Linguistics 29: 75–89. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07268600802516392

Nilsson, K. and Larsson, S. U. (2005) Conceptions of gender, a study of female and male head nurses’ statements. Journal of Nursing Management 13: 179–86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2934.2004.00504.x

Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) Statistical analysis of the register 1st April 2006 to 31st March 2007. Retrieved on 10 June 2013 from www.nmc-uk.org/aFrameDisplay.aspx?DocumentID=3600.

Oddo, J. (2011) War legitimisation discourse, representing ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ in four US Presidential addresses. Discourse Society 22: 287–314. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0957926510395442

Padavic, I. and Reskin, B. (2002) Women and Men at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Powell, A., Bagihole, B. and Dainty, A. (2008) How women engineers do and undo gender: consequences for gender equality. Gender, Work and Organisation 16: 412–28.

Priola, V. (2004) Gender and feminine identities: women as managers in a UK academic institution. Women in Management Review 19: 421–30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/096494204105754149

Rhoton, A. L. (2011) Distancing as a gendered barrier: understanding women scientists’ gender practices. Gender and Society 25: 696–716. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0891243211422717

Roger, D., Bull, P. E. and Smith, S. (1988) The development of a comprehensive system for classifying interruptions. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 7: 27–34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0261927X8800700102

Schnurr, S. (2008) Leadership Discourse at Work: Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230594692

Simpson, R. (2004) Masculinity at work, the experiences of men in female dominated occupations. Work, Employment and Society 18: 349–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/09500172004042773

Strenström, A.-B. (1994) An Introduction to Spoken Interaction. London: Longman.

Stubbe, M., Lane, C. Hilder, J., Vine, B., Marra, M., Holmes, J. and Weatherall, A. (2003) Multiple discourse analyses of a workplace interaction. Discourse Studies 5: 352–88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/14614456030053004

Tannen, D. (1984) Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends. New York: Oxford University Press.

Tannen, D. (1994) Gender and Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thimm, C., Koch, S. and Schey, S. (2003) Communicating gendered professional identity. In J. Holmes and M. Meyerhoff (eds) The Handbook of Language and Gender 528–29. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470756942.ch23

Timmens, F. and McCabe, C. (2005) How assertive are nurses in the workplace? A preliminary pilot study. Journal of Nursing Management 13: 61–7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2834.2004.00492.x

Trauth, M. E. (2002) Odd girl out: an individual differences perspective on women in the IT profession. Information Technology and People 15: 96–118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09593840210430552

Vine, B. (2001) Getting Things Done at Work. Amsterdam: John Benjamin’s.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511803932

Whittock, M. and Leonard, L. (2003) Stepping outside the stereotype, a pilot study of the motivations and experiences of males in the nursing profession. Journal of Nursing Management 11: 242–9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2834.2003.00379.x

Williams, L. C. (1995) Still a Man's World: Men who do ‘Women’s Work’. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Wodak, R. (2011) Language, identity, power. Language Teaching 45: 215–33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0261444811000048

Published

2015-12-01

How to Cite

Mcdowell, J. (2015). Talk in feminised occupations: exploring male nurses’ linguistic behaviour. Gender and Language, 9(3), 365–390. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v9i3.17496

Issue

Section

Articles