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Patriarchal paradox: gender performance and men's nursing careers

Peter Kellett (Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada)
David M. Gregory (Faculty of Nursing, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)
Joan Evans (Division of Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 25 February 2014



In this paper, the authors situate existing scholarship about men in nursing within the broader gendered landscape of the profession and society. As a consequence, the need to reframe the discourse about men in nursing from the current emphasis on personal or collective experiences to collective action becomes apparent. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


A critical synthesis of scholarship addressing men in nursing serves as the basis for a conceptual paper which challenges the existing discourse on men in nursing.


The experiences and careers of men in nursing are profoundly shaped by patriarchal power structures that situate caregiving within the realm of the feminine. Although men generally benefit in the context of patriarchal society, men in nursing are subject to a patriarchal paradox that marginalizes their performance of masculinity and situates them as unlikely caregivers. Therefore, men in nursing are preoccupied with balancing the contradictions and tensions in their lives associated with enacting a contextual performance of masculinity depending on the social context of their gender performance.


A comprehensive synthesis of the existing men in nursing literature is presented and these findings are situated within a broader discussion of gender in nursing and society. This analysis provides the impetus for a “call to action” for nursing to comprehensively and meaningfully address the negative consequences of patriarchal forces on the profession of nursing.



Kellett, P., M. Gregory, D. and Evans, J. (2014), "Patriarchal paradox: gender performance and men's nursing careers", Gender in Management, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 77-90.



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