War Of The Nurses: Nurse “Women” Goes Bananas — The Reykjavik Grapevine

War Of The Nurses: Nurse “Women” Goes Bananas

War Of The Nurses: Nurse “Women” Goes Bananas

Published December 7, 2018

Valur Grettisson

Well, perhaps not bananas—and not only women—but they were pretty irritated because of how they were depicted in the newest children’s book written by Iceland’s local celebrity, Birgitta Haukdal.


In the book, called ‘Lára Goes To The Doctor,’ nurses are called an obsolete word hjúkrunarkona, or “nurse woman.” Of this word there is no male version, like “nurse man.”. This is a relic of the Icelandic language tradition from the last century. Nurses can, of course, be men or women (and more genders if we want to go there) and Iceland’s nurses have been fighting this language for the past decades, arguing that the terminology is derogatory towards the profession.

Mad Man

Birgitta was kind of a pleb-pop artist who became hugely popular around 00’ and peaked in 2003 when she won Eurovision in Iceland and was one of few artists in Iceland to have had a doll made in their likeness.

Nurses encouraged parents on Facebook that, should they choose to read Birgitta’s book to their children, they should explain that nurses are not only women. Moreover, nurses do not dress in short skirts and nurse’s caps, like some character straight out of Mad Men, as depicted in Birgitta’s book.

“Nurses do not dress in short skirts and nurse’s caps, like some character straight out of Mad Men, as depicted in Birgitta’s book.”

Not dramatic enough

Well, of course media didn’t think this was dramatic enough, so Vísir.is said in their article that nurses went absolutely bananas over the nameless nurse character, and then so did social media (which actually did go bananas).

Two camps quickly formed. There were those that said “nurse woman” was a completely acceptable word, and those who slammed Birgitta Haukdal hard for being out of touch with times and for being a misogynist.

The long war

After a long and productive discussion on social media (aren’t they always?), the casualties were basically the nurses, who said that they were just pointing out what they have been saying for decades: that nurses can also be men (or more genders), and the cynics that said that nurses should do the nursing stuff but let the writers do their fictional nonsense.

Birgitta said that she felt attacked and stated that she meant good and respected nurses. Once again, the internet made the world a little safer than yesterday.

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