October 15, 2006 - A recent print ad campaign for Schick's Quattro Titanium razor featured an injured male skateboarder in a research facility bed. He was surrounded by white-coated researchers--and three naughty "nurses" giving him what the ad accurately calls "more intensive care." Schick, which sponsors the X Games, placed the ad in recent issues of Sports Illustrated. The company also distributed the ad at college bookstores, perhaps as an inspiration to nursing students. John Wergeles, Schick's Group Business Director for Men's Systems, assured us that Schick did not mean to insult nurses. He said the campaign was ending, but promised that Schick would not revive it in the future, which might otherwise occur. Mr. Wergeles also said he would consult us about any future ads that involved "nurses." We thank Schick for its responsiveness to nurses' concerns.
The ad photo shows a young man with a leg cast lying in a hospital bed. A gold medal hangs from the bed (presumably he won his X Game despite his accident), and the patient's skate board and crutches lean against the wall. However, the shot also reveals that the bed is in fact in a large open space in a research facility--we are studying a study. There are serious-looking male researchers in white coats, including two at the bedside of the young man. One trains a video camera on the patient, while an older colleague at his side writes on a clipboard.
Three young, attractive "nurses" attend closely to our smiling subject, fussing with his cast and head bandage, and listening to his chest with a stethoscope. The "nurses" wear very short white dresses with stockings, white caps, and white pumps. The main copy lets us know that we are seeing "Shave Lab Test #21," and that "Titanium users receive more intensive care." Smaller text at the bottom says: "Studies show female subjects can't resist the new Schick Quattro Titanium..." This suggests that the "nurses" are the subjects, and that the test is measuring just how "intensive" their care gets when they are exposed to a man who uses Schick products. So, men in long coats watching the sexual reactions of attractive women in revealing outfits...how adult theater. But we're sure that sometimes a razor is just a razor.
This is another in a long line of prominent media images that suggest nursing is a profession of hot females bestowing sexual favors. We realize this one is all fun and X Games. In fact, the winking researchers-as-subjects themes here are all fun and post-modernism. But in the aggregate, the endless stream of nursing-is-sex imagery discourages practicing and potential nurses, fosters sexual violence in the workplace, and encourages the disrespect that weakens nurses' claims to adequate resources. Nursing also remains over 90% female, and images like this reinforce that "extreme" gender imbalance. When you combine all that with the college-level training nursing requires, and the difficulty and stress of actual nursing practice, it is no surprise that the profession remains in the midst of a global crisis driven by rampant short-staffing.
We thank Mr. Wergeles and Schick for being responsive to nurses' concerns, and for promising not to revive this image.