1. Section Editor(s): Chinn, Peggy L. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor

Article Content

Utopian World of Strong Women

Recently, in a University of Connecticut doctoral class, a discussion emerged concerning unequal power dynamics in academic settings. The primary focus of the course is developing theoretic and philosophic foundations for each student's nursing scholarship. Several of the students were drawing on emancipatory nursing perspectives in that they are addressing problems that have deep social and political roots. Lisa Nemchek, a clinician focusing on the challenges of men and breast cancer, posted an essay on our class blog addressing her concerns about the ways in which some students enjoy certain advantages that encourage and support their efforts while others labor under oppressive, disadvantaged conditions that leave them isolated and discouraged. In response, Lisa Sundean, a Jonas scholar, offered the idea of a "utopian world of strong women" as a vision for creating a more just experience for all, an academic environment where everyone is supported and encouraged to develop their full potential.


This discussion of power imbalances in academics was significant on several levels, one being that this group of relatively privileged women (economically, socially, and intellectually advantaged) recognized ways in which their own interactions sustained injustices that are embedded in the very fabric of academic culture. When contrasted with the horrendous circumstances of most women's lives in the world, many of which are addressed in this issue of Advances in Nursing Science (ANS), it might be tempting to dismiss the concerns of this group of doctoral students as mere self-indulgence. I see this very differently. In my view, moving toward real change begins when we look deeply and honestly into the ways in which we ourselves participate in systems of injustice. The choices we make, the habits of daily life that shape our relationships with others, the places and people that constitute our daily environments-these are all political realities that are part of the social fabric that creates advantages for some and disadvantages for many.


Recognition of these dynamics is particularly important both for women and for nurses (regardless of gender). Without a consciousness of our own space and place in cultures that are governed by patriarchal norms and structures, our efforts to "help" those who are disadvantaged can easily be turned into exploitative, self-serving efforts. The health and well-being of all people depend fundamentally on the health and well-being of women and girls, many of whom suffer the worst kinds of oppression and disadvantage. Together as nurses we can create a "utopian world of strong women" to change the conditions of women and girls around the world. Doing this effectively begins with our recognition of the conditions of our own situations, and, in turn, reaching a personal understanding of the challenges inherent in changing a situation in which one is disadvantaged.


Without a doubt, nurses play significant roles in reaching out to people who are disadvantaged and nurses work on many levels to change the conditions that sustain disadvantages. As the articles in this issue of ANS demonstrate, nurse scholars provide insights that contribute to shaping our practices in significant ways. The time is now to take these challenges very seriously, not only in shaping public action but also in reflecting on and changing the conditions of our own lives that sustain advantage for some and disadvantage for others.


-Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN