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Angry Nurse Forced to Wear Lipstick Sparks Shanghai Debate

Agence France Presse, 21 November 2000

SHANGHAI, Nov 21, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) An angry nurse who was fined CNY 50 (USD 6) for failing to wear lipstick on the job has sparked a lively debate in the eastern Chinese city of Shanghai.

The nurse, who has worked for over 20 years and is now on the staff of a hospital in Shanghai's Minhang district, was fined for not making-up at work while her colleague was given a similar fine for having a hole in her stocking.

Whether or not I choose to wear lipstick is a private matter, the nurse wrote in a letter to the Wenhui Daily complaining about her unfair treatment after paying the fine under pressure.

But while in the West her case would have likely stirred outrage, in China the paper's male readers sided with the hospital and a Wenhui Daily journalist wrote an editorial advising nurses to spruce up their appearance on the job.

Journalist Shen Yaohong said he wrote the editorial to direct public attention to the matter and felt nurses should pay more attention to their appearance when doing their job.

When I was in hospital a few weeks ago, some of the nurses looked dreadful in the morning after playing mah-jong till midnight and I didn't feel very good when I looked at them so a bit of make-up is good for patients' health, he told AFP.

Shen declined to reveal the exact location of the hospital for fear of getting the nurse into hot water and agreed that the fine for failing to be pretty enough was a little excessive.

The hospital in question told him that nurses should pay attention to their appearance out of respect to patients and to maintain their good public image, he said.

Hospital authorities imposed the rule after one patient complained that some of the nurse's faces looked even worse than sick patients and such opinions show that patients need nurses to have an amiable appearance, Shen added.

Not all of Shanghai's hospitals are turning their wards into a beauty pageant though.

Zhu Huibing, director of the Shanghai Maternity Hospital, said hospital rules actually prohibit nurses wearing make-up to work.

In practice light make-up is ignored but patients suffering from various diseases and coming into the hospital in bad moods may be disturbed by seeing nurses in heavy make-up, Zhu explained.

Meanwhile at Shanghai's famous Ruijin Hospital nurses are encouraged to wear make-up, spokeswoman Wang Min said.

Seeing a pretty face cheers patients up, especially when nurses are on the night shift, she added.

Wang said the hospital trains nurses to perform ceremonial duties and provides them with cosmetics at ward-opening ceremonies but does not force them to wear make-up on the day-to-day grind.