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    Masculinity, fathers and family literacy: Glimpses behind the ‘hard-man’ front

    Hegarty, Ann (2017) Masculinity, fathers and family literacy: Glimpses behind the ‘hard-man’ front. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    A new area of gender and education research explored the relationship between social constructions of masculinities and family literacy work, with 20 men from inner-city Dublin working-class communities. As a consequence of the economic downturn in Ireland, the breadwinner role for many men was exchanged, involuntarily, for that of stay-at-home father (SAHF). Photovoice and a feminist, Freirean research methodology innovatively supported the collective exchange of the men’s compelling narratives of care. A series of community-based photography workshops, group discussions and follow-on one-to-one interviews took place with dads who were newly responsible for their children’s domestic and learning care. The findings suggest that in their new locations, and despite the influence of patriarchal structures, the men were summoning their agency, crossing gendered lines of demarcation and engaging in ‘women’s work’. The men’s narratives point to significant regendering of family care roles and the destabilisation of crossgenerational reproductions of masculinity. The creative methodology rehearsed and contributed to the further, deeper disruption of patriarchal norms. Men participated fluently and empathetically in collaborative conversations about masculinity, care and fatherhood thereby freely and un-stereotypically engaging in public ‘care talk’ and counter-narratives of masculinity. Reay’s (2010) tripartite theoretical framework: temporality, spatiality and relationality, forms an analytical base for the final analysis of the data. Despite the historic social construction of their masculinities as hard-men and their alienation from literacy, these SAHFs were significantly recalibrating their masculinity towards learning care relationships in both the private and public domain. They were transforming understandings of masculinity in community landscapes through their increasingly confident presentation of themselves as hands-on, involved fathers concerned with all dimensions of their children’s educational development. This is important in the context of widespread concern about persistent literacy inequalities in Ireland and beyond. Boys’ literacy performance is declining at a time when traditional and technological literacies are central to personal, social and economic wellbeing. In particular, boys and young men from socially disadvantaged groups are most implicated in basic educational inequalities while their middle-class counterparts continue to maintain their positions of privilege. Traditionally, a stubborn gendered attitude to literacy, alongside a gendered division of care work has prevented many fathers from participation in supporting children’s literacy. Consequently, children do not benefit from fathers as literacy role models and carers, and women continue to bear a gendered, unequal share of family care labour. This study showed signs of a shift in these entrenched gender and educational inequalities. The men voiced the need for support with understanding and enacting their new gendered identities. This signals an opening for adult education to build on this successful research process through addressing issues of gender de/construction, creating opportunities for dialogue and reflection about masculinity and fatherhood and facilitating praxis in areas of literacy and gender where harmful inequalities are maintained and reproduced.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Masculinity; fathers; family literacy; ‘hard-man’ front;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Adult and Community Education
    Item ID: 8778
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2017 08:57
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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