Year

2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of the reasons why men join the men's movement. The study combines a literature review of the men's movement with ethnographic empirical research using in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. It also draws on participant observation of various men's movement events such as men's groups meetings, weekend gatherings and festivals. Themes and issues explored in the thesis include men's gender role disorientation, the impact of relationship break-ups, fathering and boys' issues, men's health, problems with emotional expressiveness and issues of social isolation. Collectively, these and other issues have given rise to the notion of a crisis in masculine identity, or 'the masculinity crisis'. While there is no consensus about the existence of such a 'crisis', men's endeavours to deal with these issues have lead to the emergence of the men's movement. This study identifies four major theoretical positions and men's movement groupings to examine men's issues. They include: the Profeminist strand, Fathers' Rights, the Mythopoetic, and the Inclusives' men's movement. The review of the literature revealed that the 'grassroots' element of the men's movement is an under-researched social terrain. It also highlights existing discrepancy between the men's movement activities and academic analysis of them. Hence this study is a pioneering work using grounded theory to give representation to the voices of the participants in the men's movement on a range of issues confronting men today. Its scope goes beyond the previously dominant feminist perspective to interrogate the different issues experienced by men from each of the four theoretical men's movement perspectives. The findings of the study help to elucidate the nature of the men's movement and its likely trajectory. It traces the evolution of the men's movement in Australia and maps the ideological positions of the different men's movement strands on a range of social issues affecting men. The study concludes that the main reasons why men join the men's movement are both ideological and personal. The personal aspect relates to the experience of chronic or acute personal crises and the seeking of support and healing to deal with predicaments. The ideological causes relate to men's support of the feminist cause or reactions against feminism and the perceived gender inequity in service provision. The empirical findings also illustrated a dialectical interplay of ideological worldviews with regard to gender relationships and personal reasons, including pain associated with the impact of contemporary industrial reforms, gender relationships and masculinity changes which inform their beliefs and understanding, and motivate their continuing involvement. Overwhelmingly, the study found the feminist movement to be the main catalyst for men joining the men's movement either in support of or as a reaction to its impact on the lives of men. In particular, some men who have joined the men's movement in support of feminism have also discovered that their participation has addressed previously unacknowledged personal issues. Similarly, men who initially participate because of personal crises experience an evolution in their ideological beliefs which motivates their continuing involvement. The findings of the study indicate that men are changing, perhaps not at a rate and intensity women may want, or in a direction that some masculinity observers may wish for, but men are changing. Signs of change include men spending more time with their children, doing more domestic work, engaging in more democratic relationships with women, paying more attention to their physical and emotional health, and developing greater intimacy with other men. The findings of the study emphasise that there is no room for complacency or attributions of blame in the gender relationship discourse. They indicate that there is a need for both women and men to engage in open public gender debate out of which new gender relationship paradigms will emerge.

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