Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Sociology - Faculty of Arts


From the early fifties, the defining control over 'the best interest of the child' has developed into the perhaps most powerful tool in sexual politics. An essential part of this ongoing process of redefinition is the men's movement's declaration of the emotionally absent father as psycho- and social pathology and the son's demand for his restitution into their lives. This rhetoric transforms mid-century maternal deprivation into paternal deprivation and almost imperceptibly transmutes the exigencies of the fathers into the essentialized needs of the child. After this 'reinvention' of fatherhood, the relevant literature attests a potential for radical social transformation to those functions and modes of parent-child interaction which have traditionally been marked as the provenience of 'the feminine'.

The new masculinist theorist of need construction have joined feminist theorists in their challenge to the normativity of orthodox parental functions. Both disciplines have used the critique of Enlightenment's dichotomous polarities as the theoretical framework for their reinventing of fatherhood and motherhood respectively. But despite their shared subject matter, there are few similarities between the two discourses. Whilst the fatherhood literature argues that Enlightenment's emphasis on the 'Maleness of Reason' has severed the father's connection to his children, feminist theorists maintain that the same phenomenon has secured their conjugal and sex specific parental functions within the family. This thesis explores the discrepancies between masculinist theories of loss and feminist theories of acquisition. It highlights the aggravated tension between complementary and sex transcendence produced by a politics of fatherhood which lays claim to qualified sameness of and radical difference between female and male parenting potentials and functions.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.