Eu fpv thematic Network: The Social Problem and Societal Problematisation of Men and Masculinities uk national report on research on men’s practices workpackage 1

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(c ) Men, work and organisations.

(i)Much of the work on organisations which identifies “men” as a distinct sociological category has been written from feminist and profeminist perspectives. The work of Hearn and colleagues has been central to this development. The richest contributions include Cockburn (1983, 1991), Hearn et al. (1989), Hearn (1992), Hearn and Parkin (1995), Itzin and Newman (1995), Collinson and Hearn (1996a, 1996b). Among the themes highlighted in these texts and other sources (noted below) are the following: (i) Gendered vertical and horizontal segregation intersections (see also Hugman 1991, Grimwood & Popplestone 1993); (ii) Virtuosity, management and men (see also Hearn 1982); (iii) The multiple manifestations of organizational life being constructed via sexuality – what is often called “organization sexuality” (Hearn & Parkin 1995) or “the sexuality of organization” (Hearn et al. 1989); (iv) The complexities around the extent to which there has been a movement of men into “non-traditional occupations” and the sigmificance of this.

(ii)These perspectives have been developed from, and also applied with reference to, a range of organizational settings including:-

(a) Social welfare organizations. These are of particular note since one can regard them as sites where public and private patriarchies intersect with particular intensity (Parkin 1989): see for instance Harlow et al. (1992) and Pringle (1995). Cree (1995) and Christie (1998, 2000) have also opened up debates on “men in non-traditional occupations” using social work and welfare as a case study. One area of major debate here is the impact of men workers in social welfare organizations., a debate which in some ways parallels that about men in families (see above). Some commentators mainly from within “Men’s Studies” and socialist feminist/profeminist perspectives (Ruxton 1991, 1994; Moss 1994, 1996; Owen et al 1998) have suggested that men, as men, have an important (perhaps essential) part to play in welfare work for the benefit of women, men themselves and for children – especially boys. These analyses have been critiqued by other commentators influenced by radical feminist perspectives (see Pringle 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998a) on the grounds that they largely failed to take account of men’s violences in welfare settings. Pringle had previously emphasised that levels of violence perpetrated by some men in such settings were very considerable (1990, 1992, 1993). In more recent years, Pringle has sought to develop a model whereby the potentially positive contributions to welfare work by men can be maximised whilst at the same time placing the safety and well-being of service users and other service providers centre-stage (1995, 1998b, 1998d, 2000). See also Skelton (1994) and Colton and Vanstone (1998).

(b)Higher education institutions (Pritchard 1996; Taylor 1993;). Several pieces of work have also sought to explore the intersections of (i) and (ii) via social welfare education (Carter and Jeffs 1992; Henderson 1994; Kirwan 1994; Taylor, 1994; Cox and Hirst 1995; Pringle 1995, 1998c).

(c)Further education institutions – especially the body of work built up Whitehead (Kerfoot and Whitehead 1998; Whitehead 1998, 1999).
Future research on organizations and men: (a) more is needed on the complex intersections of gender with a range of other social divisions along the contours of cultural diversity/ethnicity, sexuality, age, disability and class; (b) again, there is considerable scope for more transnational comparative work.

The discourses around “social exclusion” and “social inclusion”, in the way they are now commonly used in British political circles, are relatively new and seem mainly attributable to the advent of the Blair government as well as developing engagement with the European Union where such discourses have a longer tradition (Pringle 1998a). In the United Kingdom, critical social analysis has tended hitherto to use concepts such as “social divisions”, “social disadvantages”, “discrimination” and “oppression” rather than “social exclusion” and “social inclusion”. It may well be that this difference in terminology is not purely “academic”. For it can be argued that discourses around “social inclusion/exclusion” tend to assume some consensual core to social relations, whereas terminology about “oppressions” or “social divisions” may assume that social relations are fundamentally conflictual. Pringle (1998a; Pringle & Harder 1999) has argued that, for profound and deeply rooted cultural reasons, it may well be that mainstream sociological/social policy analysis in Britain explicitly acknowledges forms of social division more readily than elsewhere in Western Europe. He has also argued (Pringle & Harder 1999) it may not therefore be coincidental that, for example, in Denmark social marginalisation is conceptualised as primarily a matter of being in or out of the labour market. By contrast, in Britain social marginalisation perhaps tends to be considered as the outcome of a combination of various social disadvantages such as poverty, class, racism, sexism, heterosexism and ageism – even though the current British government may be using the labour market increasingly as the primary measure of social marginalisation.

Two immediate outcomes arise for the national report from the situation just described. First, in each section of this report I am incorporating comments about the intersections of gender with other forms of social division rather than confining comments to this discrete section. Second, in terms of reviewing the British literature on men as a sociological category it is already clear that some commentators have sought to incorporate a multi-dimensional analysis of the power relations. For instance, Mac an Ghaill has explored the intersections of gender, sexuality and Irish cultural identities (1996b) as well as the intersections of gender and black identities (1994). Similarly, as we shall see in section 5, Cowburn (1993) makes a point of addressing men’s gendered violences within a multi-dimensional political context. The intersections of older age and gender have been explicitly addressed by for instance Hearn (1995, 1999b), Jackson (1990) and Whittaker (1996). Furthermore, although Pringle’s analyses of men and social welfare (1995) and of children in Europe (1998a) focus particularly on issues of gender, they constantly seek to contextualise those issues within a broader and complex web of multi-dimensional power relations.

Given this “national” background, it is of concern that (despite the examples cited above) the literature on men in Britain has still not focused sufficiently on the practices and experiences of, for instance, gay men, black or Asian men, disabled men, older men – or combinations thereof. As we have seen in the section above, there has been some meaningful focus on men who are poorer or who are unemployed. Moreover, it is certainly true that in the British literature there is now considerable attention being paid to the undoubtedly crucial interconnections between heterosexist power relations and “hegemonic” gendered practices of men (Adkins and Merchant 1996; Butt & Hearn 1998; Collier 1997, 1998; Collinson & Hearn 1996a; Hearn 1998b; Richardson 1996). However, gaps in the literature still often relate to a relative lack of attention to other power relations intersecting with gender in the lives of men. There is an urgent need to rectify this in future research.


There has been far more critical research and scholarly enquiry regarding men’s violences to women. children and (to some extent) men in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in Europe; and from certain feminist and profeminist perspectives this may be seen as perhaps the major contribution which Britain has made to research on men transnationally (Pringle 1998a, 1998e). Indeed so extensive is the literature which has developed on this issue in Britain since 1990 that I will not even attempt to provide an exhaustive survey here: partly due to considerations of space; partly because some specific issues concerned with men’s violences are dealt with in other sections of this national report; but also because the broad field has been extensively surveyed from feminist and profeminist perspectives in a number of relatively recent major texts, in particular: Pringle (1995, 1998a, 1998e); Fawcett et al (1996); Hester et al. (1996); Hearn (1998a); Popay et al (1998); Hanmer & Itzin (with Quaid & Wigglesworth) (2000); Itzin (2000); Radford et al. forthcoming. Instead, I will try to outline the main contributions to some of the most important debates which are not dealt with elsewhere in this report – and the inevitable gaps in the literature which nevertheless remain.

(a) Why has there has been such a research concentration on men’s violences in the United Kingdom? There is no doubt that a major factor has been the strength of feminist (and in particular radical feminist) critiques of men’s violences in relation to women and children in the United Kingdom stretching back several decades. It was only rather later in the 1980s that men began to contribute profeminist perspectives in any significant way (Hearn, 1987; Brittan 1989).

(b) Many British feminist and profeminist commentators who focus on the violences of men, regard this issue as being central to men’s practices more generally. Hearn (1999a) emphasises that crime and violence are very largely a problem for men and notes that a “lot of what men do needs to be relabelled as violence” (p. 159). This encompasses child abuse (Hearn 1990, 1999b, Hester & Harne 1999); child sexual abuse (Pringle 1992, 1993b 1995, 1998a, 1998b, 2000; Itzin 2000); men’s violences to women including known women (Hanmer 1996, 1998; Hester et al. 1996; Mullender 1997; Hearn 1998b, 1998c; Hanmer & Itzin 2000; Hester & Radford forthcoming); rioting/crime/policing/ hooliganism/ public disorder (Cashmore & Mclaughlin 1991; Brake and Hale, 1992; Campbell, A 1993; Campbell, B. 1993; Newburn &Stanko 1994 Collier 1995, 1997, 1998); soldiering/ wars (McCollum, Kelly and Radford 1994: Morgan 1994; Maguire 1997/8).

(c) Moreover, Hearn (1999a, p.160) suggests that men’s “violence to women, children, young people and each other needs, indeed demands, not just patching up the problem, but the changing of men and ‘normal masculinity’…Examples here might include what is seen as the ‘normal’ behaviour of certain men and boys, as fathers, workmates, school mates…in reproducing ordinary, everyday violence to otheres and each other. Men’s violence is thus about both violence to women, children and young people, and often less obviously, violence to the self – in self-brutalisation and the denial and ‘victory over’ the no-violent parts of ourselves…Violence may bring power and dominance, but it may also bring unhappiness and self-destruction. Men who are violent are generally not happy men…, even if they ‘enjoy’ the violence.” With this framework in mind, we can understand why the subject of men’s violences permeates all the other sections of this report – and why it continually re-emerges as a theme when we discuss men in relation to home, work, organizations, health/well-being.

(d) One important issue thrown up by the extent of research on men’s violences in Britain are the complex linkages between those forms of violence. The Zero Tolerance Trust (based in Edinburgh but active in an educational, research and campaigning role world-wide) has always maintained as one of its guiding principles that men’s violences cannot be understood in isolation. Recent research and scholarly activity in Britain is confirming and clarifying that approach. For instance, we have already noted (section 3) the important work carried out by Marianne Hester and others exploring the clear linkages between violences by some men to both their partners and to their children. Catherine Itzin has recently emphasised the crucial interconnections between child sexual abuse and pornography (1996; 1997; 2000). The complex debates about linkages between pornography and men’s violences have been well-rehearsed (Itzin 1992) and are being further explored (Cowburn & Pringle forthcoming). Similarly, established work on the connections between prostitution and pornography (Itzin 1992) is being developed further (Swirsky and Jenkins 2000). In turn, the linkages between prostitution and men’s violences have also been (and continue to be) explored (O’Neill, 1996). One of the crucial practical implications flowing from this ongoing research connecting men’s violences together is that an effective challenge to those violences will have to be broadly-based – along the lines suggested by the Zero Tolerance Trust. That point leads to the next central theme to be addressed in this report: exploring the efforts which are being made to actively challenge men’s violences.

(e) Hearn (1999a, pp.160-161) has called for a national commitment against violence: “…governmental and other policies and strategies should take a clear position that opposes violence, should tell boys and men not to be violent, should advocate policies that encourage men to behave in ways that facilitate women’s equality, and make it clear that the realisation of such changes depends partly on men in politics and policy-making, and their own understanding of their gendered actions. So the vision here is a world without men’s violence, without men as we know them.”

In recent years several important texts have been published in Britain devoted to developing strategies and initiatives by which men supportive of feminist activism might take responsibility for challenging men’s/boys’ oppressive practices (Newburn & Mair 1996; Salisbury and Jackson 1996; Wild 1999). Furthermore, in line with Hearn’s coherent vision, Pringle (1995, 1998b, 1998d, 2000) has outlined a framework for men whereby they might challenge gendered oppression. He suggests that this framework involves men who are supportive of feminist activism challenging men’s oppressive practices within five intersecting domains:-

(i) Work to challenge one's own personal and political oppressive behaviour.

(ii) Individual work with other men or boys to promote mutual challenge of oppressive behaviours (Salisbury & Jackson 1996; Tudor 1999).

(iii)Groupwork between/with men/boys for the purpose of mutually challenging oppressive behaviour; also for the purposes of strategic networking to challenge structural forms of oppression. This groupwork activity might be with men/boys who have been specifically identified as abusive/violent/criminal: see for instance Murphy (1996); Morran, (1996). There is considerable debate about the efficacy of such work with, for instance, men who are violent to their partners (Dobash et al. 1996). Perspectives which locate men’s violences within a societal structure of patriarchal relations (Hearn 1998a) suggest that rather than such programmes being based on narrow psychological/anger management approaches, they should be premised on a feminist/profeminist power model with broader educational and political objectives (Dobash et al. 1996; Hearn 1999a). Of course, anti-sexist groupwork can also be carried out with men/boys more generally in a variety of day-to-day settings: see for instance Mardon (1996) on parenting courses for young men; Lloyd (1996b) on training programmes; Foskett & Hurst (1999) on HIV prevention with gay men. Cowburn has contributed some of the most useful discussions on anti-sexist groupwork (Cowburn 1993; Cowburn & Pengelly 1999) and makes the important point that such activities must address gender oppression within the context of their inextricable links with other forms of oppression such as heterosexism, racism, ageism, disablism and class. Salisbury & Jackson (1996) provide a particularly effective and well thought-out analysis about how a critical approach to men’s practices may be operationalised in work with boys in school settings. This is particularly important since, as Hearn (1999a) has recently emphasised, education settings offer some of the most strategic sites for the kind of anti-sexist work with boys which is essential to a national programme such as he envisages. Moreover, it is clear that schools are themselves central locations for the generation of patriarchal discourses and practices (Epstein 1997; Wright et al. 1998).

(iv) Creating positive and structural change in agencies /institutions / localities / communities: see Pringle (1995) for analysis of the part played by men in one particular community group set up to challenge child sexual abuse. However, there has been relatively little research exploring effective strategies at a community/locality level.

(v) Contributing to structural change strategies at a societal level. For instance, Pringle (1995, 1998b) has focused on the potential offered by Zero Tolerance Trust initiatives. However, once again, there has been relatively little research/scholarly activity devoted to the issue of how such societally based initiatives may be systematically linked with the other four domains.

Gaps in the literature/directions for future research: -

  1. More systematic exploration of how men’s violent gendered practices intersect with other oppressive power relations centred around issues such as sexuality, cultural difference/ethnicity, age, disability and class – and the implications of such analyses for challenging those practices and assisting people abused by them.

  2. More systematic exploration of how the different forms of men’s violences interconnect – also the implications for policy/practice aimed at challenging those violences and assisting people abused by them.

  3. More systematic exploration of how concerted programmes against men’s violences can be developed – in particular more research into the promotion of successful initiatives at school, community and societal levels.

  4. More transnational comparative research regarding (a) – (c) to explore the continuities/ discontinuities between cultural locations and welfare system formations.


(a)In this section I use “health” as a broad category in the sense of “well-being”. Within that framework a considerable amount has been written about “men’s health”. However, by no means all of this has been derived from a sociologically critical perspective: (a) Men’s Rights commentators often use the topic as part of their case for what they regard as the societal victimisation of men (Dench1996; Lyndon 1996): men’s reduced longevity compared to women and the suicide rates among men, (especially) younger adult males, are among the phenomena most often cited. (b) During the literature trawl for this report it became apparent that a vast amount of research has recently been devoted to men’s health in relation to issues such as: drug use, alcohol abuse, coronary heart disease, male infertility, HIV and AIDS, suicide. However the majority of this work is reported within a purely “medical” and (allegedly) “value-free” frame of reference – and certainly without any critical perspective as to its potential “social meaning”. I shall concentrate in this report on scholarly activity which does utilise a critical social perspective. Nevertheless, it is surely important to register here that massive medical research resources in Britain are now clearly being directed towards men’s health issues. This may well of course be regarded as a positive step forward, though from a feminist and profeminist perspective that judgement partly depends upon how far those resources represent overall additions to the research budget rather than diversions away from work into other issues such as women’s health and/or the health needs of Black and Asian service users (Pringle 1995, 1998e).

(b) As Hearn (1999a, p.162) has recently emphasised, “discussion of men’s health should not be read as necessarily antagonistic to women’s health”. Much of the most valuable work on men’s health in Britain has been developed by commentators writing from within a broadly Mens Studies/ socialist profeminist perspective, for instance Trefor Lloyd (1996; Lloyd and Wood 1996). The journal “Working with Men”, which Lloyd co-edits, is a valuable source of information on the rapidly developing number of men’s health initiatives in Britain (as well as information on initiatives in fields such as education community work and fatherhood). It’s web-site is Some profeminist commentators (for instance Pringle 1995, 1996, 1998e) have questioned whether this material places too much emphasis on the costs to men of patriarchal relations and too little on the costs to women and children men’s oppressive practices. Doyal (1999) has reminded us that acts of violence by men constitute a major global health risk to women. At the same time, Hearn (1999a) is correct to point that work on men’s health can play an important part in the project by some men to change their relationship to women and children positively (Bruckenwell et al. 1995; Bradford 1995).

(c)Moreover, there is no doubt that in many ways the separation of problems created by men from problems experienced by them can be over-simplistic. This is certainly true in the field of men’s health. For instance, men suffer relatively high levels of intentional injury from the violence of other men or self-violence “connected to what is defined as ‘masculine’ behaviour, to risk-taking, to aggression, and to the consumption of drugs and alcohol” (Doyal (1999, p.40): see also Canaan (1996); Collison (1996) and Jefferson (1996). Similarly, the very real problem of men’s suicide rates, particularly in the younger adult age ranges (Pritchard 1995; Lloyd 1996), has been associated by some commentators with a greater unwillingness on the part of some men to seek professional help (Royal College of Psychiatrists 1996; Hearn 1999a) – which may of course be partly attributable to “hegemonic” men’s practices around the denial and avoidance of vulnerability.

(d) In turn, this has been associated with a wider phenomenon emphasised in much of the earlier literature: i.e. despite their overall greater longevity, women report illness (physical and emotional) far more than men. However some recent British research casts doubt upon this phenomenon both generally and in terms of specifics. For instance, in terms of consulting general practitioners about minor illnesses, Wyke et al (1998) conclude that their data do not support the idea of gender differences in reporting rates. Similarly, in looking at reporting of long-standing illnesses, Macintyre et al. (1999) again found no evidence of gender differences. Moreover, in exploring the health of women and men aged 60 plus years, Arber & Cooper (1999) have recently demonstrated that there “is little difference between the sexes in the reporting of self-assessed health and limiting long-standing illness, but older women are substantially more likely to experience functional impairment in mobility and self-care than men of the same age” – and this finding persists when structural factors such as marital status, class, housing tenure and income are also taken into account. So we need to be careful in over-generalising about gender comparisons and health.

(e)In fact it can be argued that in this field gender differences are sometimes over-emphasised and other structural factors under-recognised. For instance, Arber (1997, p.785) demonstrates from data in the early 1990s that “own occupational status and employment status are the key structural factors associated with limiting long-standing illness among women and men…”. Similarly, Matthews et al (1999, p.58) in their longitudinal study conclude that “social inequality in poor-rated health was similar for men and women both before and after allowing for diverse explanatory factors from birth through to Age 33…job insecurity and unemployment appeared to have a greater contribution towards inequality among men, whilst for women family structure was important.” With specific reference to men’s well-being this last comment draws our attention to issues of class and (un)employment in the lives of men. The correlations between lower social class and generally higher levels of men’s morbidity and mortality are well-established (Lloyd 1996; Lloyd and Wood 1996). However, (un)employment perhaps deserves further comment here. Thus Pritchard (1995) confirmed that in the 1980s the rise in male suicide, particularly among younger adults, was partially influenced by concomitant unemployment. Reviewing men’s health more broadly, Wadsworth et al (1999, p. 1491) found that: “After controlling for pre-labour market and socio-economic and health factors, prolonged unemployment is shown … to reduce significantly both socio-economic and health capital by age 33 years. We conclude that the experience of prolonged unemployment early in the working life of this population of young men looks likely to have a persisting effect on their future health and socio-economic cicumstances”. Similarly, Mullen’s research among male Glaswegian workers(1992) found that unskilled and semi-skilled workers suffered “the greatest limitations in coping with the health effects of work” (p. 73). I have used the example of class, occupational status and (un)employment here to illustrate the way gendered analyses of men’s well-being must acknowledge the crucial mediating effects of other structural factors – and I chose that example partly because it is one of the most explored in the academic literature.

(f) A much less explored intersection is that between male well-being and age. In section 3 I reviewed some of the limited studies about retired men and older men in terms of their situation in the the home. More focused scholarly attention on men and older age is even more scarce in the United Kingdom. By far the most interesting works in this field are by Jackson (1990) - in terms of his own experience - and by Hearn (1995). However, in this connection one might also mention Thompson’s exploratory discussion of patriarchal constructions of masculinity and the issue of loss. He identifies a series of potential costs to men, not least their “‘disenfranchisement’ of the expression of grief in the public sphere” (1997, p.86). Moreover, as has been noted already, there is also some literature on the gendered violences associated with older age (Ogg & Munn-Giddings 1993; Holt 1993; Whittaker 1996; Hearn 1999b). Looking at age and gender at the other end of the chronological spectrum , in Britain there has been relatively little written (compared to the United states) about the impact of child sexual abuse on boys’ well-being. From a medical and systems therapy point of view, Watkins & Bentovim (1992) have reviewed the literature. A more critical perspective is, however, offered by Durham (1997) and in Itzin (2000). The main survey concerning men’s sexual violences to other adult men remains McMullen (1990) but this is now out of print: new research on this important issue is required.

(g)Even less attention has been given to the intersections of men, health and disabilities. We have of course noted in section 3 the literature on men as adult carers. Pringle (1995) has also summarised the evidence about the central place of men as perpetrators in the abuse of people (of both genders) who are disabled in a variety of ways (Brown & Craft 1989; Ussher 1991; Brown & Turk 1992, 1994; Kelly 1992; Kennedy and Kelly 1992; Darton et al. 1994; McCarthy 1996). Moreover, in this section we have made reference to some literature on men experiencing emotional and mental distress. However, apart from a few important exceptions (Clements et al. 1995 and Shakespeare 1999), there is a major gap in research regarding exploration of the way experiences of disability inter-connect with being a man. Future research needs to fill gaps in the literature regarding the intersections of men’s well-being with issues of age (old and young) and disabilities.

(g) Another mediating factor in terms of men’s well-being has attracted considerable attention: sexuality (Aggleton et al. 1992; Davies & Hart 1991; Davies et al. 1992; Doyal et al. 1994; Hart et al. 1994; McCann & Wadsworth 1994;Adkins & Merchant 1996; Richardson 1996; Kershaw 1999; Kibby & Costello 1999). Immensely valuable though all this (and similar) work is, it is disappointing that so much (though by no means all) is devoted to issues associated with HIV and AIDS. More research around men’s health/well-being and sexuality needs to focus on broader issues. For instance, one under-researched area is violence towards lesbian women and gay men (see Richardson &May 1999). Interestingly, one issue which does seem to be attracting some (albeit limited) critical scholarly attention in this area is men and reproduction (Entwistle 1993: Lloyd, M. 1996; Sheldon 1999).

(h) The intersections of men, racism, cultural diversity and health/well-being also require much further development. So far scholarly attention has largely been confined to specific issues. For instance, much has now been written about black men in relation to the criminal justice system and how this topic overlaps with the experiences of black men in the mental health system (Cashmore and Mclaughlin 1991; Dallos and Boswell 1993; Raynor et al.1994). Another area where black masculinities and well-being has been touched upon is in the literature on sport (Carrington 1998, 1999; Mac an Ghaill 1994; Parker 1996; Westwood 1990). In all these cases (crime, mental health, sport) this literature has been invaluable in deconstructing the stereotypes of black masculinity. And yet one still feels a certain ambivalence about the fact that such a large proportion of the relatively small amount of critical material on black men and well-being is concentrated precisely on those areas of life to which the stereotypes of black experience seek to confine black men. In other words, there is an urgent need for future research to explore black masculinities and well-being in relation to a much broader range of life experiences.

(i) Of course, scholarly attention to sport is by no means confined to the experiences of black men. In fact sport is becoming a growing focus for critical study of men’s practices and well-being (Hughson 2000; Kennedy 2000; and Wheaton 2000). Moreover, Hearn (1999a, pp.161-2) has recently pointed out that sport is a prime, public and legitimated site for the expression of men’s violences – and potentially a central arena for the challenging of those violences. In fact, the burgeoning interest in men and sport can be seen as part of an even broader developing focus on men’s practices and the body (Parker 1996; Wilton 1996; Witz, Halford & Savage 1996; Butt and Hearn 1998; Sweetman 1999). In turn, this itself partly derives from a wider sociological concern with the body (Shilling 1993; 1997).

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