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Sarah C. Hunter and Damien W. Riggs

Books published on fathering and raising boys are becoming increasingly popular. These books claim simply to describe boys and fathers. However we suggest that they make only specific identities available. We make this suggestion on the basis of a critical analysis of six books published since an initial study by Riggs (2008). In this article we extend Riggs’s analysis by identifying how the books analyzed draw upon hegemonic masculine ideals in constructing boys’ and fathers’ identities. The analysis also suggests that biological essentialism is used to justify the identities constructed. Five specific implications are drawn from the findings, focusing on understandings of males as well as females, the uptake of dominant modes of talking about males, and the ramifications of biological essentialism. The findings emphasize the need to pay ongoing attention to popular parenting books since, rather than offering improved strategies for raising boys, these books present assertions of what boys and fathers should be.

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“Girls Are Like Flowers; Boys Are Like footballs”

How Fathers Hope to Configure Their Sons’ Masculinity

Florencia Herrera

active negotiations in numerous social relationships of which the father-son relationship is clearly one. Emily Kane (2006) argues that heterosexual fathers are key in maintaining or changing gender practices. Parents begin to form gendering

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All the Boys Are Straight

Heteronormativity in Contemporary Books on Fathering and Raising Boys

Damien W. Riggs

Over the past decade a rapidly growing number of books have been published on fathering and raising boys. Whilst these books purport to simply describe boyhood, this article suggests that they are in fact actively engaged in constructing boyhood and in making available to boys particular gender and sexual identities. In an analysis of ten such books, the article demonstrates how they are informed by a range of heteronormative and homophobic assumptions about boys and masculinity. Particular focus is given to constructions of the “average boy,” the assumption that such boys are “naturally” attracted to girls, discourses of the “sissy” boy, and accounts of gay boys. The analysis provided suggests that constructions of the first two rely upon the negative constructions of the latter two. Implications for the ways in which we understand boys, fathering and families are drawn from the findings. Recommendations are made for research agendas that not only respect and include gay boys and their parents, but also celebrate the experiences of non-gender normative, non-heterosexual boys.

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The Father in the Boy

On Roles, Goals, and Imagos in Boyhood—An Evolving Psychoanalytic Vision

Clifton Edward Watkins

The psychoanalytic vision of the father-son relationship, for far too long, remained yoked to patrifocal, patriarchal, phallocentric, and heteronormative biases. Fathers were seen as the paragons of masculinity, providing their sons with rescue and salvation from the sinister specter of enmeshment with and engulfment by mother. Only in the last approximate 25 to 30 years have we seen a significant shift in that vision of fathers begin to occur in psychoanalysis. In this paper, I consider some of the essentials that appear to now define that ever-evolving psychoanalytic vision of fathers. Some ways in which fathers seemingly contribute to boys’ development will be examined, and the roles, goals, and imagos that characterize the father-son relationship during boyhood will be accentuated. This current vision, still very much a work in progress, reflects earnest efforts to contemporize an antiquated and gender biased psychoanalytic perspective and render it relevant for the twenty-first century father, fathering, and father-son relationship. Upending psychoanalytic overemphases on pathology, misery, and negativity, it is an optimistic iconoclasm that challenges and questions tradition, proposes an alternative path to explanatory possibilities and conceptualizations, and above all else, embraces and celebrates “more life,” joy, happiness, health, and positivity in fathering.

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'Father Mao' and the Country-Family

Mixed Feelings for Fathers, Officials, and Leaders in China

Hans Steinmüller

What does it mean when Mao Zedong is called 'Father Mao' and when ordinary people in central China put a poster of Mao in the place of their ancestors and the emperor? This article analyzes ordinary affection for the Chinese state and explores changing ideas of the leader as a father and the country as a family. The first part deals with the historical transformation of these metaphors from the late Qing dynasty to the Communist Revolution and Maoism, describing the vernacularization and sentimentalization of the 'Confucian order of the father/son' in twentieth-century China. Against this historical background and based on fieldwork material from central China, the second part deals with the 'mixed feelings' that people in the present day now have for fathers at home, for local officials, and for national leaders.

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Leisuring Masculinities in British Indian Childhoods

Explorations at the Intersection of Gender Order and Generational Order

Utsa Mukherjee

( Shannon 2006 ). Moreover, particular leisure activities such as sports have emerged as dominant cultural contexts for contemporary fathering ( Fletcher 2020 ). The above studies reveal that understanding children's leisure-based masculinities must

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For the Father of a Newborn

Soviet Obstetrics and the Mobilization of Men as Medical Allies

Amy E. Randall

This article introduces the translated pamphlet For the Father of a Newborn by contextualizing it in Soviet medical efforts to deploy men as allies in safeguarding reproduction and bolstering procreation in the 1960s and 1970s. It examines the pamphlet as an illustration of how doctors and other health personnel tried to educate men to protect their wives’ pregnancy and the health of their wives and newborns in the postpartum period, and it considers the implications of these initiatives for women’s bodies, gender norms, sexual practices, models of masculinity, and the socialist goal of promoting women’s equality.

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Evelyn Friedlander

As far back as can be traced, my father and his paternal ancestors were all born in Recklinghausen, and some of the ancestral graves can still be seen in cemetery on the Nordscharweg. Since the cemetery was only consecrated 1905, and my great-grandfather Isack died in 1893, his gravestone must have been one of the twenty or so stones which, along with the bones which still remained, were moved from the cemetery on the Börster Weg in the early 1930s, due to growing anti-Semitism. As it turned out, it was most fortuitous that Isack was reinterred, as the Nazis destroyed the first graveyard completely, eventually turning it into a children's playground. Having outlived her husband by forty years, my great-grandmother Henriette was buried close to him in 1933. These stones are of enormous importance to me as they mark the only prewar family graves I have in Germany

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Margit Sinka

Dominik Graf's Wispern im Berg der Dinge (A Whispering in the Mountain of Things) was the second film televised in the twelve-part Denk ich an Deutschland-documentary series launched on the eve of Germany's eighth Day of Unity (October 1998). Though Graf does not refer directly to Heinrich Heine, he clearly takes Heine's mode of thinking about Germany seriously—that is, he resolutely focuses on ruptures, which characterize Heine and his writings, and on the tensions provoked by the interplay of opposites evident in Heine's poem Nachtgedanken (1843), the source of the Denk ich an Deutschland-phrase. In Graf's documentary, Heine's ruptures turn into ruptures between his father's excessively silent war generation and his own unanchored post 1968 generation. The tensions, on the other hand, are evoked by the filmic medium—in particular, between verbal and iconic images. Thinking about film when he thinks about Germany, Graf examines his deceased father's many roles in the West German films of the 1950s and 1960s—roles that had turned him into the representative of the damaged war generation. Faulting the purely verbal in a medium intended to give concrete, visual form to reality, Graf attempts to harness the powers of both verbal and iconic images in the service of identity formation, yet grants the edge to the iconic, as well as to the fictional rather than the factual.

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Donald Reid

Le Nouvel Esprit du capitalisme is a socio-cultural response to the neoliberal explanation of the successes and failures of capitalism in France during the last three decades in terms of individual rational actors and markets. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello draw their inspiration from critical readings of sociologists who interpreted earlier incarnations of capitalism, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim.