Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Understanding the complexities of inclusive masculinity through the Footy Show

Ryan Scoats and Adam White discuss their recent article in SRO

A growing acceptance of homosexuality in society is not just good for sexual minorities, but it also has a knock-on effect for the ways that all men behave. In the past, a suspicion of homosexuality has often been based on effeminate behaviours, like men wearing pink or holding hands. Any boy not attempting to embody, or at least endorsing traditional notions of masculinity, would therefore be singled out as feminine, and thus, a fag. However, when men no longer fear being thought of as homosexual—because being homosexual is no longer considered a bad thing—this broadens the range of behaviours available to them. When men are able to choose their behaviours more freely, not fearing stigmatization, being associated with that which were once considered 'symbols of femininity' no longer has the same meaning. This is something we are seeing within Western cultures of masculinities, particularly amongst younger generations of men. For contemporary masculinity, having an interest in fashion, crying during a film, or spooning with another man no longer carry with them a homosexualising stigma.

This change in attitudes towards masculinity can be understood through Eric Anderson’s inclusive masculinity theory. Anderson says that as men's fear of being though gay declines, a wider array of male behaviours are socially acceptable. Inclusive masculinity theory has been used by many to explain the improved attitudes towards gay men in sport, increasing physical tactility between guys and the social development of both metrosexuality and bromances.

Yet, some have mistaken these optimistic findings as suggestive of a gender utopia. Unfortunately, not all areas of society change at the same rate. Some areas of society do, and will continue to exhibit higher levels of homophobia as well as be more prone to gender policing. Those who continue to subscribe to orthodox/traditional notions of masculinity are unlikely to embrace new, softer forms of masculinity. With this in mind, our recent research in Sociological Research Online looks at these contrasting cultures of masculinity through the lens of the media; specifically Australia's weekly rugby league show: 'The NRL Footy Show'.

The Footy Show airs every Thursday typically after 8.30pm Australian Eastern Time. It has run for 23 consecutive seasons since 1994 and usually involves 3 to 4 consistent co-hosts whom are regularly supplemented with ancillary hosts who are namely current rugby league players and/or other athletes. The show consists of various scripted segments related to rugby league as well as interactions with current players.

Using a content analysis to examine three separate episodes of the show, we found there to be inconsistent messages put forward around masculinity. Whereas the scripted portions of the show presented orthodox notions of masculinity, including casual misogyny, the valorisation of violence, and condemnation of femininity, this stood in contrast to the guests on the show: current players. Instead, these guests demonstrated more ‘feminised’ behaviours such as vulnerability, being in touch with their emotions, or flamboyancy. We interpret this this disparity in ‘message’ as a generational divide between the ‘old’ proponent’s orthodox masculinity and the ‘young’s’ inclusive masculinity. The show seems intended to appeal to those socialised in an era where extreme homophobia was compulsory to achieve masculinity. This culture of relative orthodoxy, however, stands in contrast to the younger athletes appearing on the show who were cultivated in an era more acceptable of homosexuals and feminine practices.


It would, however, be simplistic to simply view this as a clash of cultures—the old versus the new—and the show attempts to navigate this disparity through the use of humour. We suggest that the makers of the show recognise that the audience no longer universally values orthodox masculinity, nor is it exalted by the players they feature on the show. It is for this reason that the show aims to shape a version of appropriate masculinity through humour. The tongue-in-cheek style of the show suggests that all involved know that misogynistic and homophobic statements are now socially unacceptable. However, this humour allows for plausible deniability in their position. Thus, this strategy enables the show to straddle the intergenerational divide: reinforcing traditional masculinity to those with more orthodox appetites, whilst at the same time couching their activities/language in humour that allows for the younger generation to interpret them as innocuous banter. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Resisting gentrification
By Phil Hubbard - 

This blog offers some reflections on the recent SRO 'Rapid Response'  in volume 21 issue 3.

In my forthcoming book The Battle for The High Street, I argue policies for the regeneration of British High Streets have been accepted almost without question, to the extent few appear to be making the equation between the gentrification they are promoting and the displacement of the poorer in society. It’s this that I comment on in my Sociological Research Online paper, which is one of nine in a rapid response section of the journal on the theme of assessing the impacts of, and resisting, gentrification. While gentrification is a fairly hoary academic concept, and something that has been evident in the major cities of the urban West for many decades, this call was issued in response to the current ubiquity of gentrification as a process that has now effectively displaced the working class from central London in a manner that now demands urgent attention. Witness not just the ‘hipsterfication’ of inner city districts like Hackney, Shoreditch and Brixton, and the ironic consumption of landscapes of poverty and austerity commented on by Eleanor Wilkinson in her paper, but also the redevelopment of inner city council estate housing by cash strapped local authorities who are thrall to the property conglomerates who see little profit in constructing social housing. As Mara Ferreri and Luna Glucksberg argue in their piece, between 2005 and 2032 over 70 council estates have been or will be affected by 'regeneration' schemes, many of which require wholesale estate demolition and redevelopment as mixed-tenure, with more than 820,500 m2 of land changing ownership from public to private, affecting over 150,000 Londoners, between tenants, leaseholders and freeholders.

What is particularly disheartening for those critical scholars determined to challenge such accelerating processes of gentrification is that these processes have be represented as not just inevitable but morally defensible: the gentrifier is seen to have earned their ‘right to the city’, and those that they marginalize or displace are regarded as having lost this right. It has taken the E15 mothers campaign, and the attendant publicity they have gained, to even question this, and for at least some to come to the conclusion that working class communities might have the right to remain in the neighbourhoods and communities that they have constructed over many decades. But there is perhaps not enough said about the way the city has been taken from the working classes, and, as Waquant suggests, perhaps too much emphasis placed on the aesthetic and cultural ‘improvements’ associated with the arrival of artistic, hip middle class gentrifiers who have taken over inner London, and transformed landscapes of ‘austerity’ with spaces of spectacular, artful consumption.

This erasure of critical perspectives isn’t simply limited to London, being repeated in other national contexts. Even in the US, where gentrification has been most debated, critics sometimes appear somewhat ambivalent about urban upscaling. For example, Sharon Zukin – perhaps the most influential interpreter of changing patterns of culture and capital in the contemporary city – adopts an almost celebratory tone in some of her descriptions of the gentrification of East Village, New York, arguing that ‘far from destroying a community by commercial gentrification, East Ninth Street suggests that a retail concentration of designer stores may be a territory of innovation in the urban economy, producing both a marketable and a sociable neighbourhood node’; elsewhere she argues that Orchard Street, also on the Lower East Side, has been ‘successfully revitalized by new investment, restaurants and retail stores’, shaking off its ‘ghetto image’ with no attendant ‘crisis in moral ownership.’ Here, there’s little said about class conflicts, with the obvious onset of re-gentrification scripted as regenerative rather than necessarily driving a wedge between the poorer and the more affluent.

What seems to be happening here is a collective amnesia about why we study gentrification: that is, to expose the processes which result in the displacement of working class populations from the spaces where they live and work. A book still little known beyond those working in queer activism, but highly pertinent in this context is Sarah Schulman’s (2012) The Gentrification of the Mind: witness to a lost imagination. This is a slim but powerful book in which she makes connections between the consequences of AIDS, the literal gentrification of the city and a ‘diminished consciousness’ about how political and social change occurs. Her argument, though backed up by anecdote rather than empirical data, is powerfully persuasive, and relates to what she sees as the erasure of a ‘queer urban ecology’ due to the combined effects of deaths from HIV, in the first instance, and, secondly, the gentrification of New York. Here, she hypothesizes the injection of new middle class money into previously mixed neighbourhoods – many of which were decimated by HIV – created spaces more homogeneous in class terms than their predecessors. The eviction of the less affluent, she argued, reduced urbanity: white middle class suburban cultural values came to reign where previously diverse ones had mingled and clashed. Yet, over time, she argues these gentrified neighbourhoods became normalized as made by the middle classes, with incomers forgetting these neighbourhoods had even existed before they ‘created’ them. As she sees it, the failure of the gentrifiers – many of them gay white men – to acknowledge the previous lower class inhabitants of the area, including people of colour who had been active in the struggle against AIDS, is testament to ‘the loss of a generation’s ideas’. As Shulmann states, gentrified happiness requires the gentrification of the mind, and the forgetting of what has been suffered – and achieved – by previous generations. The physical landscape has then adapted to the consumer demand for familiarity, and adopted a bland homogeneity that, in her words, “hides the apparatus of domination from the dominant themselves”. This argument, though specific to a particular queer struggle, has considerable resonance for thinking about the wider struggles surrounding gentrification, and our inability as academics to organise effective forms of resistance to this phenomena. While not all academics are middle class, there is a sense in which we are all seduced by new emergent landscapes of middle class consumption and gentrified living.

As we wander around spaces like Soho, which Erin Sanders-McDonagh, Magali Peyrefitte and Matt Ryalls argue is now seen as edgy, but not seedy, with its mixture of chic restaurants, designer stores, and creative businesses, we are also fooled into thinking this represents true urbanity because it appears so bohemian, not bourgeois, and seems to signal cultural acceptance, diversity and opportunity. But this diversity is only available to those who can afford it, and gentrified areas like Soho are far from accessible or open to all. The middle class, particularly its creative factions, imagine their access to food, art and culture in Soho is due to their personal worth and hard work, yet their wealth is partly a function of their ability to define taste in favour of forms of cultural capital they are able to transform into economic capital. The gentrified neighbourhood of Soho sets the standard for acceptability, normalizing the tastes and proclivities of the middle-class consumer in the process and embedding it within a particular imagination of swinging, creative London. Schulman argues gentrification is the removal of the truly dynamic mix that defines urbanity, the privileging of a particular set of class dispositions and the disavowal of others. Despite initially appearing bohemian and edgy, Soho shuns real social diversity and mix in favour of an upmarket form of consumption that feigns cosmopolitanism, looks good, and feels safe, but is palpably not for all. But somehow this exclusionary logic has been forgotten. A gentrification of the mind has occurred. We still go to somewhere like Soho to experience urbanity, the juxtapositions of grit and glitter that have defined the urban condition, and taught us the importance of encountering difference. But it’s apparent that, despite nods to the contrary, Soho, like many other inner London neighbourhoods, how boasts an ersazt urbanity not rooted in any particular time or place.

But if the future of our central city is not as a gentrified bubble serving only the affluent, then what is it to be? Here, my own observations on the role of High Streets in promoting vernacular creativity, conviviality, and senses of belonging suggest that representations of incivility and abandonment should not be allowed to dominate in descriptions of working class areas. Following Suzanne Hall’s study of Peckham High Street and other ‘ordinary spaces’, I conclude it’s vital that we value working class districts as, in Hall’s words, these are ‘shared local spaces shaped by habitual associations rather than outright compatibilities’, with the ‘aggregation of small spaces and diverse groups’ often creating deeply rooted ‘local’ cultures and senses of belonging.


But quite how we might defend working class communities in the face of post-political discourses that elides questions of rights in favour of a rhetoric which equates gentrification with regeneration and, as Hamil Pearsall and Isabelle Anguelovski argue, environmental improvement, remains open to debate. The purpose of this rapid response section is to raise such questions, and to explore how diverse processes of gentrification require different forms of resistance, such as the ‘lobbying campaigns against revenge evictions, anti-eviction action, welfare cuts, housing corruption’ described by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper, or the squatting activism detailed by Sandra Annunziata and Loretta Lees in the context of Southern Europe. But perhaps they also require us all, as critical scholars, to be a bit more discerning in our own consumption and lifestyle habits, perhaps looking for more ethical alternatives to the Air B&B accommodation that is one of the prime battlegrounds of gentrification (as Agustín Cócola Gant argues in the context of Barcelona) or refusing to frequent the hipster businesses that are overwhelming some of the neighbourhoods where ethnic and class diversity previously reigned.
Resisting gentrification
By Phil Hubbard - 

This blog offers some reflections on the recent SRO 'Rapid Response'  in volume 21 issue 3.

In my forthcoming book The Battle for The High Street, I argue policies for the regeneration of British High Streets have been accepted almost without question, to the extent few appear to be making the equation between the gentrification they are promoting and the displacement of the poorer in society. It’s this that I comment on in my Sociological Research Online paper, which is one of nine in a rapid response section of the journal on the theme of assessing the impacts of, and resisting, gentrification. While gentrification is a fairly hoary academic concept, and something that has been evident in the major cities of the urban West for many decades, this call was issued in response to the current ubiquity of gentrification as a process that has now effectively displaced the working class from central London in a manner that now demands urgent attention. Witness not just the ‘hipsterfication’ of inner city districts like Hackney, Shoreditch and Brixton, and the ironic consumption of landscapes of poverty and austerity commented on by Eleanor Wilkinson in her paper, but also the redevelopment of inner city council estate housing by cash strapped local authorities who are thrall to the property conglomerates who see little profit in constructing social housing. As Mara Ferreri and Luna Glucksberg argue in their piece, between 2005 and 2032 over 70 council estates have been or will be affected by 'regeneration' schemes, many of which require wholesale estate demolition and redevelopment as mixed-tenure, with more than 820,500 m2 of land changing ownership from public to private, affecting over 150,000 Londoners, between tenants, leaseholders and freeholders.

What is particularly disheartening for those critical scholars determined to challenge such accelerating processes of gentrification is that these processes have be represented as not just inevitable but morally defensible: the gentrifier is seen to have earned their ‘right to the city’, and those that they marginalize or displace are regarded as having lost this right. It has taken the E15 mothers campaign, and the attendant publicity they have gained, to even question this, and for at least some to come to the conclusion that working class communities might have the right to remain in the neighbourhoods and communities that they have constructed over many decades. But there is perhaps not enough said about the way the city has been taken from the working classes, and, as Waquant suggests, perhaps too much emphasis placed on the aesthetic and cultural ‘improvements’ associated with the arrival of artistic, hip middle class gentrifiers who have taken over inner London, and transformed landscapes of ‘austerity’ with spaces of spectacular, artful consumption.

This erasure of critical perspectives isn’t simply limited to London, being repeated in other national contexts. Even in the US, where gentrification has been most debated, critics sometimes appear somewhat ambivalent about urban upscaling. For example, Sharon Zukin – perhaps the most influential interpreter of changing patterns of culture and capital in the contemporary city – adopts an almost celebratory tone in some of her descriptions of the gentrification of East Village, New York, arguing that ‘far from destroying a community by commercial gentrification, East Ninth Street suggests that a retail concentration of designer stores may be a territory of innovation in the urban economy, producing both a marketable and a sociable neighbourhood node’; elsewhere she argues that Orchard Street, also on the Lower East Side, has been ‘successfully revitalized by new investment, restaurants and retail stores’, shaking off its ‘ghetto image’ with no attendant ‘crisis in moral ownership.’ Here, there’s little said about class conflicts, with the obvious onset of re-gentrification scripted as regenerative rather than necessarily driving a wedge between the poorer and the more affluent.

What seems to be happening here is a collective amnesia about why we study gentrification: that is, to expose the processes which result in the displacement of working class populations from the spaces where they live and work. A book still little known beyond those working in queer activism, but highly pertinent in this context is Sarah Schulman’s (2012) The Gentrification of the Mind: witness to a lost imagination. This is a slim but powerful book in which she makes connections between the consequences of AIDS, the literal gentrification of the city and a ‘diminished consciousness’ about how political and social change occurs. Her argument, though backed up by anecdote rather than empirical data, is powerfully persuasive, and relates to what she sees as the erasure of a ‘queer urban ecology’ due to the combined effects of deaths from HIV, in the first instance, and, secondly, the gentrification of New York. Here, she hypothesizes the injection of new middle class money into previously mixed neighbourhoods – many of which were decimated by HIV – created spaces more homogeneous in class terms than their predecessors. The eviction of the less affluent, she argued, reduced urbanity: white middle class suburban cultural values came to reign where previously diverse ones had mingled and clashed. Yet, over time, she argues these gentrified neighbourhoods became normalized as made by the middle classes, with incomers forgetting these neighbourhoods had even existed before they ‘created’ them. As she sees it, the failure of the gentrifiers – many of them gay white men – to acknowledge the previous lower class inhabitants of the area, including people of colour who had been active in the struggle against AIDS, is testament to ‘the loss of a generation’s ideas’. As Shulmann states, gentrified happiness requires the gentrification of the mind, and the forgetting of what has been suffered – and achieved – by previous generations. The physical landscape has then adapted to the consumer demand for familiarity, and adopted a bland homogeneity that, in her words, “hides the apparatus of domination from the dominant themselves”. This argument, though specific to a particular queer struggle, has considerable resonance for thinking about the wider struggles surrounding gentrification, and our inability as academics to organise effective forms of resistance to this phenomena. While not all academics are middle class, there is a sense in which we are all seduced by new emergent landscapes of middle class consumption and gentrified living.

As we wander around spaces like Soho, which Erin Sanders-McDonagh, Magali Peyrefitte and Matt Ryalls argue is now seen as edgy, but not seedy, with its mixture of chic restaurants, designer stores, and creative businesses, we are also fooled into thinking this represents true urbanity because it appears so bohemian, not bourgeois, and seems to signal cultural acceptance, diversity and opportunity. But this diversity is only available to those who can afford it, and gentrified areas like Soho are far from accessible or open to all. The middle class, particularly its creative factions, imagine their access to food, art and culture in Soho is due to their personal worth and hard work, yet their wealth is partly a function of their ability to define taste in favour of forms of cultural capital they are able to transform into economic capital. The gentrified neighbourhood of Soho sets the standard for acceptability, normalizing the tastes and proclivities of the middle-class consumer in the process and embedding it within a particular imagination of swinging, creative London. Schulman argues gentrification is the removal of the truly dynamic mix that defines urbanity, the privileging of a particular set of class dispositions and the disavowal of others. Despite initially appearing bohemian and edgy, Soho shuns real social diversity and mix in favour of an upmarket form of consumption that feigns cosmopolitanism, looks good, and feels safe, but is palpably not for all. But somehow this exclusionary logic has been forgotten. A gentrification of the mind has occurred. We still go to somewhere like Soho to experience urbanity, the juxtapositions of grit and glitter that have defined the urban condition, and taught us the importance of encountering difference. But it’s apparent that, despite nods to the contrary, Soho, like many other inner London neighbourhoods, how boasts an ersazt urbanity not rooted in any particular time or place.

But if the future of our central city is not as a gentrified bubble serving only the affluent, then what is it to be? Here, my own observations on the role of High Streets in promoting vernacular creativity, conviviality, and senses of belonging suggest that representations of incivility and abandonment should not be allowed to dominate in descriptions of working class areas. Following Suzanne Hall’s study of Peckham High Street and other ‘ordinary spaces’, I conclude it’s vital that we value working class districts as, in Hall’s words, these are ‘shared local spaces shaped by habitual associations rather than outright compatibilities’, with the ‘aggregation of small spaces and diverse groups’ often creating deeply rooted ‘local’ cultures and senses of belonging.


But quite how we might defend working class communities in the face of post-political discourses that elides questions of rights in favour of a rhetoric which equates gentrification with regeneration and, as Hamil Pearsall and Isabelle Anguelovski argue, environmental improvement, remains open to debate. The purpose of this rapid response section is to raise such questions, and to explore how diverse processes of gentrification require different forms of resistance, such as the ‘lobbying campaigns against revenge evictions, anti-eviction action, welfare cuts, housing corruption’ described by Kirsteen Paton and Vickie Cooper, or the squatting activism detailed by Sandra Annunziata and Loretta Lees in the context of Southern Europe. But perhaps they also require us all, as critical scholars, to be a bit more discerning in our own consumption and lifestyle habits, perhaps looking for more ethical alternatives to the Air B&B accommodation that is one of the prime battlegrounds of gentrification (as Agustín Cócola Gant argues in the context of Barcelona) or refusing to frequent the hipster businesses that are overwhelming some of the neighbourhoods where ethnic and class diversity previously reigned.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Gender, Intimacy, Equality


By Charlotte Faircloth and Katherine Twamley

 
This blog accompanies the special section we edited on gender, intimacy and equality. Here, we give some background to the workshop which led to the special section, explore some of the key themes which emerged, and describe the kinds of conversations and reflections which the workshop provoked (and which we hope the special section continues…).

The topics of gender, equality and intimacy were selected as the basis for a workshop based on our own interest, and from our observation that recent scholarship has begun to unpack their intersections, particularly in the context of personal life (Jamieson 1998, Smart 2007, Gabb 2008). One conclusion of this work has been that, while some theorists predicted a straightforward correlation between greater ‘equality’ between men and women, and enhanced intimacy in personal relationships (see, for example Giddens 1992, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995), this has not necessarily been the case. Instead, empirically grounded work has revealed the three concepts of gender, intimacy and equality to be ‘uncomfortable bedfellows’. An important trend in this work, then, has been to explore the clash between ‘ideal’ relationships promoted by policy, expert and self-help literature, on the one hand, and the pragmatics of family life, on the other (Gillies 2009, Jensen and Tyler 2013)

In April 2014, we – the editors of this new special section of SRO – convened an event at the IOE in London entitled ‘Gender, Equality and Intimacy: (Un)comfortable bedfellows?’ This workshop was set up to explore further how such connections between equality and intimacy are experienced by men, women and families. At the workshop we aimed to create a dialogue between junior and senior researchers, with presenters pre-submitting papers on new and emerging empirical research, whilst respondents reflected on the papers’ theoretical contributions to the field.

Drawing on very different empirical examples, the authors in this resulting special section explore how discourses of appropriate sexual intimacy shape the personal lives of men and women, and focus on two themes in particular:

Representing sexuality

The first three papers examine representations of sexuality in sex advice literature and ‘communities’, and the ways that these exert influence on individuals’ experiences of intimacy in particularly gendered ways. Introducing these papers, Professor Ros Gill noted that the pieces are very ‘brave, difficult and challenging pieces of research’, which all, in different ways, reject the optimistic treatise of the transformation of intimacy school. They all also look at notions of mediation and story-telling in intimate narratives, which intersect with gendered power relationships in important ways.

The first paper, from van Hooff, for example, explores married women’s experiences of sex as these relate to idealised images of the couple relationship; the paper problematizes what van Hooff calls (after Jackson) ‘everyday, mundane, conventional sexual lives’ (Jackson 2008: 34). This paper explores the considerable gaps between aspiration and experience for many of her participants, a theme picked up by Woodiwiss, who looks at women’s responses to what she calls a narrative of ‘compulsory sexuality’ in self-help literature.  Both these papers focus on the ways in which cultural narratives around appropriate (hetero)sexuality impact on understanding of self and intimate relationships. These narratives around gender appropriate sexuality form the subject of the third article by O’Neill, who looks in particular at the commercialisation of intimacy through a study of men in the ‘seduction community’ in London. This is both a chilling and fascinating case-study into an increasingly ‘mediated’ intimacy. O’Neill argues that the seduction community can be seen as ‘of a neoliberal sensibility or rationality to the domain of personal and intimate life’ (p8). The implications of O’Neill’s analysis, in terms of gender equality, are bleak: the men view women as objects to attain - women who are ‘consumed’ and paraded as markers of status.

All three papers show how discourses of ‘normal’ sexual behaviour are governing the lives of men and women. ‘Good housekeeping has now been replaced by “good sex-making”’ (Hawkes 1996:121) as Van Hooff comments (p9).

Discussing the papers, Dr Meg John Barker noted that as someone who tries to both write, and criticise ‘self-help’ literature, these papers were particularly useful in thinking about the way in which we treat both ourselves (and others) as objects. Barker also commented on the relationship between emotional and sexual intimacy, noting that in all papers, these different kinds of intimacy were conceptually separated, while in ‘real life’ they tend to be conflated.

Sexuality and parenting

The second three papers look at sexuality and intimacy in the context of parenting.

Commenting on this, Dr Esther Dermott noted that the reason parenting raises questions of gender equality is because it’s the organisation of parenting tasks and responsibilities which seems to be the stumbling block, time and again, for gender equality. Whilst transformations have happened in the realm of paid work, this has not been matched in the domestic sphere. Similarly, the suggestion that the transformation of fatherhood is the answer to this problem does not seem to be the case – instead, research shows that ‘intimate’ fatherhood might mean ‘new-ness’ without necessarily transforming gender relations. Rather than continuing with this line of analysis, however, she noted that the papers here take the focus off fatherhood, and refreshingly look at gender equality in parenting through different lenses.

For example, Layne’s paper uses the case study of a ‘single mother by choice’ showing the uncomfortable relationship between parenting culture and the couple relationship as traditionally defined. Layne’s research participant, Carmen, happily avoids the compromises involved in a marriage. She wonders whether marital intimacy is laden with negotiation around household labour and intimate exchanges. Like Van Hoof’s participants who are in relationships, she expects men to want to have sex more often than women and is reticent to enter into a relationship where having sex, even when not wanting to, may be ‘part of the deal’. Carmen’s intensive approach to parenting, whether in part caused by lack of a romantic partner, also prohibits making more intimate adult connections.

Faircloth, by contrast, explores how couples manage transitions around intimacy as they become parents, looking in particular at the tensions between an ‘intensive’ parenting culture and a strong emphasis within the couple on the importance of sex and intimacy. By taking into account the policy context shaping parents’ lives, especially their division of care, Faircloth explores the role of the state in shaping the intimate lives of parents. Morris pursues the same themes but through work with single mothers, showcasing the competing accountabilities single mothers feel they must accommodate in order to avoid charges of deviance. Gender inequality pushed them out of relationships, but also left them vulnerable once out of them, economically, socially and emotionally.

What becomes apparent cross both sets of papers, are the ways in which men and women are increasingly treating their intimate lives as projects of improvement and individual endeavor, which Professor Gill referred to as the ‘toxic individualization of intimacy’.

Brought together, the six articles from the special section unpack the ways that enduring gendered discourses, whether ‘mediated’ through policy, social discourse or self-help literature, shape intimate life, and the ways in which individuals attempt to make sense of these in their narratives and intimate practices. Far from being a straightforward correlation between greater gender equality and intimacy, a look at shifting sexual practices across a range of settings shows that this relationship appears to be more fraught than ever.

 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Measuring Paternal Involvement in Childcare and Housework


Helen Norman and Mark Elliot, University of Manchester

How to measure the involvement of fathers in childcare is a matter of wide debate (e.g. Dermott 2008, 2003; Williams 2008; Mikelson 2008; Sanderson and Sanders-Thompson 2002; Cabrera et al 2000; McBride and Mills 1993; Lamb 1986). This is in contrast to the concept of maternal involvement, which is universalised and taken for granted (Miller 2010; 2011).

Paternal involvement is challenging to define and measure in quantitative research because it is a subjective and manifests itself in varied ways (e.g. see Dermott 2008; Pleck 2010; Palkovitz 1997). Yet a precise measurement of the term would prove useful for creating a benchmark for further research and conceptual elaboration as well as a reliable means for assessing the factors associated with being an ‘involved father’. Simplifying a complex term into a quantitative measure allows us to capture and summarise a diverse set of practices that reaches out to all types of fathers. This is particularly useful for exploring paternal involvement across a large cohort of fathers in order to help inform UK policy debates on both fathers' and mothers' work-family reconciliation, which has been a key concern for all UK Governments since the 1990’s.

In our paper, published in Sociological Research Online, we derive two measures of paternal involvement using household data from the UK's Millennium Cohort Study. These measures are based on two dimensions of paternal involvement coined by Michael Lamb in 1986: ‘engagement’ and ‘responsibility’. Engagement represents the one-to-one interaction time with the child such as feeding the child, helping the child with their homework and playing. Responsibility is defined as knowing in detail what childcare needed and ensuring it is provided by anticipating, planning and arranging provision. For example, knowing when the child needs to go to the doctor, making the appointment and ensuring the child gets to it is responsibility – going with the child to the doctors and talking to them about it is engagement.  Another way in which a father might evidence responsibility is through maintaining a clean and safe standard of living for the child i.e. housework. This also relieves the other parent (i.e. the mother) of these tasks so that she can concentrate on other activities such as looking after the child.

In order to derive our two measures, we use variables from the MCS that measure the fathers' accounts of their childcare practices when children are very young and the mothers' reports on fathers' contributions to housework. This use of a combination of mothers' and fathers' reports for different variables is primarily driven by the structure of the MCS questionnaire design but doing this also allows us to gain a balanced perspective of fathers' involvement. We use three different factor analytic techniques to derive our measures or ‘factors’. Factor analysis works by reducing a large number of variables to a smaller number of factors that can be used in subsequent analyses. Our factor analyses confirmed the existence of ‘engagement’ and ‘responsibility’ factors in the data.

We then explored the relationship between socio-demographic, attitudinal and employment variables, and paternal engagement and responsibility. Our results show that fathers are more likely to be engaged and responsible when they work shorter hours or have a partner who works longer hours. Interestingly, mothers' employment hours had a higher correlation with paternal engagement and responsibility than fathers' own employment hours. Fathers were also more engaged when they had a higher level of education and more egalitarian gender role attitudes. Our analysis also reveals variations in paternal involvement according to the father's ethnicity. For example, Black/Black British fathers are most likely to show most evidence of responsibility (through housework), and are also most likely to be engaged in childcare. Engagement and responsibility is lowest for fathers with a Pakistani and Bangladeshi background. The variations in paternal involvement according to ethnicity may be related to cultural differences as shown by Hauari and Hollingsworth (2009) for example, but further research is needed to explore this.

Our results suggest a modest shift in gender relations whereby it is no longer the fathers' but the mothers' employment that primarily shapes how involved a father is with his children. In two-parent households, fathers' labour market roles have historically been given precedence as the 'primary' earner in the couple (also see Warin et al. 1999) so this role is expected to dictate the amount of time available to spend with children. However, our results suggest this is no longer the case with the mother’s employment being even more important than the father’s in shaping how involved he is in childcare and housework.

In future, it would be interesting to explore the association between paternal involvement and paternity and parental leave, as well as different forms of flexible working, for a more recent cohort of fathers in order to assess the impact and success of these different levels of Government support.

References


Dermott., E. (2008): Intimate Fatherhood: A sociological analysis. Oxon, Routledge.

Dermott, E. (2003): The Intimate Father': Defining paternal involvement. Sociological Research Online, Volume 8, Issue 4. http://www.socresonline.org.uk/8/4/dermott.html.

Hauari H. and Hollingworth, K. (2009). Understanding Fathering: Masculinity, diversity and change. London, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Lamb, M. (198). The Father's Role: Applied Perspectives. New York, John Wiley & Sons.





Pleck, J. (2010): Paternal involvement: Revised conceptualization and theoretical linkages with child outcomes in M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development, 5th ed, New York: Wiley.

Palkovitz, R. (1997): Reconstructing involvement: Expanding conceptualizations of men's caring in contemporary families, in Hawkins, A.J., Dollahite, D.C. (eds):'Generative fathering: Beyond deficit perspectives.'Thousand Oaks CA, Sage.


Warin J., Y. Solomon, Lewis, & Langford (1999). Fathers, Work and Family Life. Findings. London, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Matter of Race

By Nasar Meer, Anoop Nayak and Raksha Pande

Ideas of race seem as salient today as they have ever been, even when we are not directly talking about issues of race. In our new themed section on The Matter of Race, and with contributions from Les Back, Paul Bagguley, Daniel Burdsey, Sarah Burton, Bridget Byrne, Yasmin Hussein and Maggie Tate, we show that because of the slippery fashion in which ideas of race have shifted, transmuted and pluralised, race continues to matter even if it is presented as non-race concern.  What we describe might be understood as a trend in new directions in racial formation.  As Paul Gilroy (2004: 111) accepted over a decade ago, ‘it is impossible to deny that we are living through a profound transformation in the way the idea of ‘race’ is understood and acted upon’. We can see this if we reflect for moment on how debates about the European Union and sovereignty proceed with a firm view of the ‘migrant’ in mind, or how debates about ‘British values’ quickly become entrenched in ethnic hierarchies, or indeed how race is more broadly translated into a mode of ‘resentment as 'a political idea'’ (Ware, 2008). Each of these moves a little beyond Atlantocentric (black-white) notions of race, something that is further illustrated in issue of Islamophobia, antisemitism and anti-Roma discourse.

In our themed section the papers by Daniel Burdsey, and Paul Bagguley and Yasmin Hussein respectively, take up this focus to span issues of representation and sport, and the ways in which ethnicities encounter crisis, diversity and re-composition in post-imperial settings. Burdsey focuses on a case study of England cricketer Moeen Ali in order to explore how race, religion and citizenship are configured in the sporting arena and made sense of in the wider popular press and national media. The implications are that we might ‘think differently about the relationship between sport, politics and the sporting hero, and to reconsider conventional analyses of agency, activism and the use of sport as a platform from which to “speak” in the public sphere’ (Burdsey, themed section).  Bagguley and Hussein meanwhile present an analysis of how people present and negotiate their ethnicity reflexively in relation to nation, citizenship and processes of racialization. Using qualitative interview study (N=140) on how different ethnic groups in West Yorkshire were affected the 7/7 London bombings, they show how these different forms of reflexivity – meta-reflexivity, autonomous reflexivity, communicative reflexivity and fractured reflexivity – become operable amongst different ethnic groups. ‘The re-composition of ethnicised identity claims, and increased reflexivity of identity that this is demanding of people’, they maintain, ‘is seen to be rooted in the political and identity crises generated by Britain’s role in and response to the war on terror’. In their analysis these differentiated expressions are rooted in the specific politics and histories of migration and racialization in relation to dominant discourses of whiteness and the state.

In her contribution meanwhile, Bridget Byrne shows how campaigns around citizenship rights in Britain rely on the production of whiteness in a way that has profound implications for ideas of citizens and non-citizens in Britain, whilst also highlighting the need for a complex range of vocabularies to enable the analysis of different exclusions, not least through intersectional registers.  These different exclusions are, in her account, ‘clustered around these imaginations are notions of integration, language and love which rely on shared and interwoven assumptions about race, gender and religion as well as class and sexuality’ (Byrne, themed section).

These sets of argument may however encounter the charge that we are witnessing a ‘growing culture of racial equivalence’ (Song, 2014: 109).  In this view ‘the concept of racism has suffered from conceptual inflation, resulting in the declining utility of this important concept’ (ibid. 108).  While the recognition of racism’s plural character (and its many possible incarnations) is not unequivocally welcomed, it remains necessary if we are to capture the changing status of race concept over a longue durée, and grasp ‘what race does and what is done in the name of race’ (Murji and Solomos, 2-15: 276). 

The challenge for the discipline of Sociology is that race presents a paradox that sociologists constantly grapple with. Many tend to portray the term under erasure by presenting it in inverted commas so as to indicate that we are referring to a socially constructed category, based upon a problem­atic idea, instead of something that is self-evidently real in the world.  Even those who do not repeat this practice agree with the thrust of the argument. Perhaps the simplest way to frame this is to say that sociolo­gists tend to be interested in the dynamic and relational properties of race as both a his­torical idea and social category.  Yet is this insufficient?

Virdee (2012: 1144), for example, reminds us that sociol­ogy did not stand outside a racialised modernity that ‘endowed some Europeans with privilege along with the power to occupy the centre of world history, and shape it accord­ing to its own image’.  The objective of this complaint is not to devalue British sociology. On the contrary. it is to make the argument for sociology, for ‘self scrutiny rather than sheer defensiveness’ (McLennan, 2006: 97), to encourage ‘without guarantees’ (Hall, 1986) inquiry on the ways in which race and sociology are already deeply implicated.  Sociologies of race therefore require ‘being atten­tive to the specificities of the current situation but also historical linkages through time’ (Back, personal correspondence with authors). This means going beyond surface level reconstructions, and challenging sociologists to reflect on how their discipline is organ­ised across sociology departments, ‘just as sociologists have criticized other disciplines on these matters’ (Murji, 2007: 853). As Claire Alexander (2011) has put it:


I think that sociology has at best failed to engage these discourses and positions and at worse been complicit with them – within the academy, discussions of ‘race’ have largely fallen from the agenda, and there is very little work that deals with issues of racism explicitly.

Such an activity would include a ‘critique of sociology’s reformism and its neglect of the historical conditions in which sociological ideas about race and racism developed’ (Murji, 2007: 853). Each of these concerns has implications for the kinds of research and teaching programs sociology departments are currently promoting (and indeed ignor­ing).  In our themed section the interventions here from Sarah Burton, and Les Back and Maggie Tate respectively, are instructive. For Burton, a focus on the figure of the ‘white theory boy’, or ‘dead white man’ and his relationship to knowledge production, serves as a means to probe the pedagogy of social theory teaching in the UK.  In one classical social theory module, for example, she observes that of the 43 authors listed as ‘essential’ reading, 37 were white men and 6 were white women, and that ‘no authors of colour appeared on the ‘essential’ reading lists in this course’ (Burton, themed section). The trend in her account is generalizable and falls not only along lines of inclusion and exclusion into the ‘canon’, but in terms of thematic range, in as far as minority sociologists are restricted to what are deemed minority topics, rather than the story of sociology more broadly.  This inevitably reflects how the ‘privileging of white, male, Western, and middle-class identities are ingrained into the very fabric of sociology’s ontological foundations’ (ibid).  The task of rediscovering alternative histories in social theory is therefore ripe and persuasively developed in Back and Tate’s contribution, and which challenges us to consider what an account of race and the intellectual heralds for the wider sociological tradition.  They point in their paper to two overlapping issues. One maintains that the white sociological mainstream has historically ignored the contribution of black sociologists, and the other that the discussion of racism is demoted to a specialist sub-field.  Black sociologists by contrast, they argue, have long been attentive to a white sociology that has set the prevailing agenda. Through a detailed exposition of the writings of W.E.B Du Bois and Stuart Hall in particular, and their respective dialogues with figures like Max Weber and C Wright Mills, Back and Tate make an argument for reconstructing sociology at the levels both of analysis and of form – each of which changes the ways in which sociology can talk about racism. ‘What is at stake’, they maintain, ‘is the possibility of sociological reconstruction that produces an alternative understanding of what sociology can include, starting with augmented modes of telling and writing that attract a broader and more inclusive audience’ (Back and Tate, themed section).  Our themed section on the Matter of Race therefore brings together a set of original argument authored by scholars who try to explore some of the present and future oriented ways in which race matters, and help us to plot out new directions in racial formation.

References

Alexander C (2011) Sociology’s Jurisdiction: Sociology’s Identities and Futures for the Discipline. British Sociological Association address, 7 April

Gilroy, P. (2004) Between Camps. London: Routledge.

Hall S (1986) The problem of ideology – Marxism without guarantees. Journal of Communication Inquiry 10(2): 28–44.

McLennan G (2006) Sociological Cultural Studies. London: Palgrave.

Murji, K. and Solomos, J. (2o15) Theories of Race and Ethnicity: Contemporary Debates and Perspectives. Cambridge: CUP.

Murji, K. (2007) ‘Sociological engagements: institutional racism and beyond’, Sociology, 41(5), 843-55.

Song, M. (2014) ‘Challenging a culture of racial equivalence’, British Journal of Sociology, 65 (1), 107-125

Virdee S (2012) Forward to the past: Race, the colour scale and Michael Banton. Ethnic and Racial Studies 35(7): 1143–50.

Ware, V. (2008) ‘Towards a Sociology of Resentment: A Debate on Class and Whiteness’, Sociological Research Online, 13 (5), <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/13/5/9.html> doi:10.5153/sro.1802