Thematic Panel 11- Transforming Masculinity and Care: gendered boundaries and carers’ lives in transition

Convenors- Dr. Jason Danely, Oxford Brookes University and Dr. Carlos Chirinos, Rovira i Virgili University/Oxford Brookes University

This panel presents research on men who provide paid or unpaid care for frail older or disabled adults in diverse national and cultural contexts. It has long been established that women provide the majority of informal care worldwide, and as a result, feminist scholars and activists have been leaders in critical political debates on how to preserve the ethical value of care while dismantling patriarchal systems and gendered oppression. While these debates have evolved to recognise intersectional, queer, crip and other forms of care, the experiences of men who care can sometimes become marginalized or less visible. Consequently, representations of masculinity dominated by violence and emotional distance remain prevalent and unchallenged. This panel will consider how the themes of boundaries, transitions and crisis can reveal transformations in gendered subjectivities emerging the wake of the crisis of care in ageing societies, which presses more men into roles as carers. 

Men who care often grapple with boundaries of normative or internalised gendered assumptions, expectations, and the relative lack of positive role models or public representation. As more men provide a greater range of care tasks, however, evidence has emerged that suggests that not only can men provide quality care, but that in doing so, they contest the boundaries of gender norms in ways that may benefit all genders. Men are increasingly becoming primary carers for older and disabled parents or spouses and using that opportunity to learn new embodied skills and sensitivities. Men have also taken roles as paid or unpaid carers outside of families, contesting boundaries between public and private domains of care. This panel presents diverse empirical studies of men who care in order to demonstrate emerging fluid conceptions of masculinity arising in spaces less conspicuous to the public eye, but which provide important insights about how men’s care can become reimagined in both public consciousness and policies on care.