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Engaging Men in Feminist Social Work: Theory, Politics and Practice


Pease, B, Engaging Men in Feminist Social Work: Theory, Politics and Practice, Contemporary Feminisms in Social Work Practice, Routledge, S Wendt and N Moulding (ed), New York, pp. 246-258. ISBN 9781138025707 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2016 Sarah Wendt and Nicole Moulding

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I first engaged with feminism in the 1970s in response to being challenged by women about my privilege as a man. My partner would come home from women's consciousness-raising meetings and challenge my limited participation in housework and my over-commitment to paid work at the expense of our relationship. I had to work out what these challenges would mean not only for my personal relationship, but also for my chosen career of social work and my political activism on issues of social justice.

I first took gender seriously in intellectual work in a Master's thesis on radical social workers in the mid-1980s (Pease. 1987, 1990). By then, feminism had played an important role in shaping my personal, professional and political concerns. Close personal relationships with feminist women, cooperative working relationships with feminist co-workers and my experience in an anti-sexist men's consciousness-raising group provided the direct impetus for bringing a gender consciousness into my practice in social work.

Thus, my engagement with feminism ran parallel with my study, practice and teaching in social work. I was fortunate to come to my second academic position in social work in a school that espoused a radical philosophy of social work that was influenced by critical theory and feminism. I was also fortunate in being mentored by a senior feminist social work academic who suggested that I take responsibility for addressing the negative responses of many male students to feminist content in the curriculum.

As a result, I developed and taught a course on men, masculinities and social work which was first offered in 1985. Although the elective course was originally intended primarily for male social work students, it became popular with female students who wanted strategies for dealing with men in their personal lives as well as in their professional roles. The course provided an opportunity for me to bring a feminist-informed scholarship on men and masculinities into the social work curriculum to address such issues as theorising masculinity, men's sexuality, men and intimacy, fatherhood and men in families, homophobia and men's friendships. men and work, men's health, men and ageing, men's violence, men's movement politics, and men and gender equality (Pease, 1997).

In the early 1990s I was also involved in attempts to construct a pro-feminist activism. I had previously been involved in men's consciousness-raising groups in the 1970s and 1980s. However. it was not until 1991 when I co-founded Men Against Sexual Assault (MASA) that I moved into concerted activism against men's violence against women. Even in those early days, my sense was that work done by men with men against men's violence should be accountable to critical reference groups of women who worked in women's services (Pease, 1995).

This engagement with activist work on men's violence against women took me into theorising and research with men about the pathways by which some men become pro-feminist and how to analyse men's power and resistance to change (Pease, 2000). It is often difficult for men to acknowledge the oppression of women because they are implicated in it. Gender is differentiated from many of the other social divisions because it is experienced in the context of intimate relationships at home (Ridgeway & Correll, 2004). It is likely that men have participated in the subordination of the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who are a part of their life. Many men are reluctant to acknowledge that male privilege exists because they fear they will have to face guilt and shame for their part in maintaining their privileges (Johnson, 1997).

In Connell's (2000) view, the primary motivating factor for men to support gender equality will come from their 'relational interests' winning out over their egotistic interests. It is men's relationships with partners, daughters, mothers and sisters and so on that will provide the basis upon which men will come to support change.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Social work
Research Field:Social work not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Community services
Objective Field:Gender and sexualities
UTAS Author:Pease, B (Professor Bob Pease)
ID Code:106192
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-02-02
Last Modified:2018-03-27

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