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T HINKING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN Partners, parents and people Prof Brid Featherstone Open University.

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Presentation on theme: "T HINKING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN Partners, parents and people Prof Brid Featherstone Open University."— Presentation transcript:

1 T HINKING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN Partners, parents and people Prof Brid Featherstone Open University

2 OROR Is it thinking about parents and partners as men, women and people?

3 L ANGUAGE AND ITS POSSIBILITIES Policy calls upon parents (with a nod to the gendered issues occasionally, ie, the project includes fathers) The language supports an instrumental project Talking about men and women holds some (interesting ) possibilities for supporting a project that engages with the complexities of shifting identities and allows for thinking about hope, desire, disappointment and suffering - it keys us into a literature that is ignored in government documents etc

4 O UTLINE Policy context Drawing from a literature on intimacy and individualization Engaging with the lived experiences of men and women who ‘parent’ and ‘partner’

5 UK FAMILY POLICY Under New Labour (and now continuing under the Coalition) there has been a distinct attempt to position family life as a public rather than private concern All sorts of complex factors involved in this Support and control or perhaps, more accurately, conscript parents in the interests of a social investment state under New Labour Parenting no longer seen as a relational bond characterised by love and care, but rather a job requiring particular skills and expertise that should be taught by formally qualified professionals (Gillies, 2007)

6 There has been a noticeable emphasis on parenting as ‘the difference that makes a difference’ for disadvantaged children – this is new ‘Parenting more than anything else makes a difference to a child’s future’ (Margaret Hodge, quoted in Gillies, 2007) ‘Parenting not poverty shapes a child’s destiny’ (Nick Clegg, 2010 quoted in Gillies, 2012 )

7 Cameron (2010) quotes Stephen Scott of the National Academy of Parenting ‘Poverty is a factor but not a central one. It seems to be poverty of the parent-child experience that leads to poor outcomes rather than poverty of a material kind’ (quoted in Gillies, 2012)

8 Thus those who are poor are not only expected to cope in the here and now but also equip their children with the skills to move upwards in a social mobility project Abstract role for fathers (not really specified what they might do except act as role models or there is a mention of reading to children) (Featherstone, 2009)

9 M EN AND WOMEN AS PARTNERS Towards the end of New Labour period of rule, a belated understanding of the importance of looking at relationships between parents so a move away from a rather dyadic or unidirectional focus Continued under Coalition with money for relationship support services

10 P ARTNERING AND PARENTING Quote from David Cameron ‘The last Government concentrated its family support on children...But it also meant they shied away from saying anything meaningful about the family as a whole- and in particular, the vital relationships within a family: the ones between parent and child and parent and parent’ (quoted in Gillies, 2012 Still located within a child focused project

11 Overall, a curious project that has tried to fix identities and conscript them into a wider social and economic project How does it fit with, or speak to, parents’ actual identities? Investments in children? Evidence from Mothers (Featherstone et al, forthcoming) Evidence from Fathers (Dermott, 2008)

12 M EN AND WOMEN AS P ARTNERS : I NTIMACY AND INDIVIDUALIZATION Massive literature and a lot of debate Giddens in 1992 was of key importance with his book ( The Transformation of Intimacy ) The pure relationship and confluent love – pioneered by women Critiques – it’s not that new, not rooted in empirical research, underplays structural inequalities, violence and disregards the impact of children But......

13 S O SOME IMPLICATIONS – REALLY PLEA FOR MORE RESEARCH Poor evidence base but lots of flux in ‘troubled families’ – men moving in and out etc What is going on? What do women do and feel about such men? What do both want for, and from, their children? Are they pioneers of the pure relationship? Public discourses offer lots of suggestions to understand... Role of the welfare state... Economic changes..... Attachment difficulties Feminist understandings have focused on domestic abuse but a lot of anxiety and orthodoxy here... Meanings of practices not engaged with often (Featherstone et al, forthcoming).

14 R EFERENCES Dermott, E (2008) Intimate Fatherhood, Routledge Featherstone, B (2009) Contemporary Fathering : Theory, Policy and Practice, Policy Press Featherstone, B., Wise, S. and Morris, K (forthcoming) Re-imagining Child Protection: Towards Humane Social Work with Families, Policy Press Giddens, A (1992) The Transformation of I ntimacy, Polity Press Gillies. V (2007) Marginalised mothers: exploring working class experiences of parenting, Routledge

15 R EFERENCES Gillies, V (2012) ‘Family Politics and the Politics of Parenting’ in Richter, M. and Andresen, S (eds) The Politicization of Parenthood, Springer

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