Dirty Harry Meets Dirty Diapers: Masculinities, At-Home Fathers, and Making the Law Work for Families

44 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2012 Last revised: 8 Mar 2013

Beth A. Burkstrand-Reid

University of Nebraska at Lincoln - College of Law

Date Written: December 19, 2012

Abstract

Who is the 'man'? Implicit in this question is whether the man at issue demonstrates traits traditionally associated with masculinity: traits such as power, rejecting all things associated with being female, aggression, and being the family breadwinner. If a man, then, abandons paid work and stays at home full time with his children, is he still a 'man' as typically defined? The answer to this question bears both on whether families are truly evolving away from the traditional, gendered construct that places men as family breadwinners and women as caregivers and whether work-family balance law meets the needs of these - and all - families.

This article analyzes 425 media stories about at-home fathers written over an eight-year period. Specifically, it looks at whether these fathers accept or reject socially constructed notions of masculinity. The results suggest that some at-home fathers adapt their behavior in ways that allow them to function as primary caregivers while keeping their masculinity intact. As masculinity appears to be salient even to gender-subversive fathers, understanding these adaptive strategies is important to making work-family balance law more responsive to all fathers.

Keywords: fathers, masculinity, masculinities, at-home father, at-home dad

Suggested Citation

Burkstrand-Reid, Beth A., Dirty Harry Meets Dirty Diapers: Masculinities, At-Home Fathers, and Making the Law Work for Families (December 19, 2012). Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2191773

Beth A. Burkstrand-Reid (Contact Author)

University of Nebraska at Lincoln - College of Law ( email )

103 McCollum Hall
P.O. Box 830902
Lincoln, NE 68583-0902
United States
402-472-3158 (Phone)

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