Remembering My Hat

14th February 2013

Ageing masculinities seminar: Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 16:48

Idiosyncratic notes from the afternoon session – in no sense a representative summary of the discussion. For an equally non-representational summary of the morning, see here.

Anna Tarrant, The Open University

“Masculinities, ageing and the embodiment of contemporary grandfatherhood”

How useful is the concept of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ for thinking about ageing men?

Definitions of grandfatherhood – biological and step /new relationship / adopted but also one person ‘social’ – not family based but a relationship he considered to be that of a grandfather.

Her sample, only one visually impaired, rest able-bodied – this is significant for ways in which do grandfathering. Significance of physical play with children – sensitivities about not being able to do this as much as used to, from adult children as well.

Linking to what other speakers said this morning, reformulating post-work activity (grandfathering, caring for partner) as work-like.

Most grandfathers didn’t do nappies, and weren’t encouraged to do nappies by their womenfolk. But one had changed from his own traditional fathering practices, even in face of family’s scepticism about his abilities (‘ you can’t change a nappy’ ‘ just let me try, I can do it’). He said he had learned from younger men. [Also interesting in terms of not preferring the narratives of personal continuity that speakers so often use].

Interesting question: how does this vary across cultures. E.g. are Italian grandparents more able to be tactile and hands-on?

Robin Hadley, Keele University

Trouble with accessing men for interview

Research on involuntarily childless older men

Most research is on involuntary childless women, pre, during and post infertility treatment (e.g. not in later life, not men)

Reasons this is a hard to reach group;

  • very sensitive topic
  • men’s fertility intentions and history tends not to be recorded
  • men described by past researchers as not interested in contributing to fertility research
  • Robin not an insider of health services, charity etc. Although is himself an involuntarily childless man

Did trad gatekeepers approach, very poor response.

Came up with new recruitment strategy, after asking critical friends about old one – too negatively framed. New one more positive, more selling, face-to-face, social media presense (Twitter made a big difference). Website ‘’ as much better url then Business cards worked better than leaflets, especially for men? Socially acceptable? Commenting on relevant news stories online, including url.

Best strategies were personal contacts and The Oldie magazine (readership is mainly older men).

Power in university symbols (logos) – not helpful when you are trying to recruit people who are already positioned as in a subordinate group (‘not a father’). Made the Univ logo much smaller on recruitment leaflet. [I think I’d leave it off altogether, but I have more power to argue about that kind of thing than a PhD student]

Snowballing didn’t work – initially said they knew other childless men but then didn’t always feel able to ask them. Member of audience talking very interestingly about his own hesitancies around approaching his own (probably) involuntarily childless male friends – feeling that he would be breaching social codes so badly that it might break the friendship.

Changed wording from ‘never been in a father role’ to ‘not presently’. That helped.

Audience member from voluntary sector: when approaching voluntary agencies, ask yrself ‘what’s in it for them?’ just as you would for an individual. Vastly increases your chances of them being useful to you!


Ageing masculinities seminar: Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 15:19

Centre for Policy on Ageing / Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies

Seminar 15 in the series ‘The representation of older people in ageing research’

Studies of Ageing Masculinities: Still in their infancy?

As usual, this is idiosyncratic notes of things that interested me, rather than a summary of what was said. [My own thoughts are in square bracket, like this]

[There’s a lovely picture of an older man here, which I can’t post just now for annoying technical reasons]

(cc) artisrams

Kate Davidson, Univ of Surrey

“Home alone: Exploring social networks of older divorced and never married men”

Retirement generally less of a break for most married men than for single men because their wives have already set up social networks independent of work, which they can join

For about 100 years, the proportion of men never married has remained the same. For women it has swung a little (partly effects of world wars). By 2033 it is predicted that for men over 65 this rate will increase from 7% to 15% and for women it will triple.

Men’s life expectancy is increasing more steeply than women’s.  Some demographers predict that by 2033 they will be the same, others agree they will converge but later – by the end of the 21st Century. Men doing less risky jobs with the decline of heavy industry, no major wars,  modern women more likely to smoke and drink, work and be stressed.

Older men that were easier to recruit were those who were white, professional, articulate and often invoke or respond to ‘helping other people’ as motivation for taking part in research. Disproportionate no. of ‘engineers’ as past occupation, for some reason!

Much easier to recruit married and widowed men than divorced and never married men.

Interviewer effects – one olderish man (Tom Daly), doing most of the interviews, one middle-aged woman (Kate Davidson) doing some. Not really enough data to generalise but most of what they talked about was similar regardless of interviewer. But they were much more likely to talk about erectile dysfunction to Kate and about how well they had done in their jobs to Tom.

Didn’t get any snowball sampling at all from the men themselves. Golf club members – asked them if knew any other men could talk to, said no. Woman member  suggested 4, who turned out all to know each other. But hadn’t suggested each other.

Health was the Trojan horse – that’s what got them in – ‘we are interested in health’.

Paul Simpson, Manchester

“Making sense of middle-aged gay men’s stories of ageing: Alienation, ambivalence, agency”

Methodological focus

Based on his PhD study of middle-aged gay men in Manchester

[I know Paul’s work well, so that’s why I haven’t taken many notes – not because it isn’t interesting!]

Interviews but also covert participant observation, as a way of getting beyond the account to the bodily stories [But then you have to reconcile the different types of data and the different types of knowledge claim you can make. I think I might want to think more about this] Rachel Thompson (2009 ) has written about benefits of strategic pick ad mix analytical framework.

Kate Bennett, University of Liverpool

“‘I thought I could look after her as good as anybody’: How older widowers’ reconstruct their masculinity”

Interviewees aged 55 – 98

Loss of wife is tricky issue for trad masculinity – need to grieve but in appropriate, masculine ways that don’t do ‘sissy stuff’. How do they maintain or reconstruct their masculine identities after death of wife?

Branon 1979 typology of men’s roles:

  • no sissy stuff (talking about emotions)
  • sturdy oak (reliable, dependable)
  • big wheel (important in their worlds)
  • giv’ em hell (driving fast cars, drinking too much, womanising)

Kate’s men demonstrated first three but not last [because she was a woman? Seems to me that the fourth is a man-to-man kind of style of speech. Was Branon a man?]. Written up in Jnl of Aging Studies, 2007 ‘No sissy stuff’.

Kirsi et al. 2000 typology of characteristic types of speech of men caring for wives:

  • factual speech (she had x condition. She died at three o’clock)
  • agentic speech (I made her go to the doctor’s)
  • familistic speech
  • destiny speech

Kate’s use of this written up in Ageing and Society 2013, with van der Hoonard and someone else.

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