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!


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