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Fatherhood Politics in the United States

Masculinity, Sexuality, Race, and Marriage

Anna Gavanas

Publication Year: 2004

Are fathers being marginalized in the contemporary family? Responding to fears that they are, the self-proclaimed "fatherhood responsibility movement" (FRM) has worked since the mid-1990s to put fatherhood at the center of U.S. national politics. Anna Gavanas's Fatherhood Politics in the United States analyzes the processes, reveals the internal struggles, and traces the myths that drive this powerful movement. _x000B__x000B_Unlike previous investigations that rely on literary or other secondary sources, Fatherhood Politics works from primary ethnographic material to represent a wider range of voices and actors. Interacting with and interviewing members of the most powerful and well-known national fatherhood organizations, Gavanas observed Promise Keeper rallies, men's workshops, and conferences on masculinity, fatherhood, and marriage. _x000B__x000B_Providing a detailed overview of the different organizations involved and their various rhetorical strategies, Gavanas breaks down the FRM into two major wings. The "pro-marriage" wing sees marriage as the key to solving all social problems, while the "fragile family" organizations worry about unemployment, racism, and discrimination. Gavanas uses her extensive anthropological fieldwork as the basis for discussions of gender, sexuality, and race in her analysis of these competing voices. _x000B_ _x000B_Taking us inside the internal struggles, tensions, and political machinations of the FRM, Gavanas offers a behind-the-scenes look at a movement having real impact on current social policy. Fatherhood Politics is an essential work for anyone interested in the politics of masculinity, parenthood, marriage, race, and sexuality.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xi

Marriage and fatherhood are crucial in the current debates over welfare reform and family policy. Parenthood and “child well-being” are the ultimate holy grounds within these contestations, which revolve mainly around issues of masculinity and fatherhood. But why...

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pp. xiii-xiv

First, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Professor Don Kulick, whose brilliant advice and enduring support were crucial throughout the years of writing this book. My research is also greatly indebted to Professor Barbara Hobson, whose wonderful mentorship...

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pp. 1-19

One of today’s most successful political movements claims to be situated “beyond” politics, particularly beyond gendered and sexual politics. Crucial actors in shaping and reframing U.S. debates on families belong to the fatherhood responsibility movement...

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1. The Contested Terrain of U.S. Fatherhood Politics

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pp. 21-43

Uniting around “the family” and child well-being fits into mainstream values that any U.S. citizen could support. Who could say that responsible fatherhood is a bad idea? Who is going to disagree if someone says that everybody should love his or her children...

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2. Pro-Marriage Fatherhood

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pp. 44-69

The pro-marriage wing manifests the ways the politics of gender and sexuality in the fatherhood responsibility movement are mutually reinforcing and inseparable. Marriage proponents draw on a combination of biblical and sociobiological discourses that make...

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3. Fragile-Family Fatherhood

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pp. 70-98

The sociologist Michael Kimmel describes U.S. masculinity as a homosocial enactment, where the quest for masculine accomplishments in the labor market and consumption is a constant competition between men for the sake of other men’s approval...

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4. Religion and Sports as Common Grounds for Masculinization

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pp. 99-125

The fatherhood responsibility movement is a reaction to the grievance that “the family” has become synonymous with mother and child and thus “feminized” (Blankenhorn 1995, 13; Gore 1996). In its claims for male participation and legitimacy in the family...

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5. Naughty by Nature

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pp. 126-151

Using sport and religion as all-male sites for heterosexual masculinization partly reflects the fact that marriage proponents and fragile-families representatives, despite diverging constituencies and competing perspectives, converge in conceptions of gender-specific male...

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pp. 153-168

Based on the heteronormative and essentialist belief that men are “naughty by nature,” contemporary fatherhood politics tries to harness the perceived “promiscuity,” competitiveness, and aggression of men. The fatherhood responsibility movement places...

Appendix: Fieldwork Processes

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pp. 169-176

Works Cited

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pp. 177-186


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pp. 187-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252028847

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 782056214
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fatherhood Politics in the United States

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Subject Headings

  • Fatherhood -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Masculinity -- United States.
  • Sex role -- United States.
  • Marriage -- United States.
  • Fatherhood responsibility movement.
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