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Understanding profeminist male experiences : a model of personal change and social transformation



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Although researchers have begun to show critical interest in men as gendered beings, there has been little in-depth theoretical analysis or scholarly development in the area. Most writing has focused only on defining the problems of men's destructiveness and emotional illiteracy. Virtually no attempts have been made to develop theoretical models capable of cultivating alternative, more psychologically and socially adaptive patterns of male behaviour, identity formation, development and social role acquisition. A small purposively drawn sample of eight profeminist men (nominated by prominent self-declared feminists in the community), along with one men's rights activist, were asked to recount their personal experiences involving gender issues during unstructured interviews. Intensive qualitative analysis, drawing on phenomenological, reflexive postmodern/constructionist and postpositivist/grounded theory techniques, was used to interpret and organize the data into groups of related constructs, which were refined, organized and re-organized according to the emerging schematic model. This model illustrates the complex developmental process of personal profeminist change and social transformation experienced by the nine men interviewed. Their life experiences are presented in separate chapters along with highlighted/annotated variations of the developmental model derived from the interpretive analysis. Analysis revealed that participants were either raised in traditional, patriarchal families or in less traditional, less clearly defined, androgynous family environments. Although both groups of men experienced aspects of gender role strain or incongruence, men raised in patriarchal environments seemed to experience greater strain and more difficulty working through conflicts arising from recent challenges to their masculinity. From an early age, the androgynous men appeared to successfully integrate conflict and shame within the context of rich relationships established under both patriarchal and feminist influences. Only recently challenged by feminism, the men raised exclusively in patriarchy seemed stuck in a somewhat more confusing, vulnerable space between patriarchy and feminism. Several of the more androgynous men acknowledged this gap, and worked to bridge it in their communities by forming alliances and creating synergy through a process of conflict engagement and conflict resolution. As suggested by the men's experiences and the resulting model, integrating gender-related conflict in the contest of a firm, yet compassionate and synergistic community was key to congruent profeminist experience. The strengths, limitations and implications of the model developed herein are discussed in relation to current theory on masculinity, male development and men's role infeminism. Although the model was developed on the basis of intensive analysis of only a small sample of men, it is consistent with current theory and promises to inform psychotherapeutic technique in counselling men.



qualitative research, gender role strain, profeminism, male pro-feminism, gender studies, psychology, grounded theory



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)







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