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The paradox of men who do the caring : re-thinking sex roles and health work

By Bryony Clare Elliott

Abstract

This thesis sets out to attack beliefs that caring is women's work,\ud to examine the reasons for the resistance to changing conventions\ud about sex roles and health work and, in view of coming changes in\ud British demographic and socio-economic structures, to urge people to\ud consider the question, who cares for us?\ud The paradox of men caring makes its impact precisely because of the\ud history and culture of women caring. The force of the image is as\ud great as the contrast which makes it: men look like misfits in the\ud caring role because women have been typecast for it. It is the\ud extraordinary contrast of men carers and nurses talking about their\ud caring feelings that forces the paradox. In this study, the men and\ud women nurses and carers who were interviewed discuss their feelings\ud as the very reason for their caring work, including emotion work\ud and dirty work. The thesis argues that the men and women share the\ud same caring values but their caring roles are conflicted by beliefs\ud about sexual identity. Men's caring act is culturally constructed\ud whereas women's caring act is directed by biological and cultural\ud beliefs that help to perpetuate women's structured dependency in\ud caring roles. The feminisation of caring designates the swamp of\ud unthinking about women, feelings and bodies that breeds wrong\ud beliefs about health work and sex roles and subverts the moral\ud order of caring values.\ud This is feminist methodology, characterised by being reflexive,\ud political and experimental. The resulting exploratory study\ud combines qualitive fieldwork with theoretical inquiry. It is a\ud deconstuction of sex roles and health work, exploring the\ud feminisation of caring through the language of care and the history\ud of nursing, the difficulties with current social theory that genders\ud caring and ignores feelings, most importantly, the stories of men\ud and women nurses and carers who talk about their caring feelings,\ud their work and their beliefs about caring sex roles, and finally the\ud context of caring in the UK today.\ud In conclusion, current beliefs about sex roles and health work\ud undermine the moral order of caring values at a time when the task\ud of caring for elderly people is increasing. What is required is the\ud political will to begin the public debate on who should care for\ud vulnerable kith and kin and who should pay for the work to be done

Topics: HV
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4000

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