The notion that children (especially boys) need male role models has been used in the past to attack lesbian parents in custody cases and more recently in debates about donor insemination, adoption and fostering. We are interested in how lesbian parents and their supporters respond to arguments about the necessity of male role models. We analyse data from popular television talk shows and television documentaries using a discursive approach and identify common strategies used by lesbian parents to deal with the argument that their children are ‘missing out’ because of a deficit in their family structure. We then consider the responses of opponents of lesbian parenting to these strategies. What these responses reveal is that lesbian parents and their opponents construct and work with very different definitions of male role models. We show that the contributions both of opponents of lesbian parenting and of lesbian parents themselves to media debates attend to and sustain traditional understandings of gender and sexual development
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