Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

A "Choreography of Becoming": Fathering, Embodied Care, and New Materialisms

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

A "Choreography of Becoming": Fathering, Embodied Care, and New Materialisms

Article excerpt

OVER THE PAST half-century, enormous changes have occurred in the gender division of care giving and breadwinning across many countries, including Canada, the United States, and Britain. This is evident in rising rates of breadwinning mothers, (1) but also in fathers' increasing commitment to care giving as demonstrated by rising numbers of stay-at-home dads, single dads, gay father households, and an overall increase in men's take-up of parental leave. (2) These large demographic and social shifts have engendered equally massive attention from social science researchers who have produced countless studies that have measured and analyzed domestic life and care work. Much of the focus of these studies has been on assessing issues of gender equality in care work and determining what institutional, community, policy, and legal measures might facilitate or impede that equality.

This is a long, deep, and rich conversation that spans a diverse array of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches; studies of the gender division of domestic labor have straddled traditional and longstanding sociological fields, such as the family, work, gender, and care. It is worth noting here, in the fiftieth anniversary issue of the Canadian Review of Sociology, that this expansive field has been enriched by the intellectual labor of many leading Canadian scholars whose contributions have appeared in this journal (Albanese 2006; Baker-Collins et al. 2010; Beaujot, Liu, and Ravanera 2009; Beaujot and Matthews 1997; Bezanson 2006; Fox 1997, 2001; Gazso 2012; Hessing 1993; Livingstone and Luxton 1989; McDaniel 2002; Miller 1990; Ranson 1998; Wallace and Young 2010). I have also been privileged to be part of this conversation and have benefited greatly from the writing in this journal and the enduring contributions of pioneering feminist work on gender, domestic labor, and care (e.g., Eichler 1997; Fox 2009; Luxton 1980). My foray into this field began 22 years ago with a doctoral research project on women and men trying to share parenting and housework. That project was the first stage of a two-decade-long qualitative and ethnographic research program, mainly in Canada, but also in the United States and Britain, that has focused on addressing the puzzling and persistent link between women and domestic responsibilities while also reflecting on what impedes or facilitates active father involvement. (3) My work has increasingly moved from questions of what we know about gender divisions of labor to intertwined questions of what we know and how we come to know it; that is, I have turned more and more of my focus toward scrutinizing the theoretical, methodological, epistemological, and ontological underpinnings of this field, as well as the taken-for-granted concepts that guide research, constitute data, and produce findings. I have also moved toward understanding the invisible aspects of everyday life that could matter in our scholarly understandings of gender and care work. One such invisible aspect in care work has been that of the body. (4)

Several years ago, I began to argue that one critical missing link within our understandings of gender differences in the responsibility for care work was that of male embodiment in care giving (Doucet 2006a, 2006b, 2009a, 2009b, 2011, 2013). In attempting to make the body visible in the sociology of the family and the sociology of gender and care, I contended that dominant approaches within the field of gender divisions of domestic labor and care work were governed by assumptions that men and women are interchangeable disembodied subjects within and between households; I argued, in contrast, that fathers and mothers are embodied subjects who move through domestic and community spaces with intersubjective, relational, "moral," and normative dimensions framing those movements. Today, I still maintain that "bodies matter" (Messerschmidt 1999) in our understandings of gender divisions of domestic labor and in making sense of persistent gender differences in the responsibilities for care. …

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