I have argued in Chapter 5 that the construction of modern fatherhood involved rendering paternal masculinity ‘safe’ through the making of a distinction between the law’s construction of the familial masculinity of the ‘good father’ and other ‘dangerous’ masculinities. In this chapter I wish to explore the ways in which this dichotomy continues to function so as to divert attention from the problematic nature of masculinity per se and, in particular, how it involves an obfuscation of the socially destructive nature of masculinities inside the family. In so doing I wish to challenge those dualisms through which we continue to think of men and masculinity (public/private, work/home, safe/dangerous, family/ non-family). It is inadequate to frame questions about men’s violences, I shall argue, in terms of asking the question ‘how could a family man’ act in a particular way. This presumes that ‘being a family man’ discounts any propensity for violence. Instead, it becomes necessary to understand how the very idea of the ‘family man’ has itself been constructed historically in law through reference to these extra-familial masculinities. To do this we need to clarify just how this family man has achieved such a powerful status within legal discourse. The idea of the ‘family man’ is, I want to suggest, in many respects a contradiction in terms.
Who is the ‘man’ of law? The subject of liberal legal discourse, and more generally of social and political theory, is a gendered subject