South African men's engagement in a feminist ethic of care: an extended case study

van den Berg, Wessel Jan (2022-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Women in South Africa spend eight times more time on unpaid domestic and care work than men. Motivated by this unequal distribution of care, I aimed to investigate how men in South Africa participate in household child care and subsequently conducted an extended case study to explore how men who live in affluent neighbourhoods in Stellenbosch, South Africa, carry out the care of their young children. The dissertation includes documented social encounters, semi-structured interviews and participant observation conducted at participants’ homes or during family activities. The extended case study method provides a framework for research that is grounded in reflexive science. It allows for contribution to theory from empirical work, and for the consideration of macro-structural social forces such as policies and customs and micro-structural observations with families. Both the method and the theory of the case study were anchored in a post-structural feminist perspective that draws on discourses related to care, critical masculinities, engagements of men in gender equality, and fatherhood-focused psychology. The overarching theoretical framework that was used for the extended case study is based on Joan Tronto’s political argument for an ethic of care. For the theoretical lens through which the study was conducted, I complemented Tronto’s theory with contemporary post-structural feminist, critical masculinities, and fatherhood psychology literature. The empirical observations and findings are structured in accordance with the political framework that Tronto provided of the four phases of an ethic of care, namely caring about, caring for, giving care, and receiving care. In each instance, the findings are supplemented with more specific sociological and psychological theory related to the phase, drawing on the theoretical lens that was established in the initial theory chapter. The penultimate chapter describes the macro-structural forces that influenced men’s care interactions, including policies, kinship expectations and social norms. The study concludes with the argument that ‘men’s care interactions can contribute to democratic citizenship, and expand fathering beyond patriarchy’. I support this claim by describing how men’s care interactions expanded social norms of fathering, and provide suggestions for future theoretical avenues of research and intervention development.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Vroue in Suid-Afrika bestee deurlopend meer tyd aan onbetaalde huishoudelike en versorgingswerk as mans. Aangevuur deur hierdie ongelyke verdeling van versorging, het ek beoog om ondersoek in te stel na hoe mans in Suid-Afrika aan die huishoudelike versorging van kinders deelneem en gevolglik ʼn uitgebreide gevallestudie onderneem om na te vors hoe mans van welgestelde buurte in Stellenbosch, Suid-Afrika die versorging van hulle jong kinders in doen. In die navorsing is van gedokumenteerde sosiale ontmoetings, semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude en deelnemende waarneming wat by deelnemers se huise of gedurende gesinsaktiwiteite plaasgevind het, gebruik gemaak. Die uitgebreide gevallestudiemetode verskaf ʼn raamwerk vir navorsing wat in refleksiewe wetenskap gefundeer is. Dit maak voorsiening vir bydraes vanuit empiriese werk tot teorie en vir die inagneming van makro-strukturele sosiale kragte soos beleide en gebruike asook mikro-strukturele waarnemings van gesinne. Beide die metode en die teorie van die gevallestudie was veranker in ʼn post-strukturele feministiese perspektief wat gebruik maak van diskoerse wat met versorging, kritiese manlikhede-studies, betrokkenheid van mans by geslagsgelykheid, en sielkunde wat op vaderskap fokus, verband hou. Die oorkoepelende teoretiese raamwerk wat gebruik is vir die uitgebreide gevallestudie is gebaseer op Joan Tronto se politieke argument vir ʼn etiek van versorging. Vir die teoretiese lens waardeur die navorsing gedoen is, het ek Tronto se teorie aangevul met kontemporere post-strukturele feministiese, kritiese manlikhede-studies, en sielkundeliteratuur ten opsigte van vaderskap. Die empiriese waarnemings en bevindinge is gestruktureer in ooreenstemming met die politieke raamwerk van die vier fases van ʼn etiek van versorging soos deur Tronto verskaf, naamlik omgee vir, sorg vir, versorging bied, en versorging ontvang. In elke geval is die bevindinge aangevul met meer spesifieke sosiologiese en sielkundige teorie wat met die fase verband hou deur van die teoretiese lens in die aanvanklike teoriehoofstuk uiteengesit, gebruik te maak.

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