Egalitarian Husbands and Engaged Fathers? Negotiating ‘New' Familial Masculinity in Contemporary Chinese Families

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Siyang CAO, University of York, United Kingdom
Rapid social transformations have brought great changes to domestic practices and familial masculinity in contemporary China. While an increasing amount of scholarly research acknowledge the home as a key site of constructing masculinities in both historical periods (Davidoff & Hall, 2002) and contemporary world (Robinson & Hockey, 2011; Song & Hird, 2013), relatively few empirical investigations have been conducted in the non-Western context. This paper is going to present some initial findings from in-depth interviews with 30 young men during my fieldwork in two urban Chinese cities. Despite proliferating media discourse and globalizing influence on transforming gender roles and domestic labour divisions, my participants demonstrated little departure from conventional perception of gender roles. However, as I shall explore, the construction of familial masculinity is not a smooth and stable process, but rather subject to consistent negotiation, adaptation, resistance and reinforcement. Inspired by Jamieson’s (1999) work on how couples may employ diverse and creative strategies in disguising inequalities, I intend to unpack young men’s narratives through which they constructed themselves as the ‘new’ family men, especially represented by the egalitarian husbands and engaged fathers. Beyond this, I will further look into the intentional tactics and unconscious negotiations that are frequently used to deal with the gendered domestic agenda, including housework division, fathering practices and the perpetuating obsession with being the breadwinner. Grounding my research within Jenkins’s (2004: 5) theorization of identity as ‘never a final or settled matter’, I see familial masculinity, as a form of gendered identity, as fluid, negotiable and an in-process work, which is meanwhile significantly located within broader social contexts. In this sense, I also try to contextualise young men’s construction of familial masculinities within the transforming social realities that speak to the tension and negotiation between tradition and modernity in contemporary China.