Masculinities, equality, care practices – MESP

Starting points

The theme of the project is located at the intersection of feminist theoretisations of the welfare systems, in which the concept of care is placed in the centre of the analyses of social inequalities, and critical studies of men and masculinities, which are sensibly widening the focus of gender studies from being exclusively oriented towards the analysis of women to researching relational gender dynamics and heterogeneity within the categories of masculinity and femininity. Three dimensions of care (cost, work and responsiblities) are distributed by welfare systems in different ways among diverse institutional domains (the state, the market, the family and the community) and among people divided by gender, ethnicity/race and class. Regardless of the framework in which care work is carried out (private or professional), the low level of men’s care giving has appeard to be remarkably resistant to a wide range of demographic, social and economic changes and has remained the central source of ‘patriarhal dividends’. However, a vision of care as human norm that concerns both men and women reveals itself as a critical not only for overcoming the growing care deficit in the ageing societies, but also for (gender) equality, inclusive citizenship and caring democracy.

Definition of problem

Men’s equal share of care challenges traditional  gender ideologies and opens up a space for rethinking concepts of masculinity and femininity as well as relations between ‘production’ and ‘reproduction’, public and private, politics and intimacy as set-up in capitalism. There is a lot of complexity in men’s caring involvement and we can summarize them in three main dimensions: The first relates to the meaning of masculinity in the context of hierarchical and competitive relations among men, grasped in the concept of hegemonic/multiple masculinities. The second focuses on the way that breadwinning provides the dominant model for men’s caregiving which is likely to restrict the amount and types of care that men undertake. The third relates on the association of caring work with femininity, weakness, subordination as the anti-thesis of hegemonic masculinity.


Project objectives and impact

On the empirical level the project’s objective is to explore men’s caring practices in private and professional care work and answer the questions: Who are male caregivers? Under what circumstances do men assume caring responsibilites? Do men face similar struggles as women when udertaking paid or unpaid care respnosibilities? How men who opt for care work in private life or in feminized care professions can reconcile this ‘transgression’ with the norms of hegemonic masculinity? How norms and practices of care work are being transformed when men perform care work? Given that most data on gendered care division are about caring for children and sharing household chores in heterosexual families we aim to explore men’s participation in different geographies of care. On theoretical level the project’s objective is to contribute to the widening of the concept of care in order to meet the conditions of complex and plural social realities and to avoid essentialist perspectives. The research will contribute to exploring new welfare state prospects (participation of men in care) which is of societal, practical and policy relevance.

Project leader: Majda Hrženjak
Project coworkers: Iztok Šori, Mojca Frelih, Živa Humer, Branko Bembič and Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrčela.

Project execution

Research methods and innovation    

The researh implies complexity of care and gender by conducting analysis simultaneously on three levels with attention to their mutual interactions: at the macro level of policy regulations/discourses; at the meso level of organizational cultures/practices; and at the micro level of lived experiences of male carers in both, private and professional settings. Macro level analysis will include contextualised analysis of the care configuration by using textual frame, discoursive and policy analysis; at meso level analysis we will employ focus groups, observations and interviews; at micro level problem focused in-depth interview will be used which enables to gather both, the objective evidence on individual’s acting and subjective perceptions and ways of processing social reality and at the same time allowes for narrations, explications and confrontations. The novelty of the project is twofold: in international critical studies of men and masculinities the issue of masculinity and care remains under-researched; on national level it will be a first research on critical studies of men and masculinities.


Teorija in praksa (vol. LVI, no. 4), special thematic section MASCULINITIES AND CARE: MEN’S EXPERIENCES IN FORMAL AND INFORMAL CARE WORK, edited by Majda Hrženjak and Elli Scambor.



Project team consists of researchers from Peace Institute (aplicant) and University of Ljubljana- Faculty of Social Sicences (project partner): Majda Hrženjak (project leader); Aleksandra Kanjuo Mrčela; Branko Bembič, Mojca Frelih, Živa Humer in Iztok Šori.


Slovenian research agency ARRSLogo_2016_ang