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O'Keeffe, S
Palgrave Communications
Experiences of care labour, gender and work for men who teach young children
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This paper explores five Irish male primary teachers' daily experiences of care labour and gender in contemporary Irish schools. Taking a feminist poststructural approach, the study employs three data-collection phases using the interview as the primary method of enquiry. It employs a voice-centred relational method of data analysis, which involves four readings of data with each reading troubling the data in different ways. This paper places specific focus on three everyday phenomena: care, emotions and the body. The evolving dynamic between gender and work is discussed in terms of a socio-cultural tension that informs the experiences of men who work with young children. Overall, two major challenges are identified. First, emotions are considered as individual, internal and private responses to situations. Yet, we absorb the norms and values of our society in the form of social and cultural practices that preserve society, which bring emotions into line with the rules proposed by society. Second, teaching is considered a soft option career for men and an essentially feminised occupation rather than a masculine one. As softness is very often associated with weakness, primary teaching does not align with traditional views of masculinities that are built on rationality, individualisation and heroism. This is a further challenge for male teachers to care in schools. Overall, male teachers are required to reproduce accounts of themselves in terms of valued masculine attributes due to the historical association between women, emotionality and care.
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