Paternal and Maternal Gatekeeping? Choreographing Care

Tina Miller

Abstract


Feminist scholarship has continued to map the multiple ways in which practices of caring and paid work sustain gender inequality. A recurrent focus has examined how caring and paid work “choices” are made and their corresponding gendered effects, particularly for women in the home, work place and beyond. In spite of shifts in education, employment and equality-focused legislation, the sharing of familial caring responsibilities for children has been particularly resistant to significant change. One attempt to explain this obduracy has been through the concept of “maternal gatekeeping” developed in the 1990s. This concept typically describes and measures maternal behaviours that “block” paternal involvement and so apparently “protects” maternal privilege/power. However, as societal ideals — and some practices — of involved fatherhood shift, a more critical engagement with the concept of “gatekeeping” as a singularly maternal practise, is timely. Drawing upon findings from two comparative UK based qualitative longitudinal studies, this paper urges a more critical examination of practices of maternal and paternal gatekeeping as parental choreographing of caring practices and responsibilities unfold.

Keywords


motherhood; fatherhood; parenting; caring; gatekeeping

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.1971-8853/9083

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