chapter  1
46 Pages

Men, masculinities and law: The ‘man question’ in legal studies

This chapter ‘sets the scene’ for the discussions to follow in this book. It does so by considering a concept central to studies of law, men and gender – masculinities. The argument is structured around three sections. In the first, I introduce and overview core themes within the ‘masculinity turn’ in legal scholarship over the past two decades. Distinctive intellectual and political influences, I suggest, provide the backdrop for the study of masculinities and law and, throughout the chapter, I draw on examples from two areas in which this engagement with masculinities has been particularly developed; the field of Family Law and studies of law, crime and criminology. The first section provides the reader with knowledge of the kinds of arguments that have been made about the relationship between law and masculinity and the diverse subjects that have been addressed in this work. The second section shifts the focus towards the conceptualisation of mas-

culinity within legal studies. I examine the strengths and weaknesses of two of the main sociological and social-psychological approaches that have influenced these writings on men and gender. First, an engagement with hegemonic masculinity, an approach in which law is accorded a particular place in the reproduction of gender relations and position within the social structure. Second, encounters between law, discourse and the idea of the male (masculine) subject, what has been referred to in some accounts as a psychosocial account of men and masculinities.1 In the third, and final, section, I chart a way through these perspectives, suggesting there is a pressing need to rethink the relationship between law, men and gender in the light of social changes discussed in this book and theoretical developments that have taken place in

1 The transition between these two perspectives is discussed by J. Hood-Williams, ‘Gender, Masculinities and Crime: From Structures to Psyches’, Theoretical Criminology, 2001, vol 5, p 37. See further W. Cealey Harrison and J. Hood-Williams, Beyond Sex and Gender, London: Sage, 2002.

law and other disciplines. This chapter, in summary, explores how legal scholarship has sought to engage with the gender of men, the ‘man question’ or ‘man of law’ of my title, outlining a general context for the studies of law, men and gender to follow. It provides the backdrop against which the analyses of the following chapters will be developed; of university law schools and legal education, (chapters 2 and 3), men, gender and the legal profession (chapters 4 and 6), of men, law and social policy (chapter 5) and the politics of parenting, law and gender (chapter 7).