Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Theorising European Fathers' Rights Movement

Katarzyna Wojnicka
University of Gothenburg
Katarzyna Wojnicka
University of Gothenburg

The fathers’ rights movement, which belongs to a larger group of social movements focused on gender identity, is currently the biggest men’s social movement in Europe. Men’s groups fighting for custody rights exist in every EU member country, and 25 of them are members of the European network Platform of European Fathers (PEF), which has been active on the transnational level since 2011. Fathers’ rights movement activists play an important role in influencing politics and discourses on men, masculinities, fatherhood and gender equality. In the majority of research (Crowley 2006, 2007, 2009; Dragiewicz 2008, 2011; Bertoia and Drakich 1993; Kenedy 2005; Kaye and Tolmie 1998; Collier 1995, 2006; Collier and Sheldon 2006; Jordan 2009) this type of phenomenon is usually defined as countermovement to the feminist one and its activists are portrayed as antifeminist and anti-gender equality. However, during my ongoing research on the European fathers’ rights movement I discovered the coexistence of two types of fathers’ rights movements: hardline and softline groups. Hardline wing actors, usually older men (45+), mobilized by negative emotions such as anger, fear and jealousy, focus on the struggling against fathers’ discrimination in the family courts, social services and society more broadly. They profess highly conservative values and are characterized by antifeminist approach and ambivalent attitude to women as a social category. In terms of masculinities and fatherhood definitions, they represent their hegemonic (Connell 2005) and patriarchal faces. As in their rhetoric men are victims of gender-based discrimination, they fight for gender equality for men and men’s rights. The softline wing actors are usually younger (30-45) and are driven mostly by positive emotions and values such as love, friendship and pride and can be described as much more progressive when it comes to their attitude to women, feminism and the contemporary gender order. Moreover, the types of masculinities through they can be defined is a conglomerate of both caring (Hanlon 2012, Elliott 2015) and complicit (Connell 2005) masculinities. In terms of the movement’s goals softline actors focus mostly on struggling for children’s rights and by that, the father’s figure and his needs are set aside and in many cases marginalized. Their attitude to the gender equality can be defined as gender equality for all as they believe that both men and women (and children) are victims of the contemporary gender order and both supposed to cooperate with each other to introduce desirable social change. The consequence of my findings led me to the proposal of a new typology of the contemporary men’s rights movement, arguing that their framing hitherto is outdated as new forms of men’s activism have emerged in Europe. I introduced the category of masculist and altermasculist movements (Wojnicka forthcoming) and claimed that this form of men’s activism is unique and especially characteristic of the European context. The new framework is reflected in heterogeneity of the European father’s rights movement and therefore, the main goal of my paper is to develop the theoretical reflection on this particular phenomenon. The analysis will be developed on the basis of ongoing qualitative research project on the contemporary European father's rights movements in Sweden, Poland and United Kingdom.
Share this page