Social workers must change how they work with men

7683883952_6fa0a03576Social workers need to revisit how how they work with men, according to Professor Vivienne Cree at the University of Edinburgh, in a recent article for Community Care magazine.

Professor Cree is an influential figure who co-authored the 1996 book Working with Men: Feminism and Social Work which promoted the principle that ‘women are our first priority… work with men is done in order to improve the quality of life for women’.

Cree has revisited the subject herself in the intervening years, in a 2008 Lecture—“Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution?“—she noted the post-feminist views of some of her younger female students who were making observations like:

“I believe that placing too much focus on feminism can take away from the idea that men and women should be treated equally. It may allow for an excessive amount of sympathy for women, which will not promote their equality to men.”

And also:

“I think men are left out too much and there is a risk of seeing women as ‘victims’.”

Speaking for herself in 2013 Cree says:

“Those who do manage to engage with men often do so in the context of challenging their problematic behaviour. Men are still, more often than not, seen as the problem: they are presented as the absent fathers, abusive partners, sexual predators and generally bad examples for their children.

“This is not, of course, to suggest that there have been no changes. Fathers today are much more likely to be involved in the care of their children, especially their younger children, and some social work researchers have explored the positive value that this brings to children and communities.

“But this must be viewed in the context of what is a daily onslaught of ‘bad news’ stories about men: of gang rapes of women in India; of young women being locked up for years in a basement in the US; of children being sexually exploited at home and abroad.

“Men are, more than ever, presented as dangerous to themselves and others. Women and children, on the other hand, are increasingly seen as vulnerable and in need of protection.

“Of course, this is a caricature; I have painted a very black and white picture of binary opposites. Life is much more complex and uncertain, as evidence of women who abuse and men who care for others demonstrate.

“My point, however, is that this caricature is incredibly powerful. It seeps into all our dealings with others and may lead to very risk-averse, negative encounters with men in social work. Social work must now revisit how it works with men, learning some of the lessons of the past and accepting the complexity of the lives of women, men and children today.”

Further Reading:

Tackling anti-men attitudes in social work

Feminism: Past It, Lost Cause or Unfinished Revolution

Feminism in social work: revisiting how we work with men

10 Tips for Social Workers Working With Fathers

Five Ways for Social Workers to Engage With Young Fathers



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