Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare


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Entrance required having completed elementary school and two years of secondary school, lower than the requirements for university study. Both branches were open to women and men, but the enrolment was gendered from the beginning student statistics, ; Kluge, Among the 27 students in the first administrative class there was only one female. Ten years later, three out of 28 students were female.

The social work branch held 19 men and 12 women in the first year. Only three years later, women constituted the majority, with 17 women and 12 men. The proportion of women in the social work branch continued to increase and stabilized at 80 per cent after its first twenty years of existence; public administration was the preference of males, social work the preference of females. In a different gender split, the majority of men left the school after Level I, while nearly all women finished the two levels Kluge, Why this gendered pattern? The most obvious answer lies in the labour market conditions of the emerging welfare state.

Due to a shortage of competent administrative personnel in local governments, males were regularly recruited for jobs well before finishing Level I. Conversely, employment in social work was scarce.

Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare

There were a few positions in medical institutions and some child welfare and rehabilitation positions. Because of this women may have taken the position that the best way to increase their job chances was to complete the education Kluge, There were also substantial curriculum differences between the two schools. However, none of these strategies proved successful. An era of social work in Norway had come to an end. Between and , it had focused more on the public administration aspect; gradually, however, this perspective shifted towards client services because of empirical demands in the field Terum, Further, new expectations regarding social work were articulated and promoted in Parliament, with the aim to better support clients in need of social and economic help.

The shift in ideology subsequently raised a debate about entrance requirements for state schools. Why did a discussion of changing the requirements arise? One assumption is that in the s it was still regarded appropriate for women to attend shorter educational programmes because of their familial obligations. As social work primarily attracted women, the education adapted to this gendered norm rather than challenged it.

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Through such arrangements, gender and education were implicitly co-constituted. Where did the men go? Statistics from the s and s confirm that more men than women attended university and became lawyers, sociologists and political scientists, who were later recruited to leading positions in local governments Kluge, The state-run social work education remained positioned outside the universities until , when the school joined a new university college system. Even today, the gender composition in social work education remains female dominated, with approximately per cent women SSB [5].

The purpose of this article has been to explore the roles of women in constituting social work as a professional field in Norway, from a gendered perspective and in the light of general theories of professions. There has been both driving but also prohibiting forces in this endeavour. Feminist scholars have challenged this biased view. The term profession is itself a concept of elite masculinity aimed at describing the work of men within a realm of possibilities to which women have had limited access. If they speak at all, women have been speaking from the margins of a male world.

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I shall comment on how the findings in this study both relate to and challenge the universality of the conventional theories of professions. Professions are to be regarded as social constructions within this matrix of citizenship. Following Pateman , women have continued to challenge their alleged natural subordination within private life since universal citizenship first appeared as a political ideal three centuries ago.

Women in Norway were barred from the ivory tower of the elites — the university — until the late 19 th century and hence had no access to the professions. Middle- and upper-class women belonged to the social elite, but only achieved social and cultural status through their husbands.


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As we have seen, the pioneering women in social work belonged to the social and cultural elite who demonstrated a strong moral commitment to offer unpaid help to other women and men and their families in need of social support, which they had witnessed through their organizational work in the civil society. There is no indication that professional self-interests or collective upward mobility, as described in conventional theories of professions, was a motive or a primary goal.

The historical context however was a time of upheaval and modernization. In the literature on the professions, the knowledge question is a major issue. Abbott characterized professions as a system of expert knowledge and he emphasized that abstract, scientific knowledge is an asset in the power struggles between professions. As noted earlier, a whole new discourse in regard to what counts, and not least what should count, as knowledge has arisen more recently that contests the masculine view of expertise.

Social work is clearly located within this new discourse.


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The pioneers were deeply concerned with the knowledge question, but on other terms than those that are prominent in the literature on professions. A major concern was to develop useful practical knowledge, which is ranked low within the professional elite system. None of the theories of professions have so far acknowledged that the contributions of women have been based on different grounds than those of men. Rather they are characterized by their shortages to explain why they are inferior to the knowledge produced by traditionally male professions.

Practical knowledge itself connotes femininity that renders lower status Holter, , Waerness, , Bacchi, , and as Heggen and Engebretsen more specifically pointed to, we still need to challenge the relationship and constant balances between scientific and experience-based knowledge forms in professional work.

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A broader gender shared participation in the home and the workplace may even challenge traditional theorizing on professions. The way the pioneers intended to develop a knowledge-based social work practice brings the class question to the forefront in a way that has not been accounted for in the literature on the professions. Earlier on Larson , Abbott and most recently Brante argue that professions represent elites in society and implicitly these elites are restricted to comprise only men.

Gender was embedded in this concept, but not class. The concept, however, has survived and is still frequently used in the Norwegian discourse on professions. In line with the functionalist paradigm of the s, her research focused on whether or not social work had the potential to achieve status as a full-fledged profession. Still, she concluded that social work definitely had the potential for becoming a profession, but only if social workers rejected their old-fashioned ideas of charity work of middle class women:. The social worker takes over the functions of family, medical doctor and nurses.

Not least, the social worker substitutes the upper-class charity woman — and it is exactly this role that the social worker has made great efforts to avoid being identified with. If this upper-class charity woman is the forerunner of the social worker, the naked truth is that the social work occupation does not live in peace with its forefathers in the way that other occupations do.

Holter, 47; my emphasis. In stating this, Holter neglects the historical context and the contributions of elite and upper-class women to public organizational life around the turn of the century that was pivotal for constituting a platform for their position in the late s. She even used the social background and the efforts of the pioneers to criticize their project and paid attention to how masculinity was an in-built and indispensable part of most successful male professions. She regarded charity work as the opposite of professional work.

She also neglected their efforts to involve working-class women in the new practices and hence failed to explore the societal and contextual dynamics involved. Holter did not theorize the class relations, since her concern was not to explore how professional social workers handled the class issue in theory or in practice. Conventional theories underline the fact that to prosper, actors are dependent on a dynamic interaction with their environment Larson, ; Abbott, ; Fauske, This analysis demonstrates that the pioneering constructors of social work lacked support from strong allies.

But as Holter herself stated much later in life, women are located far from the power sources in society. In my own previous work, I have found this to be the case also for Norwegian physiotherapists, who were left on the margin and remained invisible up to the late ies Dahle, Such studies will enable a closer look at the continuities and changes that so far have been understudied.

How have the efforts of these competent women remained invisible for so long? I have not been able to fully account for the mechanisms in the process of silencing, although I see this as a sign of the complexity in the case that calls for further attention. Women in general were confined to the private realm. As we have seen, this is highly relevant in regard to the early development of professional social work.

Uncovering gender issues and making them visible necessitates a reinterpretation of conventional theorizing. The old concepts of the professions are contested and rightly so. The field demands new, updated and fresh perspectives. Edwards, K. Journal of College Student Development. Gildersleeve, R. Toward a neo-critical validation theory: Participatory action research and Mexican migrant student success.

Good, G. Male gender role conflict, depression, and help seeking: Do college men face double jeopardy? Harris III, F. Hernandez, L. Scholarships and supports available to foster care alumni: A study of 12 programs across the U. Children and Youth Services Review, 32 5 , Hoyt, J. Understanding retention and college student bodies: Differences between drop-outs, stop-outs, opt-outs, and transfer-outs.

Johnson-Bailey, J. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Jones, S. New York, NY: Routledge. Kirk, C. The gender gap in educational expectations among youth in the foster care system.

Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare
Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare
Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare
Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare
Men, Masculinity And Social Welfare

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