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How (and why) do men use Mumsnet? Please help with my university research into male use of parenting forums

(497 Posts)
MEDIA: SarahPedersen Mon 10-Jun-13 10:29:35

Hello. I am a Mumsnetter (been here since 2002) and a Professor of Communication and Media at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

My research focuses mainly on gendered use of social media - and at the moment I'm particularly interested in the way men use Mumsnet (and other parenting forums).
My reading so far has thrown up some interesting ideas - and I'd love to know what you think of them, as would MNHQ (I've been in touch with them about this).
So, I'd really appreciate it if you could spare some time to comment on the following questions.
Everyone is welcome to comment but, obviously, replies from male Mumsnetters would be particularly appreciated. Please do say, when you post, whether you are male or female.

1. Previous researchers have found that fathers have a strong desire for information relating to parenting and childcare but the vast majority of parenting information and programmes is targeted at mothers. In your experience, is this still true?

2. Men report finding themselves dismissed as the secondary parent, by healthcare professionals for example. They are said to feel invisible, disregarded and patronised. Would you agree with this?

3. It is suggested that online parenting forums such as Mumsnet can therefore offer a place for fathers to make their fathering more visible. On these forums, they can also express their feelings and fears about fatherhood in a way they perhaps might not do with people they know in real life. If you're male, do you use Mumsnet in this way?

4. It seems to be generally thought that men need men-only spaces to fully explore their feelings around fatherhood. But male Mumsnetters consciously choose to enter a female-dominated community. Why is that? And, if you are male, do you also use male-only communities or support groups (on or off-line)?

Many thanks for any insights you can offer.
For those of you who might like to know more, in the past I have worked with Mumsnet and Dr Janet Smithson of Exeter University to explore some of the motivations for using Mumsnet. Some of you may remember a survey we conducted with Mumsnet a few years ago looking at this subject, and we have had a couple of articles published relating to that research. If anyone would like further details of that please take a look at my university webpage, which has links to the article (disclaimer: that is a very bad and very old photo of me): or you're very welcome to PM me.

DanFmDorking Sun 07-Jul-13 10:50:55

... survey of sleep patterns in parents ... what? where?

Bristololdtrout Sun 07-Jul-13 00:32:14

Dads are not here much I think. I would love it if dads responded to my survey of sleep patterns in parents but I have just one dad so far. It's understandable on MUMSnet - I guess I just thought mums might be like gatekeepers and say to their male partners 'do this survey' as sleep changes affect all parents. Dads will be silent here until I recruit face to face.

EvenEducatedFleasDoIt Sun 23-Jun-13 16:19:29

Bumpety-bump, esp for any y-chrome types so far missing in action?

Snorbs Sat 22-Jun-13 14:59:45

I saw the nasty "I pay your wages" comments about how funding as just another stick with which to beat Sarah for doing something that wasn't what you would do if you could be bothered to do it.

EvenEducatedFleasDoIt Fri 21-Jun-13 20:00:36

I'd adore to continue the Barry White theme, but am failing beyond "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Babe". Which is a sort of comment on being a father to children, ime. The children just chuck it out, in extreme measures, and we as parents just have to try to catch as much as we can, and reflect it back. Sort of thing?

The parts of this thread which zeros in on the research methodolgy is pretty boring, imo. I think the OP has already explained this particular area of interest, and why it's a matter of curiousity. IF posters wish to analyse and re-analyse the righteousness/credibility of the subject matter, then they can do it elsewhere, rather than 'derailing' someone's research efforts.

curryeater Fri 21-Jun-13 11:48:32

"put your money where your mouth is" = "the index of what matters is what is paid for it" -> in talking about the responsibility held by those in academic positions we find ourselves stumbling into talking about money

Maryz Fri 21-Jun-13 11:42:55

I have noticed that sort of difference in parenting courses I have been on by the way.

I know I'm generalising horribly, but I found that women were happy to "discuss" issues, whereas the men were looking for "solutions".

I suspect some men would be happier on a parenting course for just men. But then, some women would be happier on a parenting course for just women. And many (men and women) wouldn't care about gender of participants at all.

curryeater Fri 21-Jun-13 11:42:05

x-posts, that was a reply to yams

curryeater Fri 21-Jun-13 11:41:41

erm well I would go into it a bit more than that and say it's not necessarily about the money exactly, it is more that in this materialistic world we articulate importance and responsibility through money (time is money, you couldn't pay me enough, etc) which is kind of mistaken*, because some things can't be converted to money, but can be a helpful rule of thumb sometimes ("dude, you are exploiting so much of my time that if I charged for it I would earn £25k a year more, I am not working £25k's worth of work for free")

so in quibbling about the funding I think 2 things were going on: one simply just that in commercial research the outcomes are influenced by who is paying (not clearly relevant here imo); and the other more nuanced point is that by being a professor, by being a person who has been appointed a position which enables one to write such papers, one has a responsibility not just because professors exist at the tax payers' grace (many professors now will have have been fully state financed throughout their entire education although that is unthinkable for young people today); but also in a quasi-priestly-caste way, or like an MP, we impose a certain sort of responsibility on those people, and I think money is a very crude way to express this, but it is what we are left with as a marker of weight and responsibility and value when those with power keep telling us is it is all that matters and the only arguments they will listen to is those that are about "the bottom line" (I mean politicians, not academics, of course. Who want education, like everything else, to be accountable to business)

* and with academic stuff can be insanely misguided when it conflates valuable work with work that is going to make money - this is an absolute abomination

Maryz Fri 21-Jun-13 11:40:32

I have no idea Luis, but dh seemed to think he could get a pamphlet with "what you need to know about small babies" with about ten bullet points.

Something that (according to him) wasn't all emotional and fluffy, but just gave step-by-step (very short) instructions.

I did point out that babies couldn't come with an instruction book, like cars do for example. But he seemed to think that anything more than about 20 pages was complicating matters far too much.

To be fair, though, looking back I can see why he couldn't be arsed to read anything - he knew I would do it and he could just ask me [mutter]

yamsareyammy Fri 21-Jun-13 11:03:40

Do want to say one tiny thing more regarding funding.
Yes, some research is not "funded". And is part done in spare time.
But all professors at universities are salaried as far as I know.
[I know they do other things like teach, and student support,as well as research, as part of that salary.

Leithlurker Fri 21-Jun-13 10:58:15

Barry White sang "Don't go changing, just to please me, I love you just the way you are" (Said with respect)

PromQueenWithin Fri 21-Jun-13 10:55:04

I think there's an interesting debate / discussion to be had about what men want in terms of support for their "fathering" - which I suspect will be driven to some extent by their conception of what fathering is and how much they care about it - and what society would want them to want. Individual versus society, etc.

For example, I remember a campaign I saw about a programme for teen fathers, which looked to me as though it had two objectives: 1) to equip them with the knowledge they needed to get involved and stick around, and 2) to change their perception of fatherhood so that they DID stick around. If you'd just asked teen fathers what they wanted in terms of parenting advice, I suspect many would have had no clue what to ask for. So, the advice shapes the want, rather than the other way around.


SarahPedersen Fri 21-Jun-13 10:49:48

LuisGarcia - not a book, but in Australia there have been fathers-only ante-natal classes that have focused on sharing experience between fathers, focusing on their fears about becoming a father, what fatherhood means to them, etc.
The men who participated said that they really appreciated such classes because it allowed them to discuss their fears, for example about birth, without upsetting their partner, and it allowed them to find good role models for fathering, particularly if they did not have them in their own fathers.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 21-Jun-13 10:46:20

Barry White? confused

curryeater Fri 21-Jun-13 10:46:19

My DP was a SAHP for 9 months with dd1 and dd2 and worked part time to look after toddler dd1 part time. He didn't like feeling slightly "apart" as a parent (I mean he didn't bellyache on about it, just noticed it here and there) but he would never in a million years have suggested men-only-parenting-spaces as a solution. He doesn't like male-only groups in general and would not be interested in dad groups as another forum in which to articulate blokiness. (odd, because he really likes football, and talking about football, but hates blokiness)

If anyone took this approach it was me, trying to manufacture a friendship between dd1 and another girl at pre-school with a SAHD, thinking "they could hang out together!" but like all crude and ill thought out forms of social engineering, it didn't really work of course.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 21-Jun-13 10:46:03

I have to admit, at times I suspect you're a mole for the radical feminists (though I don't think they'd be likely to use those tactics), because you're such a convincing argument in their favour.

You can tell us if it's true on here, promise I won't say. wink

Leithlurker Fri 21-Jun-13 10:45:04

Barry White MRD

Leithlurker Fri 21-Jun-13 10:43:06

Change now there is a process and a half. I doubt I change anyone PQ, if anything I am a conscenscouse freak, I hate disagreement but more than anything I hate that people do not give proper weight to what each other say. that though does not mean people change their mind, or take other peoples point of view.....sorry I just saw the smile at the end and I have taken this answer way to seriously. I have already admitted that far and mn as a whole has changed me, don't make me grovel.

LuisGarcia Fri 21-Jun-13 10:42:25

What would be different about a child rearing book aimed at men?

SarahPedersen Fri 21-Jun-13 10:41:46

Thank you Jux and MaryZ. As I said, I think that the situation is more complex than that portrayed in the literature at present.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Fri 21-Jun-13 10:41:14

I doubt we're ever going to change your perceptions, leith (though, you know, live in hope), but you do a nice job of reinforcing mine, I will grant you.

Maryz Fri 21-Jun-13 10:38:35

Actually Jux, that's a fair point.

dh complained bitterly that there were no books on pregnancy and childbirth aimed at men, that everything was woman oriented. But he refused point blank to read the one book I did find him, he still (20 years later) asks me about anything to do with the kids, and would rather pull his fingernails out one by one with a pliers than discuss anything remotely intimate with any of his friends.

PromQueenWithin Fri 21-Jun-13 10:36:48

Do you think you change us over at FWR Leith? Or do we change you? grin

Leithlurker Fri 21-Jun-13 10:33:03

Peeping over the parapet now the buns are less thick in the air, just to offer a high 5 to PromQueen, and say thank you for her knuckle sandwich.

Curry I did not answer your men question earlier, sorry was not avoiding it. No I do not think of the men on MN as an oppressed minority, I know some will doubt this but I do find being here has made me a better person in many ways. So as normal for me I see it as a learning space, as well as a, political, social, space. I do though think that if those from the fwr board came together with people like me, then the decoding that would happen through conversation would change perceptions all round.

K' back under cover now!

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