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Grassroots of the Men’s Movement: An Ethnographic Case Study of an Independent Men's Group
Russell, Virgil E.

2009, Master of Arts, University of Akron, Sociology.

This thesis is an ethnographic case study of an independent men’s group in a small mid-western city which claims no affiliation with any organized faction of the men’s movement. It is groups such as this that I contend make up the grass-roots of the men’s movement. The intent of my research was to understand why White, middle-aged, middle-class, heterosexual men (or middlers) seek the homosocial support of a men’s group.


I approach this question in two ways. First, I describe what benefits the men hope to gain through their participation in the group. Secondly, I explain how the setting of the men’s group provides these benefits. I also examine whether, and in what ways these men are resisting or reinforcing the patriarchal structure that affords them the privileged status they enjoy as a result of their ascribed status characteristics.


Data for this study includes field notes from fifteen months of participant observation in conjunction with face-to-face interviews with the eight men who comprise the “core” group members. Analysis of the data reveals that these men seek a time and place in which to periodically relieve themselves of the burdens of the self-presentation that accompanies hegemonic masculinity. The men’s group provides a place where the men feel emotionally safe in presenting what they consider to be their “true selves” by normalizing activities such as self-disclosure
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and emotional expression, and through strict adherence to mutual promises of confidentiality.


The increased intimacy that results from these practices creates a sense of gendered community that minimizes gender role conflict and dissonance in gendered social identity while increasing social self esteem through mutual support of men’s personal masculinity. In short, group participation helps men feel good about being men and perhaps remedies (in part) the isolation men feel in the larger world. However, the men’s apparent inability to feel safe engaging in these practices outside of the group constitutes a non-challenge to either the patriarchal structure or to hegemonic masculinity on a personal level.


Kathy Feltey, PhD (Advisor)

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Russell, V. (2009). Grassroots of the Men’s Movement: An Ethnographic Case Study of an Independent Men's Group. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Russell, Virgil. "Grassroots of the Men’s Movement: An Ethnographic Case Study of an Independent Men's Group." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Akron, 2009. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 24 May 2015.

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Russell, Virgil "Grassroots of the Men’s Movement: An Ethnographic Case Study of an Independent Men's Group." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Akron, 2009. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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