When I return to work from my maternity leave in October, I am delighted to announce that I will be involved in the Beyond Male Role Models research project led by Dr Martin Robb. Involving a team from the Open University and in partnership with Action for Children, the project will explore the role of gendered identities in work with young men. You can find out more about the project via the newly established research project blog.
I expect to start digging through my old undergraduate degree reading lists when I return because I first became interested in masculinities in a course about young people’s identities led by Professor Peter Hopkins. At this time, before I honed my interests down to the study of ageing masculinities, I found the work of Professor Linda McDowell particularly interesting and useful. Her work on economic geographies and young men should provide some fascinating background for the project.
Involvement in the project will not only allow me to develop my research interests in understanding contemporary masculinities and gender identities, but also to explore the role of gender in researching men as a young woman. I recently had a journal article accepted for publication about researching older men as a young woman in The Professional Geographer. This paper reflects on my experiences of interviewing men who are grandfathers for my PhD research. In particular, it explores the complexities of the various ways in which my identity positioned me as both an insider/outsider during qualitative interviews. Insider/outsider refer to theoretical positions conflated with identity differences and similarities between researcher and researched. There is much debate about the extent to which shared (or not) identities of gender, age, race, class, sexuality and so on might afford different insights into the lives of the researched. Is it an advantage for example to be a man researching a man? With this in mind, I reflect on the ways in which my identities as young, female, a granddaughter, might have influenced the content of the stories that the grandfathers deemed appropriate and/or necessary to tell me. The paper contributes more generally to debates about the conduct of research and the implications of identity (and positionality) for research outcomes.