A book about understanding men's lives in the modern world
The Package Deal
Marriage, Work, and Fatherhood in Men's Lives
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Nicholas W. Townsend
In this important new work, Nicholas Townsend explores what men say about being fathers, and about what fatherhood means to them. He shows how men negotiate the prevailing cultural values about fatherhood, marriage, employment, and home ownership that he conceptualizes as a "package deal." Townsend identifies the conflicts and contradictions within the gendered expectations of men and fathers, and analyzes the social and economic contexts that make emotionally involved fathering an elusive ideal.
Drawing on the lives and life stories of a group of men in their late forties who graduated from high school together in the early 1970s, The Package Deal demystifies culture's image of fatherhood in the United States. These men are depicted as neither villains nor victims, but as making their best efforts to achieve successful adult masculinity. This book shows what fathers really think about fatherhood, the division of labor between fathers and mothers, the gendered difference in expectations, and the privileging of the relationship between fathers and sons.
These revealing accounts of how fatherhood fits into the rest of men's lives help us better understand what men can and cannot do as fathers. And they clearly illustrate that women are not alone in trying to "have it all" as they strive to combine work and family.
"What do men want? In this provocative and thoughtful book about a group of men who graduated from high school in the early l970s, the gifted anthropologist Nicholas Townsend gives us an answer. Despite powerful pressures on them to spend more time with their children, to share more chores with their working wives, to cut their commutes, to give up their part in suburban sprawl, the men Townsend came to know were keeping their eye on another ballthe package deal. Stubborn? Retrograde? Yes. But with a deep appreciation for the contradictions they face, the system of pride and dignity with which they live, Townsend explains why. This is a highly important book for men, and for those who are trying to change them."
"By listening so carefully to men and women, by so carefully assessing the complex inter-connection of their lives and our cultural ideals, Townsend adds welcome nuance to the ongoing social and political discussion about fatherhood in America."
"Townsend definitively delivers an excellent contribution."
"It is a real pleasure to see an anthropological approach being applied to research on family and fatherhood issues... Townsend's book is a unique and critical contribution to a discourse that links an anthropological approach to the sociological/psychological study of families and fatherhood."
"The Package Deal makes a powerful contribution to ongoing debates about the roles, values, and meanings of fatherhood in contemporary American society.... Townsend does a magnificent job of bringing forth the voices of his respondents and providing emic views of contemporary fatherhood. His ethnography is masterfuldeep, systematic, and insightful.... Townsend's study breaks new ground."
"In addition to being an exceptional analytic ethnography, The Package Deal is a clear and learned introduction to the current state of knowledge about work, families, and gender. All those interested in contemporary fatherhood should read it without delay."
"This is an interesting book requiring careful reading but it is well worth the effort."
"The Package Deal is one of the best books about fatherhood to come out in a decade.... Townsend is both an excellent interviewer who captures the voices of his informants and an insightful critical analyst who interprets the men's accounts in light of research on gender and families."