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Marginal Men: Men with breast cancer negotiating gender

HALLS, AMY,VICTORIA (2013) Marginal Men: Men with breast cancer negotiating gender. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Breast cancer is a global phenomenon and each year charities and organisations encourage people to become involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Around 50,000 women and 400 men are diagnosed in the UK each year. This research explores how men experience being a breast cancer patient, and how these are to be understood given the positioning of breast cancer as a disease of women. Breast cancer’s pink ribbon culture is ideal for exploring the relationship between gender and illness, showing the mechanisms through which men are less able to participate in this community.

Bury’s concept of biographical disruption is not applicable for men diagnosed with breast cancer, as they enter a world which is fundamentally contradictory. It is appropriate to use Park’s theory of the marginal man, a man in two cultures yet not fully assimilated into either. The marginal man has a double consciousness, occupying a privileged position. This idea of marginality follows throughout the Chicago School. Star develops marginality to include objects and events, showing standards can become rigid and produce exclusion. Marginal men are able to see beyond this rigidity.

Three datasets were analysed using a discourse analytical approach. Findings showed breast cancer challenges hegemonic masculinity as men are marginalised. Gendered assumptions regarding the pink ribbon and ideas of masculinity and femininity influenced the extent to which individuals became involved with this community and how this was (not) accepted by others. The split between gender and illness resulted in people seen as their gender identity first rather than their illness identity. The awareness of breast cancer is linked to hegemonic femininity and reinforces hegemonic masculinity, as institutions construct awareness, and charities see awareness as gendered. This reproduces normative assumptions about masculinity and femininity and is firmly linked with breast cancer. Recommendations for broadening this research are suggested.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:biographical disruption, breast cancer, charity, discourse analysis, gender, hegemonic masculinity, marginal man, masculinity,
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Jul 2014 15:53

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