Hyper-masculinity or healthier masculinities? An exploration of incarcerated fathering and prison masculinities

Ms Tess Bartlett1
1Monash University, Caulfield, Australia

Previous work on prison masculinities have tended to focus on the ‘hyper-masculine’ prison environment and a prisoner’s ability to negotiate his place within the prison hierarchy. Yet masculinity is constructed in different ways, depending on social, cultural, racial and political factors. Furthermore, such excessive focus on these hyper-masculine facets of the prison environment have understated a prisoner’s ability to manage prison life. Rather than situate this paper within a hyper-masculine framework, I contend that there are indeed healthier masculinities that exist for some imprisoned men (as is the case for men outside a prison). These lie outside traditional notions of masculinity and may be witnessed, for example, when incarcerated fathers interact with their children. Drawing on the views of 39 primary carer fathers in Victoria, Australia, I focus specifically on incarcerated fathers’ experiences of visiting, fathering education and support to advance the conceptualisation of healthier prison masculinities. In doing so, I question the tendency to focus on the hyper-masculine prison narrative arguing for a more nuanced understanding of fatherhood and prison masculinities.


Tess Bartlett is a PhD candidate and research associate at the Department of Social Work, Monash University.  Through a lens of masculinity her research explores the experiences of incarcerated primary carer fathers in Victoria, Australia, at the point of arrest and imprisonment. Tess has been awarded a number of awards for her work including best presentation at the ANZSOC PECRC conference and best PhD abstract at the Victorian Postgraduate  Criminology Conference. You can connect with Tess on twitter @tscbartlett



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