Male relationship building that makes women roll their eyes: Implications for social work


  • Anaru Eketone Ngati Maniapoto, Waikato. A lecturer in the Department of Social Work and Community Development at the University of Otago.



masculinity, m?ori masculinity, masculinity and social work,


Since 1994 I have worked in three sectors dominated by women: health promotion, social work and social work education. One of the tasks when working in these female-dominated fields is that to maintain any sort of credibility you need to act and talk in ways that do not offend women.

One of the personal challenges I have faced is to work in these areas and still find ways of meeting the need I have to still be a ‘bloke’. Even within my own household I am the only male (that includes the dog), so privately you hold on to your masculinity, i.e. the socially defined roles, through being a husband and father. But I have also found the need to express myself physically – very occasionally through physical work, but more often through sport, mau rakau and even watching physical sport. (For Valentine’s Day I bought my wife a season ticket to watch rugby at Carisbrook; she returned the favour by giving me a season ticket to our local symphony orchestra.)

There is not a great deal written about social work and Māori masculinity. This article seeks to discuss issues around some of the differences in the ways that many males choose to interact with each other and the implications this type of masculinity has for social work practice. Four examples will be described of a particular version of masculine ways of relating, which will be followed by a discussion.


Leach, M. (1994). The politics of masculinity: An overview of contemporary theory. Social Alternatives, 12(4), 36-37.

Hokowhitu, B. (2003). Māori masculinity, post-structuralism, and the emerging self. New Zealand Sociology, 18(1).

Hokowhitu, B. (2004). Tackling Māori masculinity: A colonial genealogy of savagery and sport. The Contemporary Pacific, 16(2), 259-284.

McKay, J. (2007) Men’s mental health: What helps or hinders men’s access to a community mental health team. (Unpublished Masters of Social Welfare thesis), University of Otago Dunedin, New Zealand.




How to Cite

Eketone, A. (2017). Male relationship building that makes women roll their eyes: Implications for social work. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 20(4), 41–45.