Feminism and Hyper-Masculinity in Israel: A Case Study in Deconstructing Legal Fatherhood

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Feminism has largely treated men as the undifferentiated dominant gender group, neglecting a discussion of men's own gender identity. As a result, the legal conceptualization of masculinity is still under-explored; a tapestry of legal doctrines renders inconsistent ideological messages about what it means to be a "man," and especially what it means to be a father. Israeli legal scholarship, in particular, has done little to explore how extensively stereotypes of masculinity permeate existing law and undermine the role of men as parents. This Article fills in this academic void and begins the project of answering the largely ignored "man question," that is, how the law constrains male gender roles and how those constraints inhibit the father-child relationship. Through the critical lens of masculinities theory, I explore how and why male gender identity may frustrate father care in general and to Israeli father care in particular. As 1 argue, the Zionist conception of hegemonic masculinity promotes a hyper-masculine archetype for Israeli men. The Article then analyzes a diverse body of doctrines, from reproductive technologies law to child custody and support law, to expose the sophisticated ideological work done by the law in entrenching an esscntialist form of idealized masculinity through what I term a "bio-economic model" of fatherhood. The Article concludes by promoting a new legal model of "engaged fatherhood" as an integral component of male citizenship in Israel. While the Article focuses on Israel as a case study, entrenchment of gendered parenting roles is a near-universal problem, addressed by feminism and masculinities studies across various legal systems. It is hoped that the analysis and insights developed here will serve to inform debate and potential reform elsewhere in the western world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-94
Number of pages48
JournalYale Journal of Law & Feminism
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Israel
  • Feminism
  • Father-child relationship
  • Masculinity
  • Masculine identity
  • Zionism


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