Prof. Johnson speaks about ‘Sperm Donors, Dead Beats, Good Guys and Promise Keepers’

Cathy Johnson, associate professor of political science at Williams College, presented a lecture entitled “Sperm Donors, Dead Beats, Good Guys and Promise Keepers: Men, Families and Welfare” on Thursday, March 2. The lecture focused on the policy debates and political disputes about men and welfare. These include discussions of to what extent and in under what circumstances non-custodial parents, generally men, are financially responsible for their offspring?

And, if one accept the idea that these parents are financially responsible, what kinds of policies could be endorsed to enforce this responsibility? Should we have policies designed to encourage marriage as a solution to welfare receipt and poverty? While these controversies over men’s roles in families are connected politically to welfare, the disputes over men and families are broader controversies about men’s roles in society more generally.

“The conflicts over welfare which have received the most widespread discussion are about women, children and welfare,” said Johnson.

“Policy debates about welfare are not just about mothers and their children, however,”she said. “Running alongside of these discussions are debates about men, most of whom are not direct recipients of welfare themselves, but are related to the women and children who receive welfare.”

Johnson’s current research focuses on the politics of children, the third parties representing them, how state and national policies affecting them are made, and the political support they receive. She has also done work on the relationship between gender and leadership and bureaucracy, and has written several articles and conference papers on the subject.

Johnson is the author of The Dynamics of Conflict Between Bureaucrats and Legislators written in 1992. Prior to joining the faculty of Williams College in 1991, she taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Beloit College, and served as a program and planning analyst for the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Human Services. Johnson received her B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1979 and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1986.

Courtesy of OPA