This introductory essay argues that consideration of gender divisions of labour with a focus on men might move gender analysis in a direction which delivers greater attention to the relational, a more animated and agentic approach to those processes which produce divisions of labour, and a broadening of temporal frames and notions of reciprocity, as the context within which perceptions of gender equity are embedded. It argues that class variation is absolutely critical to the linkages between employment and gender power experienced by men, and that money management is a key to successful achievement of adult manliness, but beset with contradictory messages. The essay makes a number of methodological points; that invisibility might afflict some kinds of male work, that work definitions manifest exclusions, and that embodied understandings of work are as relevant to men's as women's work, before going on to raise questions about the meaning and value of provider identities to men and women. Attending more carefully to men as providers promises insights into the complexity of successful management of manliness, the possibility of other kinds of altruism than those modelled on a feminised notion of ‘care’, and the implications of displacement and disengagement of men from household support. The final section signals the value of ethnographies of work for showing how employment by women threatens masculinities, how women can sustain masculinities by care of male self-perceptions, how the experience of male collectivity can be central to the pleasures of work for men and how masculinities might be, in places, changing in progressive directions.