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Heterosexual couples, gender discourse, and the production of relational subjectivity

This study is situated in feminist and poststructural theory. The focus of the study is heterosexual relationships. In particular, the study investigates the shaping effects of patriarchal discourses on the relational subjectivity of a woman partner; how a woman partner responds to and refuses this shaping; and why and how a man might change his positioning in relation to his partner. The data were generated through focus group discussions with women, and individual interviews with men. An initial women’s focus group generated core data for analysis, which was followed by interviews with men, and then a final focus group of women. Documentary practices, derived from narrative therapy, were used to capture and bridge discussions between these three stages of data generation. A poststructural analysis investigated the production of relational subjectivity in the context of heterosexual relationships. Analysis of data included a focus on relational subjectivity as reported by one of the initial focus group women. A deconstructive analysis of material from the initial focus group showed the shaping of women’s relational subjectivities at the intersection of dominant patriarchal and resistant practices. This deconstructive analysis is supported by analyses of material from the men’s interviews, and from the final focus group of women. Further, based in knowledge generated from the initial women’s focus group, an idea for heterosexual relationship as egalitarian is developed in the analysis. The thesis argues that heterosexual relationship is often dominated by patriarchal ideas and practices that privilege the male partner. The thesis offers a philosophical location with the potential to reposition heterosexual relationship to a safe and egalitarian place. An exploration is offered about how men might take up ethical practices so that the repositioning of heterosexual relationship can be maintained, and patriarchally sustained male privilege held accountable. The thesis suggests that the ethical ideas and practices offered for egalitarian heterosexual relationship might be extrapolated to gender relations in general. My accountability as a male researcher is embedded in the process of the study, with feminist supervisors, in the research methodology with the final focus group of women, and in critical reflexivity in the data analysis. In particular, an example is provided which shows the researcher reflexively analysing one moment in the data generation where a research participant was offered a possible non-preferred position. The contribution of this study is to bring Derridean ideas on ethical action to relational subjectivity in heterosexual relationship. Its timeliness is evidenced by the demand from the women participants, and others, for men to engage in respectful and ethical relationship practices. At the same time the study argues that its timeliness is still in the making, produced in the democracy to come that is being brought into existence when the potential for respectful and ethical relationship is enacted in practice. The responsibility for inventing such practices rests with men.
Type of thesis
Morris, B. (2015). Heterosexual couples, gender discourse, and the production of relational subjectivity (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9318
University of Waikato
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