Critical Perspectives on Gender Norms and Relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand
Binary and hierarchical enforcements of gender norms may contribute to unhealthy relationships, sexual violence and continued oppression of marginalised groups. Drawing on a critical feminist research approach, I consider how young people perceive these norms in order to theorise on how we can move beyond them to create a more inclusive and empathetic society. I interviewed six professionals who work with young people and spoke with three focus groups of young people aged 16-19 about their views and experiences of gender norms and relationships in the context of New Zealand’s gendered culture. This thesis is theoretically driven, with analysis of literature on gender, postfeminism, individualism, community, and dominant constructions of victims for commenting on the research findings. Using thematic analysis, I organised my data into three predominant themes; The Gender Binary and Bro Culture, Pressures and Responsibilities, and Healthy Relationships. Numerous insights were generated from this analysis. In conceptualising New Zealand’s gendered culture, some participants identified an imperative to perform gender as staunch individuals. This imperative characterises pressure to live up to idealised expressions of staunchness, and relegates constructions of victimhood as associated with social deviance. Complicating this, young people’s solidarity and investments of collective energy to seek social change are equally significant findings for the emancipatory outlook of the project. This thesis provides a glimpse of the contemporary nature of gendered discourses in New Zealand, and indicates some ways in which these are shifting. There is greater complexity yet to be found in future research for theorising on these concepts, as I discuss toward the end of the thesis. All my participants’ voices are appreciatively valued for their insights on this topic. They have aided me in thinking about how we can collectively continue these conversations through action.