The Drama‐Free Performance of Authentic Friends: Exploring how New Zealand men make sense of their friendships
In contemporary New Zealand, the cultural tropes surrounding the ‘good kiwi bloke’ and his ‘mates’ might seem as solid and steadfast as conceptions of kiwi mateship itself. However, the stability of masculinities and femininities is considered in this thesis as an illusion enabled by ongoing reflexive accomplishment, and I focus on how that illusion is achieved through the discursive construction of intimacies within friendships. A synthesis of ethnomethodological and poststructuralist theory informs the discourse analytic approach taken - critical discursive psychology. Drawing on insights from discursive psychological research, particularly Margaret Wetherell’s work, I apply the tools of this method to data collected from focus groups. Although my analysis is sociological, I engage with a wide range of theoretical claims from diverse disciplines in discussing my findings. I find that participant justifications for not engaging in some intimacies are constructed though interpretive repertoires that de‐value women’s friendship relating. However, I point to the re-signification of intimacies relating to emotional self-‐disclosing in men’s friendships; the task of aligning these ‘traditionally’ feminine intimacies with heteromasculine identity is achieved through an interpretive repertoire of authenticity. An authenticity repertoire is bolstered by the reproduction of understandings that uphold ideal friendships as being based on non-obligatory interactions, which are carried out by rational, autonomous subjects. I suggest that these understandings of men’s friendships foster a sense of ontological security, but that they inhibit greater responsiveness between friends. The ways in which intimacy of friendships are mediated by discourses of sexism and heterosexism are also explored. The data indicates that mobilisation of sexist discourses functions to build shared masculine identity, with the subtleties of humour working to obscure prejudiced content. Elsewhere, humour is used to manage intimacies in friendships, via an ambiguous ‘homo-play’ repertoire, where the contingent linking of sex and gender is exposed. I highlight the complex and context-specific ways repertoires are used and question tendencies within studies of masculinities to map out typologies of masculinities, such as ‘softer’ or ‘orthodox’ masculinities, which are often attached to ‘types’ of men. Overall, I suggest that the careful management of talk about men’s friendships generally supports the ideological thrust of the current gender order, in line with Judith Butler’s conceptions of heterosexual hegemony. However, simultaneously, the relentless accounting in‐talk around what constitutes men’s friendship is indicative of the need to continually perform (heterosexual) man‐friend, highlighting the intrinsic vulnerability of heterosexual hegemony.