Seymour-Smith, Sarah and Wetherell, Margaret
'What he hasn't told you...': Investigating the micro-politics of gendered support in heterosexual couples' co-constructed accounts of illness.
Feminism & Psychology, 16(1) pp. 105–127.
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Research has demonstrated that heterosexual men receive enhanced health benefits from their relationships with women. Explanations for this gendered pattern often focus on women's role as the main caregivers and arrangers of health care. However, what remains unclear is how these benefits are mediated. In this article, we describe the micropolitics evident in negotiations between 12 heterosexual couples as they discuss the serious illness of one of the pair with an interviewer. The interviews were transcribed and subsequently analysed using a synthetic approach to discursive psychology. We argue that in these co-constructed stories, women potentially trouble men's identity performances. For instance, by interjecting emotional assessments, women supporters allow men the opportunity to discuss aspects of the illness experience that might be otherwise viewed as at odds with hegemonic masculinity. We suggest that women's positioning of men is a form of complicity with hegemonic masculinity and urge that further research should follow this line of enquiry.
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