Arron Mark Stewart

8/15/2010

Interviewing Men about Masculinity: Issues in Interviewing Methodology from a Feminist Perspective
(A Dissertation prepared for the University of Waikato, September 2007)

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Introduction
Whether one identifies as masculine or possesses, pursues, refutes or avoids an ascribed masculinity, masculine gender affects everyone in a society. While we might tend to conceive of masculinity in relation to men alone, the lives of women and children are not insulated from the influence of masculinity and its contributions to the underpinning structural and ideological framework of societies. Because many cultures are dominated by hegemonic schemas of masculinity (Connell, 1995), women in particular may find that the socio-cultural manifestations of masculine dominance will shape lived experience in a variety of profound, often limiting, ways (economically, legally, medically, spiritually etc). Because of this, interrogations of masculinity may be equally rewarding endeavors for both men and women. As a man, my own interest in masculinity began in the late 1990s, during the years of my adolescence and young adulthood. During this formative period, I became consciously aware that my own understandings of masculinity, and my masculine selfconcept, did not mesh comfortably with much of the masculine culture at large. As a heterosexual, European male from a middle class family, I occupied a set of subject positions rooted in many of what Raymond Williams (1995) would surely deem primary bases of a western masculine hegemony. However, I experienced ongoing dissonance between the masculine ‘norms’ of my culture (New Zealand) and my personal opinions/ values. As I entered the university system, critical questions of gender and masculine cultural dominance soon came to the fore. This paper arises from a directed study I conducted into researching masculinities through qualitative interviewing. More specifically, this paper represents my attempts to

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apply, explore and reflectively analyze my own feminist-informed style of interviewing. Although I interviewed men about masculinity, my study did not seek to explore specific masculinities. Rather, it represents a more general investigation into feminist-informed interview methodology (requiring ‘hands-on’ interviewing for exploratory/experiential purposes). As such, the topic (masculinity) is less relevant to this study than the methodology of interviewing, and in particular, methodological issues regarding interviewing men. As primarily a methodological investigation, this paper is more concerned with my own informed reflections upon the interview sessions - as opposed to interviewee responses. Comparing my experiences with the literature, my study uncovered a number of topics worthy of discussion including a greater difficulty in initiating interview sessions involving men, the tendency for men to be uncomfortable divulging personal information (particularly in the presence of unfamiliar men) as well as a preference for ‘rule bound’ interview contexts and the adjudication of transgressions thereof. For reasons of space I have limited the discussions in this paper to the two most prominent themes evident in my study: (1) power dynamics when interviewing men, and (2) problematic male ‘macho’ performativity. Even though this paper primarily regards methodologically-centered analysis, it is worth considering the foundations of my own approach to interviewing and the subject matter. Indeed, as Silverman (1997) emphasizes, interviews are always social interactions underpinned by agendas, ideologies and methodological traditions. In this particular study my conceptions of ‘masculinity’ and my theoretical grounding in feminist interview methodology are crucial to making sense of the discussions that follow. I will

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now sketch my outlook on each of these issues in attempts to establish a base of understanding.

Introducing Masculinity
The term masculinity encapsulates numerous theoretical approaches (see Edley and Wetherell, 1995) and social/political movements (see Flood, 1998; Kimmel & Kauffman 1994). While a comprehensive discussion of the concept is unnecessary here, a working definition provides clarification. From a sociological perspective, the concept of masculinity typically refers to (a) a socially constructed gender ascribed to members of the male sex and (b) a socially constructed set of meanings linked to members of the male gender via common (lay) wisdom (Kimmel & Messner, 1998; Connell, 1995). For sociologists then, masculinity is not innate or essential, but a social construct ascribed to, or inscribed upon, a subject through social processes (this subject typically being a male by biology - but not necessarily). These notions, of masculinity as a social construct, born of, and molded by, social interaction form the basis of my own understanding. Sociologists also typically emphasize the historical construction of masculinity; masculinities change across time and place (Edley and Wetherell, 1995). In light of this fluidity, sociological approaches to masculinity usually stress plurality – suggesting that that there is no such thing as a monolithic or immutable ‘universal masculinity’. Indeed, as Connell (2000) argues, “we need to speak of ‘masculinities’, not ‘masculinity’ because different cultures and different periods of history construct gender differently” (p. 10). Connell (1995) also informs us that whilst masculinities are usually attached to the physiology and anatomy of male bodies, they are not inherently linked to male

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bodies. As Halberstam (1998) discusses, ‘biological’ females are often perceived as possessing ‘masculine’ qualities. Masculinities therefore, do not only influence women’s lives from the outside, but may be embodied within, or ascribed upon, women themselves. Not surprisingly, the gynocentric discipline of feminism has more than a passing interest in the researching and theorizing of masculinities (Halberstam, 1998; Connell, 2000).

Interviewing: the Feminist Methodological Tradition
For many researchers, interviewing has long been an indispensable cornerstone of academic inquiry (Fontana and Frey, 2000). When masculinities emerged as a boom area of research in the late 1970s, interviewing men (about their thoughts, feelings, experiences) soon dominated as the privileged and preferred (although not exclusive) method of data collection (Schwalbe & Wolkomir, 2001). Feminist traditions and the field of gender studies (from which masculinities research derived) have been key sites where interview methodologies have had their ‘mettle’ tested Reinharz (1992). Feminism has been most concerned with addressing the potentially problematic issues associated with interviewing including power relations, objectivity/subjectivity, ethics, interviewee-interviewer relationships, exploitation, deception, interviewer disclosure, and reflexivity (Cotterill, 1992; Reinharz, 1992; Lyons & Chipperfield, 2000, Sprague 2005). In reviewing the interviewing literature I have been largely informed by the methodological discussions of feminist authors (i.e. Reinharz, 1992; Sprague, 2005). They discuss at length various feminist-approaches and issues that underpin my theoretical grounding.

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Whilst I found feminist methodology applies well to interviewing in general, the literature typically focuses on the interviewing of women by other women. This is unsurprising as feminist projects are gynocentric by nature, but also somewhat vexing when one attempts to engage in male-male interviewing from a feminist base. As such, I made a point of reviewing literature that discussed methodological aspects surrounding the interviewing of men (i.e., Pini, 2005, Holstein and Gubrium, 2003; Oliffe and Mróz, 2005; Messner, 1992), although it should be noted that some of this work is also informed (to varying degrees) by feminist methodologies. The common strand connecting all of the aforementioned commentaries is the respective genders of interview participants. Regarding the ‘gender issue’ Herod (1993) explains Three broad areas have formed the focus of research concerning gender and interviewing: (1) how the gender of an interviewer or interviewee may shape the research process; (2) how gender relations are implicated in the structure of particular research methodologies; and (3) how gendered assumptions can affect how information generated in an interview is interpreted (p. 307)

Reading the research literature might lead one to believe that interviewer-interviewee ‘gender mismatch’ is always likely to be problematic. However, Schwalbe and Wolkomir (2001) suggest that gender issues in interviewing are best examined when we move beyond simplistic concepts of who is asking whom (be it men interviewing women, women-women, men-men, women-men) and take a more comprehensive approach, inquiring instead “who is asking whom about what and where?” (p. 91). Herod (1993)

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agrees, feeling that simplistic notions of gender ‘clash’ have often been a convenient scapegoat. In light of such comments, I have tried to avoid operating from widespread feminist assumptions about the saliency of ‘gender mismatch’ in interviewing. Although it is fair to say that my understandings remain informed primarily by the feminist literature, I have approached this study aware that there are some potential limitations/biases inherent in feminist approaches. In sum, this study represents an attempt to address the pivotal ‘gender issue’ in the less explored context of ‘gender matched’ (male-male) interviewing - taking feminist methodological positions under consideration, but not accepting them as a given.

Study Framework: Goals, Structure and Process
I had many goals in mind when setting out on this study. Firstly, I aimed to further develop my skills and expand my knowledge as an interviewer (and researcher) in the most general sense. Secondly, I aimed to further develop myself as a masculinities interviewer/researcher, informing my future masculinities studies by developing and/or refining logical, reasoned stances on methodological issues when interviewing men. Thirdly, I wanted to offer opportunities for the various participants (including myself) to critically ‘unpack’, explore, analyze and reflect upon their understandings of masculinity, their masculine self-concepts and the possible implications. In the pursuit of these goals, my study followed a discursive approach. In due process, I covered a lot of methodological ground - from which this paper derives. Because the crux of this paper is drawn from my own reflections upon practical

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experience ‘versus’ theoretical training, issues of method and sampling are largely peripheral to the structure and process of the study. In more general terms, my study and this paper consisted of three distinct but overlapping and interrelated phases. 1. An initial period of literature review: mostly I examined literature pertaining to feminist-informed interview methodology, particularly regarding the interview of men, but also including interviewing methodology in general. This formed my initial understandings and led to the feminist-informed agenda that I pursue in the methodological discussions in this paper. I also engaged with supplementary literature in the areas of …give examples … throughout the course of the study. 2. An extended period of practical exploration: I conducted qualitative interviews with sixteen men. Specifically, I conducted two formal group interviews, two formal life-history interviews and five semi-structured interview sessions. The first group (four interviewees) comprised personal friends and acquaintances, while those in the second group (five individuals) were strangers recruited with the aid of the first group. Similarly, with the life history interviewing, I recruited one interviewee known to me and one unknown. The five semi-structured interviews were impromptu and casual in tone, involving a mixture of friends and acquaintances. All interviewees were briefed on the project, and gave informed verbal consent to participate before interviews began. 3. A final period of reflective analysis: my reflections focused on the literature and my experiences (via a reflective journal I kept throughout the study). This paper draws these phases together. The discussions to follow detail my current, informed positioning regarding some key methodological issues in male-male

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interviewing. In particular I have focused upon two issues; power dynamics and masculine ‘macho’ performativity.

Power Dynamics: Interviewers versus Interviewees?
Even when things seem civil on the surface, interviewers and interviewees are often engaged in complex negotiations of power. Scheruich (2001) details such power dynamics, so often fought out in researcher – researched dyads, wherein there is not just social interaction but contested social space. When one stops to consider the power dynamics of research interviews, they are often revealed to be social occasions embedded with interpersonal power dynamics typically characterized by “dominance of the interviewee by the researcher, resistance of the interviewee to researcher dominance, and chaos-freedom enacted by both the interviewer and the interviewee” (Scheruich, 2001, p. 73). Interviewers, for example, may struggle against interviewees - to maintain their desired interview contexts, strategies and schedules. Interviewees, on the other hand, may struggle against being portrayed negatively, being misunderstood, being intimidated or coerced by interviewers. Reinharz (1992) notes that power and the negotiations in interview relationships can have serious effects, directly and indirectly, upon the validity (or trustworthiness) of interview data and any theorizing/findings explicated. Power in the context of interviewing is therefore an important, albeit often overlooked, methodological consideration (Reinharz, 1992). Indeed, as Holstein and Gubrium (2003) discuss, relatively few texts dealing with interview methodologies even comment on, let alone systematically explore, the dynamics of power and its potential implications for

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researchers, research projects and (ethically/morally speaking) research informants. As the topic has not been explored sufficiently, and because researchers have traditionally dominated interview power struggles (in practice), feminists have led the way in developing new and innovative means by which to better distribute (manage) power relations in interviewing contexts (Sprague, 2005) . My own interviewing experiences support Scheruich (2001) and the notion that all parties involved in an interview scenario are caught in ongoing struggles for powerpositioning (whether they know it or not). Yet, even if one accepts that parties involved in an interview can/will influence each other by exerting interpersonal power, one might still be inclined to view the balance of these power relations and the bulk of the influence potential as being tipped in favor of the interviewer. This is especially so in the case of the academic researcher playing interviewer, wherein one might reasonably expect that their knowledge of the subject matter (often expertise), their experience and training in interviewing (often vast) and their general socio-cultural status (often lofty) ultimately shift the balance of power in their favor. Logic dictates that this would hold true in most interviewing situations, excluding the interviewing of other experts and/or elites. Whilst I concur with Letherby (2003) and her assertions that researchers tend to dominate the power-relations in interviewing scenarios, my experiences suggest that interviewees always have recourse to claiming (or reclaiming) the final balance of power. Although it may seem a counterintuitive proposition, interviewees are ultimately the ‘gatekeepers’ of the precious information (opinions, insights, emotions, memories etc) a researcher seeks to access, and may quickly and easily ‘turn-the-tables’ on an interviewer by employing a range of tactics including the evasion of certain lines of investigation,

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pleading ignorance, giving patently false or knowingly ambiguous answers, or simply refusing to cooperate (Holstein, & Gubrium, 2003; Bryman 2004). These tactics are particularly potent for asserting the power of interviewees in academic interviews because many means for counteracting or overcoming these gate-keeping strategies (i.e., interrogation, torture, intimidation, deception etc) are ethically unacceptable. Again, of the many disciplines that have explored interview methodologies, feminism has gone out of its way to address the need for the ethical treatment of interviewees. It may well be that the transparent, sensitive and accountable approaches towards interviewees promoted in feminism serve not only ethical ends, but may also be useful in circumventing or mitigating troublesome episodes of ‘gate-keeping’. When approaching my own interviewing, I turned to feminism for advice. Whilst much of the literature specifically concerns the interviewing of women (usually by other women) I learned a great deal about power dynamics and their potential relationships with ethical interviewing. As it happens, the insights of feminist methodology are not just valuable for women interviewing other women, but may also be useful in the context of male-male interviews.

Feminism: on Power and the Ethical Interviewing of Men
Feminist researchers have paid particular attention to the issue of power in interviewing. Whilst far from united in their agendas, goals or outlooks, feminist theorists generally regard power and its dynamics as a primary concern in the design and conduct of ‘ethical’ and ‘authentic’ feminist interviewing (Letherby, 2003). The reasons for this preoccupation are many, but largely revolve around the fact that the discipline strives “to

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avoid perpetuating the exploitation of women” (Reinharz, 1992, p. 27). Feminists approach interviewing in a heightened state of awareness and sensitivity regarding power because they know that many of their interviewees (typically women) live in subject positions of relative powerlessness simply by virtue of being gendered as women in what remains largely an androcentric world (Reinharz, 1992). Some feminists (i.e., Lyons & Chipperfield, 2000) have cautioned against feminist interviewers seeing their subjects primarily as disadvantaged ‘victims’, but even they do not dispute the need for a critical awareness of power issues in feminists interview research. Beyond merely recognizing the centrality of power-dynamics when interviewing, feminists have sought measures to bring women into the interviewing equation and to encourage more equitable interviewee-interviewer power-positions (Sprague, 2005). Of these feminist stratagems for managing power dynamics, two broad approaches are particularly noteworthy. The first broad stratagem may be labeled ‘interviewee-centered’ interviews, also often thought of as ‘empowerment’ approaches. Here the researcher knowingly shifts the locus of power towards their interviewee(s) and does their best ensure it remains intact throughout the interview process. This works best when the researcher establishes a relatively general ‘guiding’ framework for the interview (typically with expansive, flexible boundaries) then, actively and assertively, hands the reigns to the interviewee(s) who are encouraged to determine the pace, and/or direction and/or tone of the interview session (Sprague, 2005). The researcher may be required to occasionally act, influence or intervene (in order to keep the interview within the general boundaries and conditions

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established beforehand), but should always do so in the most subtle, fleeting and diplomatic manner possible (Sprague, 2005). A second stratagem is ‘participatory’ interviewing, which conceptualizes interviews as ‘negotiated products’ co-authored by interviewers and interviewees. In short, a participatory stratagem “aims to produce nonhierarchical, non-manipulative research relationships” wherein cooperation reduces the social and emotional distance between researchers and informants (Cotterill, 1992, p.594). Cotterill (1992) feels that achieving optimal results through participatory interviewing requires high levels of interviewee-interviewer rapport (built upon mutual trust, honesty and respect). Rapport is primarily built through a process of socializing the interview parties (which may include previous interactions or moving beyond the interview boundaries). Involving the interviewee in the design of the research process, operating under a transparent agenda and disclosure from the interviewer (sharing their own thoughts/feelings/experiences) may all be useful in building rapport (Cotterill, 1992; Reinharz, 1992). It is important to note however, that in either case (whether participatory or empowerment stratagems), the researcher never really ‘gives away’ any of their power, or rather, their potential to influence the interviewee. Nor does the researcher abandon or compromise their status, expertise or agenda. On the contrary, such stratagems are actually expert ‘power-plays’ on the part of the researcher, representing deliberate and strategic attempts to develop a ‘level playing field’ in interview contexts. These attempts at encouraging interviewee(s) to be active and/or directive (as valued and respected participants) represents a significant shift from more traditional interview methodologies, which have typically centered around rational, directive and detached interviewer-

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interviewee dyads operating on fixed, inequitable, and often problematic power bases (Reinharz, 1992). During the fieldwork of my own study, I endeavored to employ both these general feminist ‘power management’ stratagems. Although designed chiefly to aid in the interviewing of women on potentially sensitive topics, in this case the context was interviewing men on potentially sensitive topics (masculinity/masculine self concept). My aim was to asses their utility when transgressing the boundaries of the ‘gender issue’, by applying them in the context of men interviewing men. The following section discusses my key findings.

Interviewing Reflections: Power Dynamics and Feminist Stratagems
During my explorations of feminist empowerment and participatory stratagems, I became aware of several potential pitfalls. The following discussion focuses on two incongruities which represented ongoing, vexing themes in my interviewing experience. The first issue concerns the value of maintaining recourse to a traditionally directive, authoritative and detached power position as ‘boss’, despite feminist advice to the contrary. The second issue involves a perceived ethical paradox wherever one attempts to apply (in practice) the feminist stratagems. These issues are central to my discussion precisely because they were the notable points of incongruity I encountered, which was, otherwise, largely consistent with my grounding in the feminist literature.

Empowerment/Participatory Stratagems: the Value of Being the ‘Boss’

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Reflecting upon the practical interview sessions, I deliberately occupied (or sought to occupy) the best position of power that served my goals at any given time. I asserted myself and became the director when I felt the scenario required (i.e., when one participant was dominating in group scenarios), took a back seat when proceedings and conversations flowed smoothly (allowing the interviewee[s] to dominate) and transitioned into a facilitator (encouraging and/or enabling) whenever participants struggled to express themselves. This ongoing ‘management of power’ involved three overall stratagems, the participatory and empowerment approaches I gleaned from feminist sources (which I have already discussed) and also, a more traditional detached and authoritative researcher role; that of the ‘boss’. When I played the ‘boss’, my role was stoic, assertive and directive – that of the detached expert typically portrayed negatively in feminist discussions of interview methodologies (Reinharz, 1992). I occupied a ‘boss’ role whenever I felt I needed to press issues, assert myself against interviewee challenges, and when I needed to meet/maintain various pragmatic, regulatory and procedural concerns of the interviews (i.e., adherence to time limits, enforcing interview rules/guidelines, counteracting interviewee misbehavior, resolving minor interpersonal conflicts etc). Reinharz (1992) argues that the ‘boss’ role does not complement empowerment or participatory approaches and, by its very nature, serves to establish and/or enforce a power-differential favoring the researcher For these reasons, I tried to avoid this approach to managing power within interviewing contexts wherever possible. In the final analysis of my experiences however, the role often proved necessary. Without playing the ‘boss’ now and then, I felt as if my interviews could have descended into chaos.

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When I did move into the more directive ‘boss’ role, it was most often in the group interviews. In the group situations I quickly discovered that interviewees themselves will also compete (amongst themselves and against the interviewer) for the role of ‘boss’. The following vignette, regarding one of my group interview participants illustrates this danger rather well: From the moment I met him, Francis came across as naturally gregarious and an opinionated individual. He was one of the few participants in the interview ready willing and able to really contribute towards and explore the notion of masculinity. I had high hopes he would become a catalyst for the other men, leading the charge and helping them to open up about a subject that many men are confused, unfamiliar or intimated by (masculinity). At first, I welcomed his domination of the session, as nobody else seemed to want to engage with any depth. After a while however, I became aware that his contributions became more and more ego-orientated. It wasn’t long before I became concerned that he was intimidating/undercutting the other participants with his domination of the interview space, both physically (with his size, pose and gestures etc) and verbally (his tendency to be the first, loudest and longest in any section of the conversation). I began to perceive that, although I was all in favor of empowering my interviewees, Francis was too empowered, to the point where he had become the one ‘pulling the strings’. This realization was followed by frantic attempts, on my part, to rebalance the power scenario, not simply in my favor, but to bring the other group members into reckoning (to empower them). I attempted to directly recruit other group

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members into the discussion, with limited success. I also attempted to subtly let Francis know that, while his contributions were appreciated, I wanted others to contribute. But Francis was undeterred. At this juncture my efforts were proving null and void. In the end, I forcibly shifted the power position by adopting the ‘boss’ role. Enforcing a brief break period, I composed myself. Upon recommencing the session, I reiterated the initial ‘loose’ guidelines of conduct and procedure with much more emphasis and rigidity than earlier on. Without singling Francis out, I reemphasized the point that, as interviewer, it was ultimately my responsibility for making sure all voices were heard and, ideally, understood. I stressed that this would require everyone make an effort to contribute and also to allow others the space and time to contribute. After nods of approval and understanding, the interview proceeded. Francis heard the message and stepped back from ‘centerstage’. Reflecting on this incident, no matter how much we wish to create empowered or participatory interviewing contexts, effectively managing group interviews requires the interviewer to have the capacity to adopt the ‘boss’ role when required. In my case, had I to adopt a position of power (contested although it was) in order to prevent one participant dominating the group interview. Therefore, the role of ‘boss’ and the ability/willingness to adopt it, must remain in the effective interviewer’s ‘toolbox’ – albeit one utilized as a backup (contingency) when other roles (i.e., the empowerment ‘facilitator’ or the cooperative, ‘participatory’ contributor) fail.

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In sum, based upon my experience of interviewing men, feminist stratagems for empowering interviewees and/or and conducting participatory interviews are highly effective for the exploring of sensitive topics (i.e., the men in my study talking about their masculinities). I did, however, discover that these stratagems are best supplemented with recourse to a more traditional, authoritative, directive and detached positioning as the ‘boss’, something the feminist literature on interview methodologies tends to critique, disparage, downplay or omit entirely. Without such recourse, all the empowerment and participatory goodwill in the world may not be able to cope with interviewees dominating, intimidating or destabilizing an interview. In fact, without the option of shifting to a more rigid ‘boss’ power-positioning, empowerment and participatory stratagems may prolong or exacerbate problems in the interpersonal power dynamics of an interview, rather than solve them.

Power & Ethics: Notes on a paradox

The second primary finding of my explorations regarding power dynamics in interviewing involves an ethical paradox. Letherby (2003) contends that heightened ethical awareness is a key issue in feminist debates on methodology, with increased sensitivity to the ethical treatment of interviewees a primary concern. However, for all the feminist talk about power management in interviewing and its relations with ethical interviewee treatment, an inherent incongruity has largely gone unnoticed. Whether one attempts to interview under an interviewee-focused or a participatory ethos that treats the interview as a negotiated product, both approaches

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represent deliberate and strategic manipulations of the interview by the researcher. First and foremost, this contradicts Cotteril’s (1992: 594) aforementioned assertion that participatory stratagems aim to produce “non-manipulative research relationships”. Attempts to adjust the power balance of an interview do not occur by chance but as deliberate and strategic attempts to encourage/attain/maintain a specific power climate or context in a given interview. It is the researcher who, drawing upon their methodological training and practical experience, chooses to employ such measures for an explicitly strategic effect. While there can be little doubt about the potential benefits of the participatory or empowerment stratagems, all the best intentions and justifications do not change the fact that they are tantamount to forms of deception (albeit with the very of best intentions). This has some ethical implications. Whilst some might think it a trifling concern of methodological minutiae, I would suggest that researchers truly concerned with conducting themselves in an ethically accountable manner should pause to ponder the matter further. Given the disciplines purported ‘heightened awareness’ of ethical matters, feminists/feminist-informed interviewers should give it due consideration. This paradox seems to have been largely overlooked in the literature. Despite informed consent being a guiding ethical principle in academe (Grattan & Jones, 2004), little or no consideration is given to whether or not a researcher has a duty (morally, ethically or legally speaking) to reveal their underpinning methodological stratagems when interviewing. Research training/textbooks typically promote only the purpose of the investigation, its aims, the likely uses of the data collected and the conditions and terms of the interviewer-interviewee relationships as the sacrosanct ethical considerations

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(Bryman, 2003; Gratton & Jones, 2004). This void is surprising given the increasingly litigious and politically correct environment surrounding modern academia. Even though feminist stratagems for managing power are usually employed to facilitate the voices of the often voiceless, one cannot simply assume that a given interviewee would agree that the ends justify the means. For all the best intentions, it would not be unthinkable for an interviewee to perceive an interviewer’s attempts at ‘power leveling’ or ‘empowerment’ as patronizing (if the stratagem has been disclosed upfront) and, if left undisclosed and subsequently detected by the interviewee, both disingenuous and/or patronizing. Herein, there seems to be an assumption that on certain issues, good intentions come before transparency. This discrepancy does not mesh well with the feminist ethos that informed my methodological explorations of interviewing. As feminism itself makes claims to being founded upon heightened ethical awareness (both paradigmatically and methodologically speaking), its theorists and practitioners have not given the ethical implications of powermanagement strategies the consideration they warrant. Interestingly, the issue did not warrant even a fleeting mention in the various feminist articles on interviewing I consulted. I suggest this is an area requiring some more research and discussion.

Interviewing and Male Performativity
Schwalbe and Wolkomir (2001) identify masculine or ‘macho’ performativity as one of the most crucial problems interviewers face when trying to establish, develop and maintain rapport (mutual trust, honesty and disclosure) with male interviewees.

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They are noteworthy commentators simply because they are both males, whereas the problematic aspects of masculine performativity have largely been theorized and experienced in the context of female interviewers-male interviewees (Shaffer et al. – 1980: 4). In this section I take my cue from the likes of Schwalbe and Wolkomir and attempt to elaborate upon Herrod’s (1993) warnings regarding feminism’s selective focus on female-male or male-female ‘gender mismatch’. I step across these boundaries, into relatively unexplored territory, and discuss my experiences of masculine performativity in the context of male-male interviews. When I speak of ‘masculine’ or ‘macho’ performativity I refer to “gender performativity” a concept pioneered by Judith Butler (1990, 1993). As Butler (1990) explains, gender performativity is “the effect of reiterated acting, one that produces the effect of a static or normal gender while obscuring the contradiction and instability of any single person's gender act” (p. 140). These sustained, collective social performances produce a social ‘reality’ of ‘true gender’, which is built upon largely coherent and consistent performances of cultural gender fictions and serves to normalize and naturalize supposed gender distinctions. When I refer to masculine performativity I am referring to men performing culturally stereotyped ‘scripts’ or ‘stage directions’ of a ‘true’ masculinity. These performances typically serve to establish/maintain distance from anything and everything which way be interpreted as feminine, often emerging as a type of preemptive disclaimer against impending behavior/speech perceived as carrying the threat of being ‘feminized’ by other men (Butler, 1990; Halberstam, 1998). In her research on male Australian sugarcane farmers, Barbara Pini (2005) provides excellent examples of the issues regarding masculine performativity. In her

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interviews she encountered numerous difficulties emanating from what she described as an environment hostile to women’s rights and equity (p. 213). Among her findings, she details the ways in which her (all male) subjects spent copious amounts of time and expended a great deal of energy continually attempting (in the mode of masculine performativity) to assert and reassert their non-femininity. These assertions typically come through ‘theatrical’ and stereotyped ‘masculine’ body language, tone of speech, gesture, facial expressions, postures etc (Henley and Thome, 1977; Pini, 2005; Butler 1990, 1993). Pini (2005) also discloses that the men she interviewed became defensive whenever she broached ‘sensitive’ topics or questions, or pressed for what the men might have perceived as ‘feminized’ responses (i.e. to ask for ‘feelings’ as opposed to ‘thoughts’ and/or seeking abstraction as opposed to description). The men in her study responded to these moments with masculine performances rather than words, or at the very least, performed masculine ‘disclaimers’ before tentatively attempting to respond. Her findings demonstrate a widespread preoccupation with the per formative amongst her male interviewees, one that consumed much of her valuable (and limited) interview time with the men, made it difficult to keep the interviews on topic and interfered with her attempts to build rapport. In her discussions, Pini (2005) explains that male participants (which could include the interviewer) may see interviews as an opportunity to bolster their ‘true gender’ as masculine (in the eyes of others and also the self) and/or occasions requiring the defense of their ‘true’ masculinity against the threat of being feminized (i.e., being asked to express feelings or engage in sentimentality). These responses, whether

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defensive or offensive (and non-response can count as either) manifest as various ‘performances’ designed to counteract or preempt potential threats to one’s masculinity or capitalize upon potential opportunities to bolster it. Pini notes that feminists have, in recent years, struggled with overcoming this performativity, with many encountering widespread difficulties. While the problems of male performativity have been widely discussed by feminists, there is little coherent information in feminist theorizing about how to manage (or penetrate) performative veneers when interviewing men. As such, whilst I learnt much about the topic, I did not enter into my interviewing practicum with any particular stratagems in mind for dealing with performativity issues. Also, as noted, gender mismatch has typically provided the context for the literature dealing with interviewing, with much less information available on male-male interviewing and performativity. Schwalbe and Wolkomir (2001) and Oliffe and Mróz (2005) are notable exceptions. In the reflections on masculine performativity that follow, it is important to understand that I was largely ‘flying blind’. I did however, develop some insights.

Performativity: Non-Feminine Mirroring the literature, by far the strongest line of performativity in my interviews involved various (often general, but sometimes specific) attempts at creating/maintaining distance from ‘feminine identity’ or suspicion thereof. This theme included performative disavowal, disapproval and distain for culturally stereotyped ‘feminine’ traits (i.e., emotion, irrationality, lack of physical potency, empathy etc). There were also

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performative efforts at disclaiming feminine status prior to attempting to bring response to questions. These masculine caveats, and there were many, came in both explicit and implicit modes. Typical examples included: This sounds really ‘girly’… but I’m going to sound like my girlfriend/wife/mother… but I don’t want you guys to think I’m soft… but I guess I don’t explain these things well, women are better at talking about feelings… I usually leave that sort of thing up to my girlfriend/wife/mother We (guys) don’t usually talk about that stuff much - it’s a ‘chick thing’ really I know this might sound ‘soft’… but I don’t usually think about that sort of thing ….but

One particular interviewee, Marcus, was particularly difficult to interview because he felt an apparent need to establish and promote a rugged masculine status at each and every opportunity. His performative assertions were occasionally quite forceful (loud, overlyexpressive, emphatic and sustained) and were often repetitive and/or redundant. Handling this politely became more and more of a problem as the interview stalled time and time again on his apparent belief that, for any discussion about his own ‘masculinity’ to proceed, he first had to prove to me, beyond all doubt, that he was thoroughly and unquestionably male. This made the interview difficult to get started and caused stuttering throughout.

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Another trend in discussions of male interview performativity is the salience of embellished interviewee performances of heterosexuality. This line of performativity featured in my interview sessions. According to the literature, the key contributor is a gender mismatch between interviewer and interviewee(s) (i.e., Easterday, Papademas, Schorr & Valentine, 1977; Eagly & Carli, 1981, Turner and Martin, 1984; Reinharz, 1992, Sprague, 2005). In particular, intense episodes of heterosexual performativity have typically been linked to gender ‘mismatches’ involving women interviewing men. This is especially problematic when it damages interviewee/interviewer relations and/or compromise studies. My experience was that gender symmetry had no apparent mitigating effect on heterosexual performativity and, at times, may actually have intensified the performances. Herod (1993) addresses such seemingly inconsistent experiences, suggesting that “gender relations do not do not simply vanish merely because interviewer and interviewee are of the same sex. Rather, they continue to contour behavior and personal interactions, albeit perhaps in different ways” (p. 308). As an example of these different ways in which male-male gender matches may produce performativity in interviews, Aries (1976) suggests that “the interpersonal styles of men and women are different in . . . single sex and mixed group settings” (p. 11), and where men interview men they may tend to respond to each other in more aggressive, competitive, dramatic and far-fetched bouts of performativity, then when in the mixed company of women. Two of my respondents, Kevin and Wayne, framed their own masculinity opinions/confessions in predictable and stereotyped frames of heterosexual desire and

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performativity focused often upon their projection of ‘indisputable’ and ‘undeniable’ heterosexuality. In my interpretation, these performances were aimed at two audiences: themselves and the other interviewees. Again the performativity seemed to serve primarily as defensive ‘disclaimers’ against the loathsome threat of being ‘feminized’ in the company of other men (Halberstam, 1998), rather than authentic, empowered or reflexive assertions of ‘masculine’ self-identity.

Performativity: dominance/submission The final theme of masculine performativity I noted during my interviews revolved around attempts by interviewees to position themselves hierarchically in regards to other interviewees and myself. This is less commented upon in the literature, although it has been associated with men attempting to assert their status, power, knowledge, heterosexual status etc… during interviewees (Aries, 1976; Pini, 2005). I conceived of this theme because certain interviewees seemed to desire an ‘alpha’ status, as the individual to whom the other participants deferred. Typically these largely verbal and intellectual performative struggles of dominance and submission were more notable in the group interviews (amongst interviewees and excluding me as interviewer), but I did encounter some fleeting periods of dominance/submission struggle in my one-on-one interviews. Where the participants (including perhaps myself at times) struggled for position in the group, the motive seemed to be a simple matter of claiming the alpha position in the face of multiple ‘opponents’ which tended towards relatively aggressive and

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proactive dominance behaviors. To read more into these episodes would require further study and more group interviewing. In regards to the one-one-one interviews however, I often felt a distinct sense that many of the men I interviewed were wary of my knowledge about masculinities and suspicious of my motives for interviewing them. For some of the men, these factors put them on the defensive from the beginning of our interactions, and for others the defensiveness and suspicion built as the interviews progressed. Either way, this underlying distrust or wariness occasionally manifested in attempts by interviewees to assert their dominance over me in the one-on-one contexts, albeit in less overt or forceful manners than the dominance behaviors evident amongst interviewees in the group contexts.

Dealing with performativity: Strategies and Reflections During the interviewing process I contemplated three general strategies for dealing with problematic forms of male interviewee performativity. Firstly, I could have pointed out the insecurities of interviewees or directly challenged defensive disclaimers by interviewees in order to ‘penetrate’ their performativity. As a second option, I could have simply let interviewees ‘run out’ their performative repertoires in the hopes they would eventually satisfy/insulate their egos and might then engage with me in a frank and free manner. Finally, I often considered whether I could get to the information I sought by evading their defensive ‘gate keeping’ by slipping in the ‘back door’, somehow devising a clever and subtle approach to trick them into answering my questions. Of course, none of these strategies were optimal, and never will be. The first and third options are abhorrent from the point of view of ethical interviewee treatment, which

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is one of the core feminist interviewing tenets I have built my approach upon. As for the second, this might only function as a desperate ‘last resort’. While I am still unable to identify any specific solutions, I have come to some useful understandings that may spur the development of some solutions at a later date. Had I become more assertive and chipped away at the performative veneers, it is likely I might have encouraged even more performative (defensive and/or offensive) responses from the interviewees. At worst under this approach, interviews could have broken down altogether, possibly to the point of confrontation or to interviewees walking out. Similar outcomes may have occurred if I were to attempt to ‘outwit’ interviewees through means of deception and manipulation. As for falling back upon the second stratagem (being patient and hoping the performativity passes) this may have introduced other problems it is passive-aggressive strategy and requires the interviewer to become hands-off, leaving the interview outcomes largely to chance. It also presents a problem in that a good deal of time would be wasted waiting, and hoping, for the performativity to dissipate (time being a precious and limited resource in most interview contexts). Also, in my experience, problematic strains of masculine performativity were more evident in the group contexts, wherein there is definite potential for masculine performativity to have a ‘snowballing’ effect. I suggest that researchers working with men should be extra careful in group interviewing, in order that a problematic episode of masculine performativity does not lead to a scenario where multiple respondents are problematically performative simultaneously. This could easily lead to interpersonal conflicts amongst interviewees and may also draw the interviewer into the conflict when he/she attempts to intervene. At the very least, it would leave the interviewer struggling

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As a final point, despite widespread feminist claims that male on male interviewing does not generate performative minefields as significant as those in asymmetrical gender interviews, my experience, albeit across a relatively small number of interviews, gives some support to Herod’s (1993) claims that gender mismatch in interviewing is often over-generalized and/or over-simplified. At times (especially in regards to heterosexual performativity) the gender symmetry in my interviews actually seemed to exacerbate the magnitude of performativity, rather than to mitigate it. The literature had not prepared me for this. It seems to me that the particulars of gender symmetry in interviewing contexts, essentially requiring a re-direction (or expansion) of the popular ‘gender issue’, is contingent are requires further exploration on the part of interview methodologists and feminist.

Conclusion
In this paper I discussed my reflections upon various interviewing methodologies. I focused largely on feminist theories, their discussions around issues of interview power dynamics and interviewee performativity. It was my aim to conduct practical explorations that put to the ‘test’ some key methodological issues covered in the feminist literature. Of particular interest to me was the application of certain feminist interviewing theories, largely built around the context gender of women interviewing men, to a gender symmetrical context, in this case male-male. All things considered, my interviewing experiences largely confirmed the literature.

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In regards to the first of my foci, power dynamics in interviewing, my experiences of the male-male gender context proved consistent with the literature which identifies this as less problematic than mixed gender contexts. Although power dynamics still came into play during my interviews, the episodes were relatively few and fairly minor. While I did not interview any women, I am inclined to agree that same-gender interviewing is likely to be less problematic for interviewers in terms of the interpersonal power dynamics. I found that the feminist stratagems for managing interview power dynamics (such as the interviewee empowerment and participatory interviewing approaches) were, generally speaking, highly effective as preventative measures and/or counteracting influences. In regards to the second theme, male interviewees and potential problems born of ‘macho’ performativity, my experiences were again consistent with the literature. My interviews uncovered a good deal of what I interpreted as masculine performativity, typically regarding interviewee attempts to build and/or enforce distance/differentiation from women, the projecting of robust heterosexual orientations and performative efforts to establish dominance over one another and/or me (as interviewer). The literature identifies all of these topics as potentially problematic. As with the literature, I also found that the performance of these largely stereotyped elements of masculinity were often repetitive and resulted in the loss of considerable portions of precious interview time. This was especially so in the group situations, where performative displays would sometimes ‘snowball’. However, not all my experiences conformed to the literature. Firstly, my study noted an ethical paradox regarding feminist approaches to managing interview power dynamics. Also, despite typical feminist advice, my findings give some support to the

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need for selectively shifting into a directive and authoritative ‘boss’ role during interviews, as a contingency at the very least. Finally, I uncovered two notable points of disagreement regarding male-male interviewing and interviewee performativity, specifically regarding dominance behaviors and heterosexual performativity. While some researchers have tackled these problems, the literature on interviewing and gender factors (feminist or otherwise) has not sufficiently addressed male-male interviewing. Further specific methodological research might aid in building insights and developing preventative or counteractive strategies for dealing with potentially problematic outcomes in male-male interviewing, a domain currently lacking in specific, contextualized material.

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