New article ‘Challenging Unequal Gendered Conventions in Heterosexual Relationship Contexts through Affective Dissonance’ from Raisa Jurva and Annukka Lahti is out in NORA-Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 27(4)
In Nordic countries, intimate relationships are routinely compared against ideals of gender equality, even though equality is not always achieved in everyday life. In this article, we analyse interviews with women that lived in unconventional relationships: mid- to later-life women in relationships with younger men, and bisexual women who have had relationships with people of different genders. The women’s expectations of equality and reciprocity in heterosexual relationships collided with the lived reality of inequalities, causing affective dissonance. We identify three strategies that women use to deal with this affective dissonance. In the first strategy, unequal relationship patterns are rejected and displaced onto other people’s relationships. In the second strategy, interviewees legitimize the unequal situations in their own relationship by utilizing culturally available interpretative frameworks that circulate notions about gender and couple relationships. Both strategies provide a means for dealing with the unpleasant affective dissonance, but they make it difficult to demand change in the relationship. In the third strategy, the annoyance and hurt caused by inequality are not explained away. Confronting affective dissonance has politicizing potential: it allows women to actively challenge the inequalities in their relationships.