AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThis chapter addresses issues that arose from being a male researcher and art therapist conducting arts-based research with women who had experienced domestic violence and abuse. Engaging in such research required that I critically engage with issues of gender within the context of conducting research. Through the lens of one particular vignette taken from a larger study, this paper will engage with broader ideas about gender and the conducting of arts-based research and art therapy. Whilst this chapter will have relevance for those men engaged in research or art therapy that involves aspects of domestic violence and abuse, it will also have relevance to those who are interested in wider discussions to be had about the influence of gender upon relationships within therapy and research. This has always been a topic worthy of sustained investigation, but the contemporary emergence within public discourse about abuses of male privilege within various professions make this an especially important subject to attend to. Drawing upon the work of Sandra Harding (1998, 2004), Jeff Hearn (1998) and Ann Murphy (2012), I will explore how feminist standpoint theory and reflexivity helped to manage, and make sense of, the concerns and anxieties that arose whilst conducting research into violence against women. Anxieties about research becoming therapy merged with anxieties about being a male researcher working with women who had experienced domestic violence and abuse. Whilst this chapter does not aim to outline in depth what an arts-based research methodology looks like within the context of studying domestic violence and abuse, it begins by describing the methodology in enough detail to provide a context within which the nature of the research process can be appreciated. The findings of the research are presented in sufficient detail to allow the overall findings of the research to be understood. There then follows examples of words and images produced by one woman, who used her participation as a way of ensuring that she was seen clearly by myself and by other research participants. This aspect of wanting to be seen became an embodiment of the need to acknowledge my own standpoint and reflexive position as a male researcher. Evaluative comments about participation made by other women are used to show how vulnerability was a feature of taking part in this research for both participants and for me. The concept of vulnerability is examined with reference made to ideas about imagination and empathy from the perspective of feminist philosophy, which in turn helps to shape a discussion about the place of gender within research, art therapy, and the boundary between them. In keeping with the principles of feminist standpoint theory and strong objectivity, as set forth by Harding (1998), this chapter is written from a first-person perspective.
CitationBird, J. (2019) “The eye of the beholder”: encountering women’s experience of domestic violence and abuse as a male researcher and art therapist. In: Hogan, S. (ed.). Arts therapies and gender issues: International perspectives on research. London: Routledge, pp. 1-18.