Discourses of ‘Toxic’ Friendship: Rethinking the Everyday Realities of Friendship

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:30
Oral Presentation
Jenny VAN HOOFF, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Kinneret LAHAD, NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program, Tel-Aviv University, Israel
Recently there has been a great deal of media attention given over to the phenomena of ‘toxic’ friendship. This paper aims to critically explore this discourse as a significant lens through which to view the everyday tensions and affects of close friendships. By problematizing the assumed practices and unmet expectations of friendship we argue that there is a missing formal institutionalized script for addressing friendship issues or difficulties. To a certain extent, the media’s growing interest in toxic friendships reflects this problematic. Our analysis also shows that the new category of ‘toxic’ friendship builds upon the ideal of neoliberal entrepreneurial self, which takes control of its fate and benefits from practices of self-knowledge ( Rose 1990; 1998).We thus claim that the recurring advice to end toxic relationships reflects a ‘hierarchy of intimacy’ (Budgeon 2006) in which one’s partner and family of origin take precedence and are worth “investing” in.

As such, these discourses offer reductive, disposable approach to friendship ties that attempts to design out the complexities and ambivalences of what can be a challenging relationship. By looking at the silences, the miscommunications, the stuckness and bewilderment, which characterize these relationships our analysis emphasizes the need to look beyond these popular representations of friendships. In this way, the paper contributes to existing critical friendship literature (Smart et al 2012; Mallory and Carlson 2014; Finn 2015) to provide a significant contribution to the conceptualization of friendships and personal life