In what ways is femininity significant in women’s experiences of violence? Discuss, referring to at least 10 academic books/articles in your response.
Domestic violence has become an important issue investigated by sociologists in recent years. The heart of the debate concerns identifying risk factors, causes and correlates of this behavior. There are a variety of different focal points when studying this behavior. Domestic violence still remains a big problem in society as it has significant social costs. Feminist sociologists contend that the issues of gender and power are the ultimate root of intimate violence (Dobash & Dobash 1979). Other approaches that focus on the sociology of family suggest that patriarchy is just a small contributing factor out of a mix of many variables. Other perspectives have found using national survey methods have suggested a strong relationship between violence and ages, unemployment and socioeconomic status, which would argue that social structure plays a big part in the likelihood of violent behavior in the home. This essay will examine the extent in which femininity contributes to ways in which women experience domestic violence.
Before discussing domestic violence in further detail, it is important to define the behavior. In 2012 the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a new definition of domestic violence, one that extends to those aged 16-17 ‘Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse: Psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional’.
In 2009 /10 there were a total of 290 domestic violence cases in England and Wales, with 63% being female victims. A series of crime surveys suggest that over a 15-year period between 1995- 2010, the estimated numbers of incidents against both male and female victims decreased significantly (by about 70% overall). In 2009/10, the proportion of male victims also slightly increased based on the estimated numbers of incidents. (Dewar Research 2012) From these figures it shows that despite quite a significant decrease in the number of domestic violence cases in England and Wales the majority of victims are still females. When discussing the cause of these changes, sociologists who favour a feminist perspective would suggest that the increase in male victims shows the narrowing of the power gap of the patriarchy between men and women. From the women’s movement in the 1970s domestic violence being recognized as a public, not a private issue. Hague & Wilson (2000) discuss the period prior to 1970 where the structures of society made it hard for women to escape domestic violence. An example this is the difficulty of getting a divorce, which was very uncommon, it was only from the 70s when divorce became more common. Another example is the discrimination of women in employment as they had fewer employment opportunities and were largely forced into the labour sector. Looking at economic models they suggest that the decrease in domestic abuse towards women in the home is likely to be due to the fact women have more alternatives outside of their relationships. As attitudes have changed there are now hotlines, shelters and other physical and social support for women who suffer from abusive partners. Looking at social and economic explanations combined can also highlight how an increase in economic equality for men and women is influential. An example of this is the increase in education attainment, which has enabled women to be more self sufficient, giving them the power to leave an abusive relationship. There is a long standing argument over the gender symmetry of domestic violence this debate has shown sociologists the importance of identifying different types of violence....
References: Arias, I & Beach, S. (1987) Validity of self reports of marital violence. Journal of Family Violence, 2.
Anderson K. L. (1997) Gender, status and domestic violence: An integration of Feminist and Family Violence Approaches. Journal of Marriage and Family. Vol 59 (3)
Dewar Research (2012) Government Statistics on Domestic Violence
Gondolf, E. W. (1985). Men who batter: An integrated approach for stopping wide abuse. Holmes Beach, FL: Learning Publications
Johnson, M. P. (2000a). Conflict and control: Images of symmetry and asymmetry in domestic violence. In A. Booth, A. C. Crouter, & M. Clements (Eds.), Couples in conflict. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kernsmith P. (2005) Exerting power or striking back: A gendered comparison of motivations for domestic violence perpetration. Violence and Victims 20 (2)
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