Chapter 35.doc

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Women's and Gender Studies
Anissa Talahite- Moodley

CHAPTER 35: Husband Abuse: Equality with a Vengeance? − the husband-abuse argument runs counter to decades of feminist research, theory, and activism − one of the battered women's movement's key goals was the challenge the silence over woman abuse and decrease public tolerance of it − with the proliferation of 'husband abuse' discourse, feminist assumptions, research evidence, and claims – that women are more likely to be injured, that women are murdered at three times the rate of men, and that, when separated, they are eight times as likely to be killed – are under attack 1. A Case of Backlash: Male Victims and Female Abusers Rationale and Claims: Domestic Violence as Gender Neutral − the claim/myth that domestic violence is an equal-opportunity activity – that is, women are as violent as men, women initiate violence as often as men, and male victims are as likely to be harmed as female victims – is a striking example of feminist backlash − the creation of a 'female aggressor' to match male aggressors suggests mutual battering as well as even playing field inside and outside the family − in other words, Canada has a husband-battering problem, but it remains hidden because of cultural scripts that keep men silent and because powerful women's groups overstate male-against-female violence − we do not challenge the fact that some men are victimized in the context of intimate relationships, nor do we seek to minimize their suffering − rather, we assert that focusing on 'female aggressors' ignores the damaging violence men inflict on other men and on women, obscures who is doing what to whom, and undermines the ideological climate feminists struggle(d) to create, wherein instances of male domination, gender inequality, and systemic violence are called into question − although some men are emotionally, psychologically, or physically mistreated by their intimate partners, the bulk of the empirical evidence indicates that female partners are abused more frequently and suffer more serious injuries − but as articles in scholarly journals, newspaper reports, and websites prevent 'evidence' purportedly showing that husband abuse is a serious social problem, and as more and more stories of the plight of abused male victims attract disproportionate publicity, the 'problem' becomes more deeply entrenched into the public mind − because it is hard to find convincing evidence that male victims of abuse are numerous, or that they are trivialized, disbelieved, and considered an aberration not serious enough to require social intervention, alternative explanations must be considered − we suggest that the prominence of the social problem of husband abuse indicates something else – a counter-movement led by pro-men's rights groups and anti- feminist women's groups aimed at re-appropriating male power and privilege lost to second-wave feminism − in an attempt to reclaim lost ideological power, husband-abuse discourse denies that the familial home is patriarchal − gender parity validates gender-neutral policies that result in a focus on individual cases of violence, ignoring the systemic reality of male violence against women 2. Situating Husband Abuse: Analysis and Implications Removing Male Privilege – The Successes of Feminist Movements - to understand why Canada in particular has been so ready to accept claims that spousal abuse is gender neutral, we must go back to 1970 and examine not the failures of feminism but its real and enduring successes - over the past 35 years, feminists throughout the developed world have achieved remarkable victories, revolutionizing dominant institutions, laws, tolerance levels, and subjectivities - liberal feminists – predominantly middle-class, well-educated white women – became a force in law, academe, media, education, and professional and institutional life in Canada - thus much progress was made - women’s opportunities for jobs, education, benefits, affluence, and independence increased - so did women’s expectations of men, and their/our unwillingness to accept or excuse bad (male) behaviour - rape and domestic-assault laws were revised; policies banning sexual and workplace harassment became common - one predictable, indeed inevitable, response to this very successful bid for power was the emergence of resistance - voices in media and government began proclaiming that the pendulum had swung too far - men, it was claimed, were now the disadvantaged and oppressed sex Making Lives Harder – Dismantling the Welfare State - resistance and resentment were reinforced by concomitant economic changes, changes that destroyed much of the social safety net - starting in the 1980s, powerful economic elites persuaded state actions to embark on wide-ranging programs of neo-liberal ‘reform’ - working conditions deteriorated, job and wage cuts proliferated, and unemployment increased - in the public sector, privatization – ‘the amalgam of neoliberal and neoconservative strategies that marks the dismantling of welfare state’ – became the one-step solution for everything from inefficiency to deficits - out-sourcing and union-destroying ‘right to work’ laws began to appear - those still employed saw fewer benefits, lower wages, and longer hours of work - at the societal level, income inequality increased - throughout the 1990s, incomes grew exponentially for those at the top of the income distribution hierarchy, while those in the bottom quintiles suffered both real and relative declines - tax law, retirement income, immigration were ‘rethought’, and refashioned to fit neo-liberal priorities - while these policy shifts affected all men, women, and children, g
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