Is domestic violence gender-based violence? Two

11 Feb

language-matters-85837543Yesterday’s post on whether or not domestic violence should be framed as gender based violence caused some discussion, which is excellent, these discussions must be had, disagreement and all, if we are to ever find ways to deal with the awful cost of intimate violence.

One tweet that particularly impressed itself on me is this one from Margaret Foley:

It refers to the “king hitting” of one brother by another, in a public place. As is pointed out, this is not described  as family violence or domestic violence, but why not?

I also received some tweets from a man who thought I was suggesting that the LGBTI community consists of people without gender, a reading of the blog I find bizarre on a number of fronts. Gender is a role, a performance, and it is the aim of some in the community to challenge the performance of traditional gender roles, for example Norrie, who succeeded in having a non-gender specific category legalised for use on official forms. Assuming that same-sex couples emulate heterosexual gender role stereotypes is homophobic.

My fear, shared by others, is that using the terms domestic and gender with regard to violence may actually work against women, because of the perception those terms immediately create about the nature and seriousness, or lack thereof, of violence perpetrated against us. I am willing to relinquish the right to have violence against me described as gendered and domestic, if it will go some way towards changing perceptions about that violence so that it is regarded as just as serious and criminal as any other form of violence, such as a bro king hitting a bro.

I speak with some authority on this matter. I survived horrific violence in my family of origin, violence of the kind that has left me with life-long post traumatic stress disorder. I do not want that violence diminished by language. The violence I experienced was violence in the home, perpetrated by a man against a woman and her child. The cultural connotations of both domestic and gender-based diminish what happened to me, and I have yet to see an argument that convinces me that they don’t. They shouldn’t, but they do.

We can either struggle to change society’s perception of these terms, or we can struggle to have violence recognised as criminal no matter what the circumstances in which it is perpetrated. At this point I would choose the latter, as the situation is far too grave to wait for public perceptions around the domestic and the gender-based to change. It is violence. It is a crime. When you are a victim and a survivor of violent crime, any language that diminishes your experience is not a language you want to use and hear used, even though it is theoretically accurate.


32 Responses to “Is domestic violence gender-based violence? Two”

  1. PaulS February 12, 2015 at 1:27 am #

    Its a can of worms isn’t it?
    Bruises and black eyes are obvious and look like violence, the assault laws should be used, but how can anyone even think that there’s something to put a label on and prosecute when its psychological stuff. Hammer blows to your self esteem can’t be photographed and used in court.

    The language has got political, “violence against women”, “Australia says no” more three word slogans, its assault, we have laws against assault just use them.
    Damned if I know if that’s the answer though, if the harsh penalties they are talking about now had been in place 20 years ago I would have been in the slammer in a flash. Completely innocent but locked up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. paul walter February 12, 2015 at 6:27 am #

    It’s actually an astute post. Nothing in my experience could compare to what some other people have suffered…I must remember it.

    Paul’s good times are changing, but it’s only happening slowly.
    It’s good shit to grow out of as far as we are concerned, not least because in the end we have to live with ourselves also.

    Karma bites

    Liked by 1 person

    • PaulS February 12, 2015 at 8:21 am #

      Times are changing but I think its hard for legislators and society to get their heads around really what the problem is. Hell, I am a victim and I have trouble.
      We have come a long way already but the conversation and the language used must be carefully crafted. The present conversation is necessary but is heavy handed and one sided, lets hope it is helping battered women, I sure can’t see how it would be helping a lot of people who are battered but aren’t women.

      Liked by 1 person

    • helvityni February 12, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      I abhor any violence, family/gender/race/brotherly/sisterly…

      I think we ought to start behaving better altogether, in public, in private…

      Our teenagers are killing themselves because of cyber bullying….

      What’s happening? Asylum seekers are killed on hellhole islands and we shrug our shoulders. Our PM gets excited only when he can start talking about ‘death cults’…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 9:20 am #

        The PM has no capacity at all for facing up to the violence and distress in our own society. Which is what a government and its leader is supposed to do, I always thought…

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter February 12, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

          No, he is not neutral.. like the tea party types, there is a sadistic trait running beneath the surface..a sickening trait.


  3. Jo Tamar February 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    delurking … with a long comment …

    Towards the end of this post you say:

    We can either struggle to change society’s perception of these terms, or we can struggle to have violence recognised as criminal no matter what the circumstances in which it is perpetrated. At this point I would choose the latter …

    I absolutely agree with this, and I also think some of the advertising is highly suspect, particularly in the way it seems to play on and in fact reinforce some stereotypical gender roles. BUT I’m not sure it is a completely either/or thing in terms of recognising the gender aspect of (what is presently referred to as) domestic or family violence.

    Because the fact is that there IS a gender aspect to it. It is not ONLY about gender, but in many cases, gender is often a significant factor. Even if you accept that female-to-male violence is under-reported by an order of magnitude greater than male-to-female violence, and the data are not there but for the purposes of this argument I’m willing to take it on board, a majority of the ongoing, sustained domestic/relationship violence is by men against female partners and/or children. And there are reasons for this. I blame the patriarchy, but in summary:

    – the stories about gender roles we are all told and sold reinforce “strong man, weak woman does what he wants”
    – women still earn less as a rule, and money can be a big factor in whether or not you can get away
    – physical size does matter in some cases
    – men’s voices are, as a general rule, more listened to by society, so when a man says “nobody will believe you” it is very easy for a woman to accept that as true
    – women are somewhat more vulnerable to pregnancy
    – once children are born, women are more likely to take time off work, making it easier for them to be isolated from adult company and also making it harder for them to get away (on the assumption they would want to take the children) – this also can contribute significantly to the money issue

    OF COURSE, not all of these apply in every case, and in some cases none will be relevant, and I’m sure I’ve missed some out, but to a large extent, these are reflective of society’s approach to gender dynamics and, given the statistics, it is difficult to believe that such factors are not playing some part in the greater incidence of women as victims, rather than perpetrators.

    So while I would whole-heartedly support a less gendered approach to the issue of domestic/family violence or whatever it ends up being called, because I agree that the highly gendered approach we have now causes real problems, I think it is absolutely essential to address gender aspects in some way. It may be that the best way to do so is as part of a broader approach to gender questions and assumptions in society, but nevertheless, it is not something we should completely forget or overlook when talking about this kind of violence.

    PS: the highly gendered approach can certainly cause real difficulties for victims of violence within a same-sex relationship where the “more butch” partner is subjected to violence by the “more femme” partner (or however you want to describe, I’m using scare quotes to indicate that I am just trying to tap into a huge generalisation here). I have seen such a situation, and the victim of the violence was not believed because sie was the “more butch” partner and so was “obviously” able to protect hirself. ie similar to where a man in an opposite-sex relationship is disbelieved about his female partner’s violence towards him. In other words, we can also blame the patriarchy for a number of other things in this area, including:

    – disbelief of men who report violence against them by female partners
    – under-reporting of violence against men by women, leading to a significant lack of understanding about such violence as a phenomenon
    – difficulty with conceptualising/understanding how to deal with violence within same-sex relationships

    Liked by 2 people

    • doug quixote February 12, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      Add in that men have a surfeit of testosterone and are more inclined to a physical response, both by nature and nurture.

      I liked your phrase “women are somewhat more vulnerable to pregnancy”. Was it deliberate, Jo?

      I don’t think anyone doubts that most violent abuse, at any rate, is perpetrated by men upon women.

      I may be overly optimistic, but I think recent campaigns and the education of the populace over recent decades is having a good effect in reducing violent abuse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

        I fear you are a tad over-optimistic, DQ.


      • Jo Tamar February 12, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

        re “somewhat more pregnant” – yes, deliberate 🙂

        Partly tongue-in-cheek (since if we are talking about a very hetero-normative relationship the division in this regard is clear); partly trying to avoid getting trapped in the gender binary myself – trans* men can get pregnant too – although as soon as you add in trans*-ness or any kind of departure from the gender binary or norm, you again meet problems with the highly gendered analysis of all of this.


    • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

      Oh, that is a wonderful post, Jo, thank you for engaging so fully.

      You’ve expanded beautifully on my thread starter, and I don’t think there’s anything I disagree with you on.

      We walk such a fine line with this gender thing, and it so quickly turns against us and yet as you say, of course it is a factor and can’t be dismissed.

      I think we need to break out of the male/female gender binary, that would be a start, and that is why Norrie is one of the very few people I deeply

      And I’d also say that power and control are the underlying factors in violence of all kinds, and perhaps in human relations struggles in general. Gender roles are an expression of those factors, almost like symptoms. I think the struggle for power and control underlies gender inequality in the workplace, for example, and just about everywhere else I look.


      • Jo Tamar February 12, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

        I think we need to break out of the male/female gender binary, that would be a start, and that is why Norrie is one of the very few people I deeply


        And yes regarding power and control and relationship to gender roles and all of this being EVERYWHERE.

        See also this post at McSweeney’s:

        (hat tip Feministe – Caperton, I think – there has also been an interesting discussion at Feministe recently on a post by EG, to do with domestic/family violence/abuse, and some of these issues come up there too, but the thread goes in quite a different direction so I won’t link it directly)


    • paul walter February 12, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

      “women are somewhat more vulnerable to pregnancy”.


      Or do I digress?

      I wonder if it (the broader issue) just a cultural binary.. Isnt evolution and biology ivolved, also?

      Without introducing another false opposítion, that of Marxism and Feminism, which inmore intelligent times were seen as complementary, can I suggest that part of what could be dislocation might arise from the evolving mode of production currently in place, amenable to a certain psychological or personality type rather than a conception of gender?

      You won’t get change unless it comes from the top and I don’t think the Murdoch (Bronwyn Bishop?) type mindset allows for it.

      Isn’t it more complex than just saying, “ït’s all men”, as if men on the whole were consciously aiming to oppress women, rather than just reacting, say, to nagging?


      • Jo Tamar February 12, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

        I’m not sure if Marxism is complementary to anything … 😉

        I agree the gender issue is not the only contributing factor. I don’t see anyone here saying “it’s all men” (in fact, I suspect this of being a straw man – or woman – as I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, and certainly not from a serious anti-violence advocate – although I do hear “men can and should do more”).

        I’m going to assume the use of the word “nagging” is bait; I’m not going to take it but if you really want an explanation of what is problematic with using it as a reason for anything, particularly in the context of violence and particularly when we are discussing gender, I might oblige. If I’m feeling nice. Might have to wait until later, though, and probably not in this thread.

        What I am saying is that gender, and societal/stereotypical gender roles, cannot be ignored as a factor in domestic/family violence (or whatever we want to call it), because, as a social issue in the real society in which we actually live, IT IS.

        That does not mean it is a factor in every case. It does not mean that if we managed somehow to get around the gender binary there would be no violence. It does not even mean that our approach should be solely or highly gendered.

        It DOES mean that, in the world we live in, addressing domestic/family violence AS A SOCIAL ISSUE (as opposed to in a particular case) probably can’t be done if we ignore gender completely.

        As for biology: there are very few things where there is a clear biological or genetic reason for the level of male/female differentiation we see amongst humans, and much less than with many other animals. With almost everything biological (that we can measure), there is a normal curve for women and a normal curve for men, which have different means, but which are hugely overlapping. This tends to tell us that differentiation between individuals tends to be because they are different individuals, rather than because one is male and one is female.

        Even hormonal profiles overlap more than you might think, although there is less overlap than with other biological features (which we can measure).

        So yes, there are some biological reasons for some differentiation. But those go a very small distance towards explaining the social differentiation we see in fact. We don’t actually know; from what I’ve seen in this regard, I suspect it is well under 10%, but that is a guess.

        Ergo, most of the gender differentiation in the society in which we currently live can be explained by social norms, not by biology.

        As for change: I agree it’s hard. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.


      • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 3:59 pm #



        • paul walter February 12, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

          Alright, verbally caressing with vigour.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 5:17 pm #



            • paul walter February 12, 2015 at 6:10 pm #


              Now I am off to find a blogsite somewhere willing to discuss the LibLab Shut senate down of information on the FTA, abetted by the press, for example.

              Many alleged left blogs won’t cover it, but I’ve read enough to understand that others worry about this underlying issue, rather than blind ally personalised stuff.

              Soon there will be a recession and violence will no doubt increase. But beyond reactively blaming “men”, none of you will ever have the remotest understanding of the real reasons why life deteriorates in our civilisation.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

                Reactively blaming is a euphemism for nagging? 🙂

                Come back and tell us what you find out about the LibLab shutdown


                • paul walter February 13, 2015 at 1:24 am #


                  All censored out and the Greens threatened with legal action if they make public what they know.

                  Would the unemployment spike do?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Jennifer Wilson February 13, 2015 at 6:34 am #

                    Honestly, the stealthily increasing silencing that is going on in this country.


                    • paul walter February 13, 2015 at 8:13 am #

                      Too late now.

                      I always thought Marilyn was too harsh on Gillard, but thinking on surveillance, Labor were as eager to pass security laws as the Tories and before her, Rudd did big damage to the ABC for not having the guts to take on Maurice Newman and the other IPA cranks.

                      Insomnia means I get to read stuff like an article from last year in the Guardian, whereby Brandis had it that the authorities were empowered to release malware into people’s computers.

                      At another level, there is MSM, dumbed down and turned into little better than devices for proliferation of propaganda.
                      It breaks the writer’s heart, to see how bad some ABC news current affairs has got, particularly on 24, btw… the Drum is a castrate of what it should be.

                      If cultural change is the answer to interpersonal violence, I can’t see much hope for the future the way things go at this time.

                      Liked by 1 person

  4. Michaela Tschudi February 12, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    After reading all this so late in the day, I wonder whether there’s a need for a media protocol about reporting of violence of any sort, just as we have for reporting on mental health issues? If we are to “change society’s perception of these terms” as Jennifer says, we need to look at the tools we have available. Just thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 12, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

      That is an excellent idea. It actually worked with the describing of asylum seekers as “Illegal”, I think the Press Council made a ruling, however it didn’t stop Paul Sheehan and the PC is toothless most of the time, so there’s that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. paul walter February 12, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    ” I’m not sure Marxism is complementary to anything”- Jo Tamar, (et al).

    The magnitude of that confession is beyond your graps and almost beyond mine.

    Stay in your woolly Matrix, you will never even begin to understand why society is the way it is, at least not on the basis of that mindset..


    Now, back to my Eagleton, desconstructing pomo waffle.


  6. hudsongodfrey February 13, 2015 at 12:38 am #

    If you deconstruct the reasons for saying men should be less violent then I hope you’ll find the objections are mostly to violence and not to men.

    Once you get that out of the way there is I imagine some discussion of priorities to be had around whether we get rid of warfare between nations before or after battlegrounds on the homefront are finally abandoned. Let’s hope we can do more than one of these things simultaneously, or more specifically that real initiatives to do either might actually be taken seriously for a change. Because the task at hand does boil down to getting rid of violence.

    See I think the real question is whether we actually dare believe that the arc of progress will ever stretch far enough to eradicate violence completely.

    This may not be at its most relatable here, but for want of a better example post war cricketer Keith Miller once asked about the pressures of the game is quoted “pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing is not.” He had of course served in the RAAF, so in that sense his perspective was validated by the experience of war being comparatively more violent than the fast bowling of the bodyline tests.

    I think for most of us who’re lucky enough to live in a world that spares us from the brutalities of either Islamic State or Guantanamo bullying looms larger as a challenge to eradicate than some would argue it has much right to. Nor is it to scoff and “first world problems” that I’d commend to you Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature, which argues that in the grander scheme of things the arc drawn from Ancient Egypt to Modern Western societies will show every form of violence has considerably diminished.

    I think we’re challenged to imagine the conversation in the reverse of what Millers’ example seems to endorse.

    When we actually come to the point of arguing seriously against the unconscionable torment of nagging I can only assume we’ll have progressed some way beyond current expectations. The real question is whether understanding that perspectives can and will need to change we actually believe in and embrace a less violence future. Because that may well be how the language changes when the conversation moves beyond the assumption that violence is ingrained as a natural inevitability or a facet of sexual politics in which men’s “deficiency” manifests.


    • paul walter February 13, 2015 at 2:20 am #

      Ok, you are probably right. I just think a lot of stuff is personalised and really, its not my fault and there is little I can do about it.

      If I could wave a wand, there would be no poverty no violence and all the rest..

      if I bút could..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson February 13, 2015 at 6:25 am #

      Re you first para, Hudson, the objection is to violence that is perpetrated in intimate relationships. While this is sometimes inflicted on men and children by women, overwhelmingly it’s men inflicting violence on women and children that is causing the most harm, and the most deaths. As you know, I’m not in favour of objecting to men in general, but I am hard-pressed to desire friendship with men and women who beat up and are otherwise violent to family or anyone else.

      I don’t agree with the relativity argument when it comes to violence – no, we aren’t living in a repressive regime, (yet) that doesn’t invalidate the oppressions and violences endured by many. in this country.

      Of course there is a hierarchy of violence and suffering, but so what? The child tormented half to death online isn’t going feel or be any better if you tell her she’s lucky she hasn’t been raped by Islamic State terrorists.

      As we aren’t living in such a regime, it’s probably our responsibility to address the question of violence, as only someone who is not actually experiencing it has the emotional and physical wherewithal to consider it, rather than expend all their energy surviving its immediate and long-term effects.

      I don’t think I’ve ever thought in terms of “men’s deficiencies,” being viscerally offended by the use of stereotypes at any time. Intimate violence occurs in a context of a culture that predominantly perceives women as inferior. Unless we are women of calibre, as defined by that tireless fighter for equality and Minister for Women, Tony Abbott.


      • hudsongodfrey February 13, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

        What I was trying to get at was that the motives or excuses for violence don’t change the inherent wrongness of violence regardless of either the target, the perpetrator or the setting.

        The rest was just an attempt, not to argue relativity, but to preempt what I expect some might say imagining accusations some might level against creating a namby-pamby politically correct, nanny state post violent future society. That is to say, that while my examples aren’t meant to be much more than thought exercises, I am putting forward the possibility that the only way we get rid of domestic violence takes the form of the longer trend away from all violence because I think they’re all linked to the same selfish impulse to dominate using brute force.

        So I’m very interested when you say there’s a hierarchy of violence. To clarify, while I agree we can order violence actions by the relative severity of their consequences, I think the impulse to anger or to egotistical selfishness is more or less constant. By which I simply mean that whether its powerful individuals acting to devastate nations or pathetic brutes making mountains out of molehills on the domestic front each who is moved to act on a violent impulse does so using around the same amount of errant grey matter.

        If the grey matter is genetically predestined in alignment with gender, as often seems to be the case, then I’m as far as I can be from rejecting the diagnosis. But if there are socially nurtured or personal/political implications then the only way I can find to think about it in line with gender equality must apply more or less equally to everyone.

        All of which (I hope this isn’t mansplaining), was how I came to my emphasis on overall violence as a trend etc, having read and been impressed by Pinker’s book, and thinking there’s less we can do about our genetics than there is by thinking about equality.

        You may in that sense take it as read that I think the culture has to change, and change away from the kinds of attitudes the likes of Abbott project. If I can simply say he projects too much brutality for me, and I’m a bloke, then maybe that offers all the insight people needed.

        In so saying I guess I’m also predicting that while we don’t find ourselves living in the IS exemplar most violent regime, we will possibly nonetheless look back upon this era as the bad old days of domestic violence at some future juncture.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson February 13, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

          No, it’s not mansplaining, HG!

          I agree with your first para.

          I think I meant more accurately a hierarchy of suffering, rather than a hierarchy of violence.

          My mind is rather full of the young men who will be shot soon, victims of state violence, and the worst kind of murder.


          • hudsongodfrey February 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

            Forgive me for not thinking of others enough, when it came to acknowledging any hierarchy of violence has an hierarchy of suffering for company. Truth be known our capacity for empathy with others is probably our best chance of improving the situation.

            This state sanctioned murder is a miserable business, made worse by the fact I’ve been unable to convince some close friends to change their minds on the matter.

            When one of our better allies turns out to be Alan Jones then things are really getting weird.

            I feel dreadful for these young men and their families, even while I fully acknowledge they committed serious crimes. But thinking as I do on the subject of violence I’m even more deeply appalled that there are 60 or so other people on this conveyor belt towards a brutal end that can never in any right thinking person’s mind be called justice.

            It’s something else, quite unjust, ego driven, small minded and horrible. A weak man trying project a credible threat!

            Better leaders would rise above it. And in this country’s case also be less hypocritical than to place children in mandatory detention.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson February 14, 2015 at 6:17 am #

              One of the things that amazes me is the capacity of human beings to forgive. It seems to me the most astonishing ability we have, and the one that can conquer violence.

              But it is as if it has to be learned, or nurtured, and it has little value in political discourse, and it is so easily distorted and dumbed down, and it is essentially so quiet a thing, drowned out by the noisy ego and self entitlement.

              I don’t know what is to be done. All I have is a voice…

              Liked by 1 person

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