Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality

I was perusing through some articles over at The Spearhead, and I came across an article about the terms used in describing domestic violence perpetrated by men and by women. Apparently, according to someone named Lisa Larance, the founder of something called the RENEW program, men batter and women use force because only men use violence for long term control in a relationship. And apparently, according to Larance, women use violence to take “temporary control” of “chaotic or abusive or battering situations, rather than having the ability to effectively and truly coercivly control their partner.” She says so in a short radio interview available at the other end of this link.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not in favor of beating up women. But let’s be clear here. Larance is essentially excusing a double standard by basically claiming that women who “use force” are justified in doing so. She claims this distinction is necessary to understand the differences in motivations of individuals who engage in domestic violence. How does classifying domestic violence based on gender help anyone to understand the individual motivations? If you want to understand the individual motivations, then you have to assess it on a case by case, i.e. individual, basis and not classify by gender before you have even met the person involved.

The kind of reasoning Larance uses is just plain ol’ ridiculous. The way she explains her argument indicates, to me, that she thinks even when women “use force” they are still the victims. She claims men “batter” for long term control of the partner while women “use force” to gain control of a situation. I am sure some women do. But let’s be clear. Larance is expressing, indirectly, prejudice against men and in favor of women. Even if you think she is justified to do so, it still a double standard. Which is to say, hypocrisy.

An alcoholic who drinks a lot of whiskey is not going to stop being an alcoholic if you get him to start drinking a lot of rum instead. Gender inequality is not solved with more gender inequality. If the goal is getting men and women to treat each other as individuals and not according to cultural gender roles, then let’s treat them that way. Setting up women as some sort of perpetual victim class who never “batter” ain’t gonna get you there. And just because you can cover over uncomfortable truths with word games does not mean you should.

One Response to “Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality”

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