The Role Of Patriarchy In Domestic Violence by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

© 2002 Equal Justice Foundation


 

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| Chapter 8 — Domestic Violence And The Patriarchy |

| Next — Blame it on the patriarchy by Carey Roberts |


 

patriarchy: 1. a form of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe and descent is reckoned in the male line, with the children belonging to the father's clan or tribe. 2. a society, community, or country based on this social organization.


 

The feminist viewpoint

Gloria Steinem has asserted that "The patriarchy requires violence or the subliminal threat of violence in order to maintain itself...The most dangerous situation for a woman is not an unknown man in the street, or even the enemy in wartime, but a husband or lover in the isolation of their own home."

Feminist analysis thus states that a patriarchal society is a direct cause of domestic violence against women.

Steinem's theory rests on such works as Robert Burns' 1788 poem:

 

The Henpecked Husband

Curs'd be the man, the poorest wretch in life,

The crouching vassal to a tyrant wife!

Who has no will but by her high permission,

Who has not sixpence but in her possession;

Who must to her, his dear friend's secrets tell,

Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell.

Were such the wife had fallen to my part,

I'd break her spirit or I'd break her heart;

I'd charm her with the magic of a switch,

I'd kiss her maids, and kick the perverse bitch.

Feminist theory thus renders the idea of therapy for men who assault their female partners as implausible because such behavior is "normal" in a patriarchal society. That unproven feminist theory has been translated into laws that forbid mediation in cases where domestic violence is alleged and require the forced separation of the man and woman regardless of their desires.

Men who abuse their mates, the theory goes, act violently not because they as individuals can't control their impulses, and not because they are thugs, or drunks, or particularly troubled people, but because such behavior is inherent in a patriarchy. Domestic abuse, in feminist eyes, is an essential element of the vast male conspiracy to suppress and subordinate women. To keep men from abusing women they must be taught to see the errors of the patriarchy and to renounce them.

Patricia Pearson (p. 132) points out:

That men have used a patriarchal vocabulary to account for themselves doesn't mean that patriarchy causes their violence, any more than being patriarchs prevents them from being victimized. Studies of male batterers have failed to confirm that these men are more conservative or sexist about marriage than nonviolent men. To the contrary, some of the highest rates of violence are found in the least orthodox partnerships — dating or cohabiting lovers.

In short, correlation does not imply causation, a fundamental theorem of statistics. Yet on the basis of this fundamental error, a multibillion dollar domestic violence industry has arisen to the detriment of families and civilization.


 

More objective viewpoints

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Dutton has examined the patriarch theory and rejects it for the following reasons:

• Battering in lesbian couples is much more frequent than heterosexual battering and lesbian relationships are significantly more violent than gay relationships.

• There is no direct correlation between how power is shared in a relationship and violence within couples.

• There is no direct relationship between structural patriarchy and wife assault.

Research to date indicates abuse and violence occurs in upwards of 50% of lesbian relationships compared to around 10-20% in other types of relationships. That would certainly not be true if domestic violence were in any way related to a patriarchal society.

There is evidence from a variety of sources that women are more violent in a domestic setting while men wage war globally. The Revs. Sewell point out in their recent report that:

"We think it is important to note that there have been the same kind of studies done in many countries. There is cross-cultural verification that women are more violent than men in family settings. When behavior has cross-cultural verification it means that it is part of human nature rather than a result of cultural conditioning. Females are most often the perpetrators in spousal violence in most cultures that have been studied to date. That leads many professionals to conclude that there is something biological about violent females in family situations. Researchers are now exploring the role of the 'territorial imperative' as a factor in women's violence against men. Women see the home as their territory. Like many other species on the planet, we humans will ignore size difference when we experience conflict on our own territory. So, the scientific results that reveal the violence of American women are not unique to our culture, and do not indicate a special pathology among American women. World wide, women are more violent than men in family settings."

Susan Steinmetz, Ph.D., a leading researcher in the field of family violence, has done a cross-cultural comparison of marital abuse. Using a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS), she examined marital violence in small samples from six societies: Finland, United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Israel. Her results suggest that "...in each society the percentage of husbands who used violence was similar to the percentage of violent wives." The major exception was Puerto Rico where men were more violent. She also found that: "Wives who used violence...tended to use greater amounts."

A 1988 survey of couples in Canada by Brinkerhoff and Lupri found the same pattern. They examined interspousal violence in a representative sample of 562 couples in Calgary, Canada. They used the standard Conflict Tactics Scale and found twice as much severe violence where females assaulted males, 11%, as male assaulting female, 5%. The overall violence ratio for men was 10% while the overall violence ratio for women was 13%. Their study found significantly higher violence in younger and childless couples, and that male violence decreased with higher educational attainment while female violence increased.

As she did with many issues, Erin Pizzey recognized very early that domestic violence had nothing to do with the patriarchy. In her book Prone to Violence, she compares violent men from the patriarchal society of Nigeria and the matriarchal society of West India and finds no basic differences. She has also argued that the feminist movement's intent is to destroy families as we know them.

The cross-cultural studies referenced above yielded results very similar to family violence studies done in the United States and other nations.

Conversely, there is considerable evidence that the feminist matriarchy has had considerable negative influence on domestic tranquility in the form of draconian Big Sister laws that forcefully separate men and women and are destroying families regardless of the individuals wishes.

We are not aware of any matriarchal society that has independently developed beyond the Stone Age. While such societies readily use technology borrowed from patriarchal neighbors, if left alone matriarchal enclaves appear to quickly revert back to a Stone Age level. Haiti, and any inner city ghetto, would be modern examples.


 
The studies referenced find no evidence that a patriarchal society has any direct influence on family violence.
Are we the only ones who regard the present unsubstantiated, radical social engineering based on destruction of the patriarchy as extremely dangerous?
Are the lessons of the previous century so quickly forgotten?
Perhaps George Orwell's 1984 was simply premature and it is really a matriarchal Big Sister that is our danger?

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| Domestic Violence Book | DV Site Map | Data tables | DV bibliography | DV index |

 

| Chapter 8 — Domestic Violence And The Patriarchy |

| Next — Blame it on the patriarchy by Carey Roberts |


 

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Last modified 5/16/18