Posts Tagged 'gender-based violence'

#MeToo and the underlying contradictions of patriarchy

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallBy Emma Williamson, Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence

Recent weeks have seen a deluge of allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, with the media scrambling to print stories from A-List celebrities: allegations, what they knew (or didn’t), or whether Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour is the tip of a toxic iceberg.

The original story discloses allegations stretching back three decades. What is clear from the subsequent coverage is that people knew: his company, his family, his colleagues and the media. In fact, the New York Times itself, has been accused of suppressing an article written by one of its own journalists, Sharon Waxman, in 2004.

weinstein

The account above is not new. If you replace Harvey Weinstein with Bill Cosby or Jimmy Savile (had he been identified before his death), the sense of entitlement and power is exactly the same. It is also the same in those everyday cases where neither the victim nor perpetrator is famous, and which the media rarely report. What unites all of these perpetrators/abusers is that, as Herman (1992) states, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain”. [Herman, Trauma and Recovery, 1992].

Following the allegations, there has been critique and soul searching from a range of sources. Donna Karan was roundly lambasted for suggesting that women in the movie industry who act in a certain way are probably ‘asking for it’.

“You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” 

We have also seen more subtle forms of victim blaming-shaming. The Daily Mail’s double page spread of female stars being snapped with Weinstein failed to recognise the power he had in the industry, and that it was that power to make or break an individual’s career which protected him.

Following the increasing number of allegations, Alyssa Milano initiated a #MeToo campaign. Her intention was for women who had experienced abuse to show solidarity with those who had come forward, and to show just how widespread such abuse is. The Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow applauded the movement. “The democratization of the spread of information can finally move faster than a powerful media mogul’s attempts to bury it,” she said by email.

It is important to recognise that #MeToo was originally a campaign launched by Tarana Burke, a Black American Women, in response to a lack of services for this group of victims of abuse. Identifying oneself in this way was intended to offer direct support to others in their network when statutory and other support was non-existent . This was framed as ‘empowerment through empathy’.

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”

The current #MeToo campaign arose from a desire for victims to show solidarity with those who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t feel able to come forward. The debates about this campaign however, illustrate the debates about misogyny itself. Some accuse the campaign of targeting women as responsible for naming the abuse.

Making the point that for many victims this in itself is harmful and distressing. Others, like Heather Jo Flores have stated that men need to do more .

“It shouldn’t fall to the victims, again, to have to keep speaking out. I’m not saying anybody should stop speaking out, just that I wish more people would start listening, because we are f*cking exhausted…… Until men speak out against men who abuse, this will never stop. How about y’all post “I ignored it and I won’t anymore” instead? Because #hearyou doesn’t cut it. Just hearing us doesn’t cut it. Taking action, speaking out, and showing zero tolerance for abuse is the only way through. Silence enables. Be the change.”

And here we come to the underlying contradictions of patriarchy. Perpetrators seek our silence by manipulation, threat, harm. Yet even when we break our silence, we still make them invisible by turning the focus yet again on the victims. Perhaps the most important thing we can remember, when the new scandal breaks, which it inevitably will, is captured by that sense of exhaustion Flores talks about.

“Men, it’s not our job to keep reminding you. Remind each other, and stop abusing. It’s as simple as that.”

 

jgbv_cover2_dw-1-smallDr Emma Williamson is a Reader in Gender-Based Violence at the University of Bristol and a Co-Editor of the Journal of Gender-Based Violence. The first issue of the Journal is now available online, and the editorial is free to read.

You may also be interested in the special issue of Families Relationships and Societies on Violence Against Women and Children in Diverse Contexts.

 

 

Image: Image credit: “Harvey Weinstein, Chairman, The Weinstein Company” is copyright (c) 2015 Thomas Hawk and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

Violence against women and children in diverse contexts: FRS special issue

FRS 2013 [FC]Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler, editors of the special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies, detail the content of the issue and explain why examining both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is essential.

“Violence against women and children is a global phenomenon but experiences of violence and abuse and their impact are shaped by local settings and factors specific to particular societies and communities.

This special issue of Families, Relationships and Societies explores varying forms of violence and abuse in different parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Iran and South East Asia. Bringing these papers together highlights differences but also reveals what is common in the experience of violence and abuse, in the ways we investigate and understand those experiences and in the service response. This recognition of both differing and shared experience of violence and abuse is increasingly important as communities everywhere become more diverse. Any campaign or service aimed at preventing violence for women and children needs to take account of specific and local factors as well as those aspects of violence that are widely shared.

This special issue comes out of a research workshop held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in March 2015 that was funded by the British Council.

University-of-Witwatersrand-March-2015

Nicky Stanley, Ingrid Palmary and Khatidja Chantler with special issue contributors and workshop participants, March 2015, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Thirty-five researchers from UK and South Africa came together over four days. Their interests covered gender and violence across diverse contexts and explored the connections between gender based violence, migration and political violence. Participants came from social work, public health, psychology, sociology, social policy, health studies and anthropology with both early career researchers and experienced academics contributing. The workshop included mentoring sessions and career development opportunities as well as the papers that formed the basis of this special issue.

Two research centres led the workshop and have edited this special issue: the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and the Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, School of Social Work, Care and Community, University of Central Lancashire, UK. AMCS is an Africa-based centre of excellence dedicated to shaping global discourse on human mobility and social transformation. The Connect Centre works with a wide range of international partners to make connections and to challenge fragmented thinking on violence and abuse and its impact in order to develop new research and services.

The wide variety of forms of sexual and interpersonal violence, and the way in which gender and other positions of marginality, including migration, interacts with these forms are explored in this special issue. Nadia Aghtaie’s paper provides new insights on rape in Iran. Aghtaie’s study illustrates that, within an Iranian context, rape is often sanctioned implicitly and explicitly through culture, laws and policies that provide impunity for perpetrators and normalise violence against women. Similarly, Ingrid Sinclair’s paper explores the ways in which notions of women’s morality, derived from marital status, shape the responses of the South African Police Service to women who experience abuse from their partners.

Rebecca Walker’s paper in this special issue describes how structural violence is experienced by migrant mothers who sell sex in Johannesburg. Walker’s paper reveals the intersection of gender and class as predominantly shaped by the women’s marginal migration status: basic survival for themselves and their children is dependent on mothers selling sex. Women’s status as sex workers shapes public sector workers responses to them. Their often oppressive responses are legitimised by populist notions of who is and is not entitled to services. The paper by Rebecca Dudley’s also draws attention to the intersections of domestic abuse and state structures, specifically the immigration rule of No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) in the UK. Her UK study explores the impact of this rule and the State’s complicity in trapping women in abusive relationships. In common with other contributors, she identifies the hostility that migrant women may experience from service providers as a key factor.

Patricia Hyne’s paper explores processes of trust and mistrust in accounts of displacement and asylum drawing on analysis from different research projects over a 25 year period. She reports practitioners’ experiences working in Thai refugee transit and processing camps and Burmese refugees as well as drawing on research conducted with in the UK refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked children. Hynes provides examples of when it is ‘safe’ to trust someone and where mistrust is essential for survival. Deborah Allnock’s UK based study on childhood disclosure of sexual abuse, examines the relationship between memorable life events (MLEs) and disclosure of sexual abuse in childhood. She provides a framework that illuminates those contexts that can inhibit, alter or reverse decisions to disclose abuse.

In relation to researching ‘hard to reach’ groups, the paper by Lorraine Radford, Nancy Lombard, Franziska Meinck, Emma Katz and Stanford Mahati includes a case-study from each author’s research on children and young people’s experiences of violence and adversity across the different contexts of the UK and South Africa. Each researcher used different methodologies and concepts but shared a common understanding of the social construction of childhood and the centrality of cultural and social contexts for understanding what constitutes violence. They report considerable ethical challenges and dilemmas were experienced in gaining ethical approval and in conducting the studies. This paper highlights the importance of researching with children rather on children. Similarly, the paper by Vearey, Barter, Hynes and McGinn provides rich illustrations of the ethical dilemmas of researching gender based violence. The article draws on diverse examples including: research on the Burmese-Thai border; research in Ireland on intimate partner violence and research with school children in a number of European countries. This paper provides detailed accounts of real life problems encountered during research and the complexity of establishing an ethical response in contexts where the outcome of actions can be difficult to anticipate.

Sharma and Marsh’s Open Space piece offers an analysis of group-work at Safety4Sisters, Manchester, UK, by workers who facilitate a group for women with experiences of abuse with NRPF and insecure immigration status. Their contribution brings to life the harshness of the immigration and asylum process and the fragility of the women’s existence. In their Open Space piece, Elsa Oliveira and Jo Vearey, researchers based at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, discuss creative research approaches with migrant sex workers in South Africa. They are founders of the MoVE:method:visual:explore project, and their paper highlights the importance of doing research differently with marginalised groups. The emphasis is very much on working with marginalised groups through media that allow marginalised voices to be articulated. In achieving this, the boundaries between research and activism are blurred and overlap.

 

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