Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Gender and Violence: A Reflective Sociology of How Gender Ideologies and Practices Contribute to Gender Based Violence

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Gender and Violence: A Reflective Sociology of How Gender Ideologies and Practices Contribute to Gender Based Violence

Article excerpt

Gender based violence can be viewed--using the sociologist C. Wright Mills's conceptual vocabulary introduced in his book The Sociological Imagination (1959)--as both a personal trouble and a public issue. The Sociological Imagination is the ability to see the link between history and biography and to shift perspectives from the sociopolitical to the psychological (Mills 1959).

Gender based violence was most often seen in the past as a personal trouble, a private matter between couples. Of course for the women who endure this violence it is very personal and very troubling to their safety and damaging to their whole sense of being and self-worth. Only recently has gender based violence come to be seen as a public issue. In the 1980s domestic violence was found to be the leading cause of injuries to women, and the Surgeon General deemed domestic violence, "the most serious health risk facing women" (Disch 2006:471). It is not only domestic violence that is an issue in gender violence but the trafficking of women and girls through countries as sex slaves and prostitutes, and governments' inaction to stop this.

I became a victim of an abusive relationship during my junior year of college when I was twenty years old. It was not my first relationship, but the first real relationship that I had had during my college years. As the abuse continued and worsened, I thought I was alone in a personal struggle. At the time I did not realize the extent of violence towards women. After getting away from this relationship I decided to take classes in psychology and sociology, with the intentions of figuring out "what was wrong with me." Asking myself why I had allowed myself to become a victim, and why I stayed even when the abuse became physical, I used my education as a way of empowering myself with knowledge.

Through taking classes I did learn things about myself that may have contributed to my own personal situation. But I also learned that this same experience was all too common for women around the world. I have started to understand that it is some of the ideologies of masculinity and femininity that contribute to domestic violence. Violence against women is a product of the oppression of women in most facets of life in most places in the world. Feminists see that there is a "continuum of violence," meaning that all violence is interconnected, coming from the same social root of gender inequality and the resulting sexualization of women's bodies (Marchbank and Letherby, 2007:270). In this paper I will explore some of these ideologies and of hegemonic masculinity and femininity, the practices people engage in to maintain these gender differences and inequalities, and some of the oppressions of women in different faculties of life. I will use the sociological imagination to apply these issues to my own life and my own experience of gender, focusing on ways in which these ideas relate to gender based violence.

Gender based violence is much more than just a personal issue between couples; it occurs because of some of the basic ideologies we hold about men and women, and the structures used to enforce these ideas. First of all we must examine the ideologies of hegemonic masculinity and femininity that create separate dichotomous spheres for men and women. If we see the ways in which men and women are viewed as different we can begin to see how women are devalued and oppressed, and how this leads to the continuation of violence against women. The ideas of what constitutes masculinity and femininity are not only different, but are essentially in opposition to one another. According to class discussions and handouts in two courses I am taking on Sociology of Gender and on Family Violence, feminine characteristics include softness, cooperation and concern for relationships, being emotional (absence of control), love and nurturing, dependency, intuition, harmony and connection. Masculine characteristics include reason, rationality, intellect, self-control, autonomy, toughness/strength, competition, aggressiveness, and separation. …

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