Making Sense of the Discourses in the Violence against Women Domain: A Gender Violence Prevention Typology

By Castelino, Tracy | Outskirts: feminisms along the edge, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Making Sense of the Discourses in the Violence against Women Domain: A Gender Violence Prevention Typology


Castelino, Tracy, Outskirts: feminisms along the edge


Introduction

The Gender, Local Governance and Violence Prevention (GLOVE) Project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant between the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth, 2007). It worked with four Victorian localities from 2006-2009 to support the development of local and state government violence prevention policies within this framework. The City of Greater Bendigo, City of Casey, the Shire of Loddon and City of Maribyrnong were the government-community partnership sites that were part of the GLOVE Project. These four sites demonstrated the variation of politics, history, networks and locale in Victoria. They highlighted the range of issues local governments must deal with when considering safe communities. These issues range across cultural diversity, urbo-centric new families with high mortgages, and regional and urban Indigenous experiences.

As part of the GLOVE Project I investigated how the Victorian state and local policy contexts understand and name gendered violence prevention and what discursive practises are engaged to formulate the various discourses of gender, and the ultimate implications for policy and practices (Castelino, 2011). I posed the following question: how do discourses and practices of gender impact on violence prevention at the local level? And a secondary question: how do various interpretations contribute to the Victorian and local government community safety and violence prevention policies and programmes? It became apparent, both from the project and my everyday clinical practice, that despite a broad acceptance in working for the safety of women, there was a divergence of interpretations and subsequent development of strategies in the areas of violence against women, domestic violence and violence prevention.

Feminist post-structuralism complements the exploration of the macro and micro political context with its assumption that the production of meaning is mediated both by language and by social, historical, cultural and spatial practices (Gunew, 1990). Discourses are created through the interaction of these practices and cultural norms. Gunew (1990) assert that the positioning of women as passive, weak and emotional is imposed and constructed, rather than an innate way of being. Feminist theories offer various ways to view gender power relations, critique the assumption of a natural order, and challenge policy responses to crime and violence. Together with post- structuralism, these theories offer consideration of the relationships between language, subjectivity, social and political organisation and power in order to understand how violence prevention policies and programmes are constructed at both the state and local levels of government. How gender is conceptualised and articulated impacts on the development of violence prevention policies and programmes at the local level. For instance, feminists challenged the notion that the domestic sphere was a woman's place and ventured out to the streets to speak about their private pains (Pateman, 1992).

A commonality amongst diverse feminist perspectives is the focus on women's interests and rights to equality in the political, economic, social and educational domains. Initially, feminists grappled with the sex/gender distinction as it was seen as a key site of oppression. They introduced gender as a means of exposing the socially imposed arrangement by which women were relegated to inferior positions (de Beauvoir, 1972; MacKinnon, 1989). Postmodern feminists developed this argument further, articulating that gender is not universal or fixed and is socially constructed. (Butler, 1990; Oakley, 2002). They moved beyond the binary of sex and gender distinction, stating that gender is constructed alongside race, culture, class and any other category. A more current discourse of gender includes women's multiple and varied experiences and is located within diverse social, political and ethnic contexts. …

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