Origins of Violence Against Women
PBS Online | |
No Safe Place Homepage | |
What are the seeds of male violence? Experts are still debating the answers to that question. We do know that all human beings can be violent given certain circumstances, such as war. We also know that while not all men are violent, men in general tend to be more violent than women. Biologists cite the male hormone testosterone as a kick-starter for aggressive behavior in men. While the hormone affects male attitudes and the propensity toward violence, they stress that as humans, we make individual choices whether to be aggressive or not.
Is violence against women rooted in the way men and women are socialized?
Violence against women has been accepted and even condoned throughout history. More than 2,000 years ago, Roman law gave a man life and death authority over his wife. In the 18th Century, English common law gave a man permission to discipline his wife and children with a stick or whip no wider than his thumb. This "rule of thumb" prevailed in England and America until the late 19th century. Many feminists claim violence against women is the result of a deeply entrenched patriarchal culture that encourages and rewards male domination. They say that in a patriarchal culture, men are more likely to use violence to keep their dominant position. While society claims to abhor violence, we often make heroes of men who are aggressive. In the culture of masculinity, heroes are often predicated on some kind of violent action. The traditional model of masculinity encourages men to exude an aura of daring and aggression.
How is violence against women portrayed in popular culture? Can you cite examples?
From film to television to music videos, song lyrics, t-shirts and advertisements, violence against women is often portrayed as normal or erotic. Some critics say that such attitudes conveyed in the media can set the stage for actual violence against women.
No Safe Place: Violence Against Women is made possible in part by a grant from the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation and the Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation. The documentary is a production of public television station KUED in Salt Lake City, Utah.