Lecture 9: Gender and Violence


  • Gender alone is a highly significant predictor of violent behaviour
  • All over the world, men constitute 98% of all persons arrested for rape and vast majority of those arrested for murder, robbery, assault, family violence, and disorderly conduct. Men are more violent than women

Masculinity and Violence

  • Male tendency to violence is related to men’s greater tendency toward risk-taking behaviours and rule-breaking in general
  • In popular media, there are tons of examples of violent expression of masculinity (Ex. Breaking Bad: Walter white reinforces his masculinity through violence. He goes to certain extents to provide for his family (selling meth). He kills those close to him)
  • Boys Will Be Boys: The association with masculinity and risk-taking behaviors and rule-breaking
  • Gender and age are two predominant factors in violence / criminality
  • Violence is a way to prove one’s masculinity (Ex. Bravado: You have to be tough)

Good and Bad Masculine Violence

  • Biological evidence itself is unconvincing of violent behaviour (Ex. Although testosterone is highly associated with aggressive behaviour. Still, it seems that the hormone does not cause the aggression but rather facilitates an aggressiveness that is ALREADY present)
  • Violence causes increased testosterone levels, and hormonal increases enable violence. Androgens and biological factors in general provide a partial but insufficient explanation of male violence
  • For men, violence is a way to prove masculinity. Like Sex Role theorist Talcott Parsons discussed, violence is a way for boys to separate themselves from their mothers
  • Violence enables males to avoid becoming their own enemies (Ex. North American men fear emasculation, humiliation, and traits associated with feminine nature. They avoid this through violence, because to them, it is proof of masculinity. One is a real man, because he is not afraid to be violent)
  • In Canada, masculine violence for Aboriginal men is an alternative way of achieving masculinities, since the traditional means like supporting families through hunting and trapping no longer exist

Female Criminality and Violence

  • Still, women are a small minority of offenders
  • In 2005, only about 20% of those accused of committing Criminal Code offences in Canada were female. The rate of crime among females, based on these statistics, is about quarter of the male rate
  • Women commit crimes, but they have a much lower rate of criminality than do men
  • In Canada, women tend to commit theft (especially shoplifting), common assault, fraud, and bail violations
  • Women’s lower rate of imprisonment also reflects their lesser tendency to reoffend and to ‘escalate’ their criminal involvement
  • Despite dramatic changes in women’s lives in the past 40 years, they have remained a minority among offenders
  • More interestingly, long-term evidence suggests that women’s criminality has actually decreased since the 18th century
  • Reported increases reflected property crime, especially fraud, forgery, and embezzlement, and most of those increases have been in petty crimes (Ex. Shoplifting, credit card fraud, passing bad cheques)
  • More recently, particularly in the last decade, female criminality has declined within Canada
  • Canada’s homicide rate is relatively low – significantly less than half the US rate. It has been declining since the 1970s

Homicide: The killing of a human being by another. Both murder and manslaughter are forms of homicide.

  • Women remain much less likely to kill strangers or casual acquaintances than are men. They are much less likely to engage in multiple homicide or familicide

Familicide: The murder of one’s spouse and at least one of one’s children.

  • Overall, women and girls represent a minor portion in the pattern of criminality. They commit much less crimes, are less represented in prison, and tend to cluster in ‘minor’ areas of offending

School Violence: Shooters and Mean Girls

  • Girls at all ages (except the youngest) are more likely to engage in indirect aggression. This includes telling lies behind a person’s back, trying to be someone’s friend as revenge to another, saying to others, ‘let’s not be friends with him or her'
  • Boys at all ages are more likely to engage in direct aggression. This includes kicking, hitting, tripping, shoving, and arguing, swearing and abusing and verbal aggression
  •  School shootings and youth violence cannot be divorced from the broader social context of gender inequality. Virtually every recorded school shooting was carried by a boy or man, almost all of them white. Girls are targeted as victims in a significant number of cases; and shooters often have exhibited failed relationships with, hostility toward, and abuse of girls
  • 1989 Montreal Massacre targeting women
  • Girls however, are more likely than women to engage in criminality. Female offending peaks at age of 15, and female youth are 3.5 times more likely to be accused of Criminal Code offences than are female adults. Still, girls’ crimes tend to be ‘minor’ relative to those of boys
  • Usually, violent girls tend to be disconnected from meaningful relationships with their mothers, see women as second-class citizens
  • Rate of victimization, harassment, and abuse among youth far exceeds those found among adults, suggesting that the gendered society services its youngest members poorly

Gendered Violence: An Institutional Problem

  • Militarism and war sets violence into the notion of masculinity generation after generation
  • Military expertise and the willingness to go to war have been tests of manhood. They are men referred as tough, real men, and turn out to be hawks
  • Military Sexual Violence: German concentration-camp brothels during the Second World War resulted to large number of horrific incidents of military sexual violence

Family Violence

  • Violence Against Women: Any act of gendered- based violence that results in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. This is important because in public it is easier for everyone else to see, but when it is in private sphere (within home) it is more difficult
  • Family violence is gendered, where most of the violence includes husbands beating wives, fathers hitting children, sons hitting their parents, or boys hitting their siblings
  • Feminist theorist Bell Hooks describes this as patriarchal violence. The belief that male domination is accomplished through violence. Patriarchal violence can also be used to describe not just men’s violence against women, but also same-sex violence and adult violence against children
  • In Canada, female victims total 83% of cases of spousal violence reported to police
  • Throughout most of history, a husband enjoyed the right to ‘discipline’ his wife. 30-odd years ago, discussion of violence against women could’ve evoke laughter in the House of Commons

Intimate-Partner Violence: Refers to the physical, sexual and emotional abuse and/or threats directed against an intimate partner, whether in a martial or non-marital relationship.

  • Intimate-partner violence still accounts for more than half of incidents of family violence reported to police in Canada
  • Intimate-partner violence happens in all different types of classes, race, background etc
  • Kimberle Crenshaw: The pre-existing framework for domestic violence is inadequate for women of color: the case with African American women victims of violence and Latina immigrant women
  • Female victims of family violence are more likely to suffer spousal violence, while males are more likely to be victimized by some other member of the family
  •  Men, while they are more likely in general to face violence, tend to face it at the hands of other men
  • In Canada, female victims account for 83% of cases of spousal violence reported to police
  • Criminal harassment, or stalking, is also heavily gendered (Ex. Women, especially young and aboriginal women, are at much higher risk of being stalked than are men)
  • In 2006, when stalking involved spouses or former partners, women were 90% of victims

Stalking: Stalking is a form of criminal harassment involving some combination of repeatedly following a person, watching a person, communicating with a person when such communication is not desired, and threatening a person either directly or by proxy.

Gender Symmetry: A presumption that rates of domestic violence are roughly equal by gender – suggest that women are as likely to hit men as men are to hit women.

  • The Batter Husband Syndrome: A psychological problem that men who are victims of domestic violence face. They are so ashamed of the humiliation, of the denial of manhood; they are unlikely to come forward and are more likely to suffer in silence the violent attention of their wives
  • However, the amount, frequency, severity and consistency of violence against women are far greater than anything done by women to men (Ex. In Canada’s General Social Survey, women were much more likely to be reported having been choked, beaten, or attacked with a weapon than were men)
  • Domestic violence varies with the balance of power in a relationship (Ex. When all the decisions are made by one spouse, rates of spouse abuse, whether committed by the woman or the man, are at their highest levels)
  • Violence against women is the most in those households in which power is controlled by the husband
  • Therefore, concentration of power leads to higher rates of violence, period –whether against women or against men
  • Men tend to use domestic violence instrumentally, for the specific purpose of striking fear and terror in their wives’ hearts, to ensure agreement, obedience, and the acceptance of the men’s rule in the home
  • Young women are much more likely than men to be killed by their opposite sex partners (Ex. Between 1977-200, Canadian women were three to five times more likely than men to be killed by a spouse)
  • Immigrant-Specific Factors: Immigrant factors including status, isolation, economic dependency and language barriers make immigrant women more vulnerable than other Canadians (Ex. Many women immigrate as family-class immigrants, and may fear having to leave Canada if they separate from abusive partners)
  • Family-Class Immigrants: According to Canadian immigration law, family-class immigrants are those who come to Canada through sponsorship by a spouse, common-law partner, parent, or other eligible relative
  • Aboriginal women face a risk of spousal violence three times higher than do non-Aboriginal women; and Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to fall victim to spousal homicide
  • Domestic violence is not simply spousal. Children are often exposed to domestic violence, either as victims or as witnesses
  • When children who witness intimate-partner violence grow up, they are at greater risk to use violence in domestic situations (especially male) and may suffer from low-self esteem (especially female) and various emotional problems
  • Also, children who witness violence within the home are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour toward other children
  • Support exists for corporal punishment: Americans and most Canadians believe that it is all right for a parent to ‘spank’ a child. This is the most widespread type of family against children all over the world
  •  However, spanking is associated with several negative behaviours in children, including aggression, anti-social behaviour, and mental-health problems
  • Women and girls are also vulnerable to another form of extreme familial violence called honour killing

Honour Killing: Refers to family murder, often involving multi-party agreement or multiple performers. These murders target someone, almost always a girl or woman, perceived to have brought shame upon the family (Ex. In 2009, for example, a 23-year-old Hasibullah Sadiqi of Ottawa shot his sister and her fiancé after she moved in with before the wedding and refused to have her estranged abusive father involved in wedding plans).

Sexual Assault

  • In Canada, sexual assault has been defined not as penile penetration but more holistically as any non-consensual (not agreed) sexual act. The degree of sexual assault is determined not by penetration, but by level of injury, use of weapon, and danger to life
  • Since 1983, Canadian law redefined sexual assault as non-consensual sexual act, not just as penetration; the severity is determined by level of injury, use of weapon, and danger to life
  • In Canada, according to the police report 80% of the assailants were acquaintances, while 28% were family members
  • Rape is a cultural phenomenon involving violent and sexual acts towards women to ensure male domination
  • The definition of rape as a reproductive adaption by men who otherwise couldn’t get a date is INCORRECT
  • This way, violence reinforces masculinity and gender inequality since the rapist’s actions express power differentials between women and men
  • Rapists feel entitled to women’s bodies and believe what they do to women is their right. Rape is a social problem that women as a group face, because they are humiliated by unwanted sexual aggregation and violence, becoming victimized
  • Rape reproduced both gender difference (women as vulnerable and dependent upon men for protection, women afraid to dare to enter male spaces such as the street for fear of victimization) and gender inequality
  • Rapists are over conformists, who are committed to a set of norms about masculinity that makes every encounter with every women potentially, even inevitable, about sexual conquest
  • Women’s beauty is experienced by men as an act of aggression: it invades men’s thoughts, brings out unwelcome feelings of desire and longing, makes men feel helpless, powerless, and vulnerable. Then, having committed this invasive act of aggression, women reject men, say no to sex, and turn them down. Rape is a way to get even, to get revenge for rejection, to retaliate
  •  And just as children face the threat of sexual assault from family members, marriage fails to protect women from rape (Ex. In one study of 644 married American women, 12% reported having been raped by their husbands)
  • Most sexual assault victims are children (Ex. According to 2003 statistics, children and youth were the victims of 61% of sexual assaults reported to Canadian police)
  • Girls are four times more likely than boys to be sexually assaulted by their family members
  • The Beginning of Slutwalk in Toronto: A campaign triggered by a rape that occurred at York University. A policy officer said that for women to not get raped, they must stop dressing like sluts. However, the campaign argued that it was not dressing that affected rape

Gender Hate Crimes

  • The murders and disappearance of women in British Columbia link Canada o the phenomenon of femicide
  • Femicide: Femicide is a term developed by Diana Russell in the 1970s to describe woman-killing as a gendered hate crime
  • The term has been widely used to describe serial killings of the type found in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. There, since 1993, at least 400 girls and women have been horribly tortured and sexually assaulted, and at times murdered
  • Brandon Teena (she was a target for being transsexual) and Matthew Shepard (also become a victim of murder because he was homosexual). They were both threat to masculinity and femininity
  • The concept of femicide allows us to identify in these killings what may be already obvious. They target women and girls precisely because they are women and girls. Femicide is the most common gendered hate crime
  • Men charged with assaulting or murdering a gay man could, recently, defend themselves by alternating to homosexual panic

Homosexual Panic: A state of psychotic rage brought on by receiving unwanted homosexual advances. Homosexual panic has been successfully used as a defense against criminal charges in a variety of nations.

Sexual-Minority: A descriptor for anyone whose sexual orientation, gender identity, or sexual identity differs from that of the majority culture. 

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