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Reshaping Attitudes toward Violence against Women

Flood, Michael, Bob Pease, Natalie Taylor & Kim Webster (2009). In: Evan Stark & Eve S. Buzawa (eds) Violence against Women in Families and Relationships: The Media and Cultural Attitudes, vol. 4. Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: Praeger (177-198).

Since the early 1970s, when the grassroots women’s movement mounted its challenge to rape and domestic violence, there has been a worldwide revolution in societal responses to violence against women. Among the changes, the best known are the proliferation of community-based services for victims and reforms in public policy, law, policing, and health care. What is less well-known is whether the revolution in societal intervention is reflected in how ordinary citizens think about violence against women. However important institutional reforms are in the short term, they are unlikely to be sustained unless the normative climate changes that supports violence against women.

How widespread is the belief that women “ask to be raped”, that there are circumstances in which it is acceptable for a man to hit a woman, or that violence against women is acceptable? Do people feel empathy for women who are assaulted or raped, or do they blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator? Why do some family members, friends, and professionals respond to victims with support and sympathy, while others respond with indifference or blame? Why do some men use violence against women and others do not? Why do some victims feel self-blame, while others do not? We know that individual and community attitudes shape how women and men experience and understand violence against women. More than this, these attitudes influence the perpetration of this violence, community responses to violence against women, how victims respond to assault, and whether institutional reforms can be sustained.

This chapter provides an international perspective on attitudes toward violence against women. We begin by identifying the role attitudes play in shaping the problem. Next, we provide and international picture of existing attitudes and identify the key factors that shape them. Finally, we identify critical junctures where interventions to change violence-supportive attitudes can make a difference.

Current Practices to Preventing Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence.

Flood, Michael (2015) In: Holly Johnson; Bonnie S. Fisher & Vronique Jaquier (eds) Critical Issues on Violence Against Women. London and New York: Routledge (209-220).

Intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence are the outcome of a complex interplay of individual, relationship, community, institutional, and societal factors. Given this, violence prevention too must work at these multiple levels. This is recognized in common models of violence prevention, including the “ecological” model popularized by the World Health Organization and other frameworks such as the “spectrum of prevention”. This chapter describes and assesses a range of strategies of primary prevention – strategies to prevent initial perpetration or victimization. These strategies are intended to strengthen individual knowledge and skills, build healthy relationships and families, involve and develop communities, promote community norms of nonviolence, improve organizational practices and workplace and institutional cultures, lessen gender inequalities, and address the larger cultural, social and economic factors that contribute to violence. The chapter takes as given that much intimate partner and sexual violence concern men’s violence against women.

The Relevance of Culture for the Study of Political Psychology.

Ross, M. H. (2000). The Relevance of Culture for the Study of Political Psychology. in Political Psychology: Cultural and Crosscultural Foundations. S. Renshon and J. Duckitt. New York., New York University Press.
Norms of equality facilitate cooperation among groups who are then more likely to rely on influence or persuasion, rather than on violence.

Law and Social Norms.

Posner, E. (2000). Law and Social Norms. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press.
Posner argues that social norms are sometimes desirable yet sometimes odious, and that law is critical to enhance good social norms and undermine bad ones. He goes on to argue that the proper regulation is a delicate and complex task, and that current understanding is inadequat for guiding judges and lawmakers. What is needed, and what this book offers, is a model of the relationship between law and social norms.
Posner wishes to improce the economic analysis of law by incorporating it into a more rigorous understanding of the impact on behaviour of the social meaning of action. In his lucidly written and sharpely argued book on the relationship between law and “non-legal mechanisms of coopertion”, Posner contends that many conceptual confusions and embarrasing puzzles that have been generated by the economic analysis of law can be cleared up, and the research paradigm as a whole can be asvanced, by taking account of the pervasive and powerful role of social norms.

Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues.

MacKinnon, C. A. (2006). Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues. Cambridge MA, Belknap, Harvard University Press.

More than half a century after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is and is entitled to, Catharine MacKinnon asks: Are women human yet? If women were regarded as human, would they be sold into sexual slavery worldwide; veiled, silenced, and imprisoned in homes; bred, and worked as menials for little or no pay; stoned for sex outside marriage or burned within it; mutilated genitally, impoverished economically, and mired in illiteracy–all as a matter of course and without effective recourse?

The cutting edge is where law and culture hurts, which is where MacKinnon operates in these essays on the transnational status and treatment of women. Taking her gendered critique of the state to the international plane, ranging widely intellectually and concretely, she exposes the consequences and significance of the systematic maltreatment of women and its systemic condonation. And she points toward fresh ways–social, legal, and political–of targeting its toxic orthodoxies.

MacKinnon takes us inside the workings of nation-states, where the oppression of women defines community life and distributes power in society and government. She takes us to Bosnia-Herzogovina for a harrowing look at how the wholesale rape and murder of women and girls there was an act of genocide, not a side effect of war. She takes us into the heart of the international law of conflict to ask–and reveal–why the international community can rally against terrorists’ violence, but not against violence against women. A critique of the transnational status quo that also envisions the transforming possibilities of human rights, this bracing book makes us look as never before at an ongoing war too long undeclared.

Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy. The Human Development Sequence.

Inglehart, R. and Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy. The Human Development Sequence. New York, Cambridge University Press.

This book demonstrates that people’s basic values and beliefs are changing, in ways that affect their political, sexual, economic, and religious behavior. These changes are roughly predictable: to a large extent, they can be explained by the revised version of modernization theory presented here. Drawing on a massive body of evidence from societies containing 85 percent of the world’s population, the authors demonstrates hat modernization is a process of human development, in which economic development gives rise to cultural changes that make individual autonomy, gender equality, and democracy increasingly likely. The authors present a model of social change that predicts how value systems are likely to evolve in coming decades. They demonstrate that mass values play a crucial role in the emergence and flourishing of democratic institutions.

War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice-Versa.

Goldstein, J. S. (2001). War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice-Versa. New York, Cambridge University Press.
Goldstein assesses the possible explanations for the near-total exclusion of women from combat forces, through history and accross cultures. Topics covered include the history of women who did fight and fought well, the complex role of testosterone in men’s social behaviours, and the construction of masculinity and femininity in the shadow of war. Goldstein concludes that killing in war does not come naturally for either gender, and that gender norms often shape men, women and children to the needs of the war system.