For decades the feminist explana tion of domestic violence has been the common wisdom in society in general and also and in the courts. This explanation holds that men use violence against women to exert power and control over them in order to maintain their paternalistic power and control within society. It is alleged that even when women are violent this is as a reaction to the power and control exercised over them by men - in simple terms men are always to blame.
Of course this logic is deeply flawed. It fails to explain why there are high rates of domestic violence in lesbian relationships and it fails to explain clear cases where the woman's violence has no relationship to power and control exerted by her partner. It also fails to explain why hundreds of research studies show that women initiate domestic abuse as often or more often than men.
Feminist answers to this include denial of the statistics and threats and intimidation to those who speak out and say that women can be abusive too. These tactics bear an uncanny resemblance to some aspects of emotional abuse itself - victim blaming, threats and intimidation.
Research suggests that domestic abuse is driven by a need for power and control in the relationship for both male and female abusers. Underlying the need for power and control may be 'mate guarding' behaviour. Abusers have often had deep insecurities in their childhood and as a result have never learned to have an emotionally secure relationship. Abusers often have personality traits similar to 'borderline personality disorder'.
Mate guarding behaviour by women can include -
Insisting that he spends all his free time with her
Yelling at him for talking to another woman
Criticising the other woman's looks, motives or intelligence
Telling him that she would die if he ever left her
Staring coldly at the other woman who was looking at him
Staying close by his side at social occasions
Threatening to break up if he ever cheats on her
Telling him that she will change to please him
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms can include -
Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
A pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships
Persistently unstable self image
Impulsivity - sexual / binge eating or drinking / substance abuse / reckless driving
Suicidal behaviour or threats, self harm such as cutting or picking at oneself
Chronic feelings of emptyness
Intense instability of moods usually lasting only a few hours
Inappropriate anger or difficulty in controlling anger
Temporary stress related irrationality or delusions
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What's wrong with feminism?
Feminsim comes in many shades and varieties and has achieved many positive things for womens lives but some strands of feminisim have been vindictive or misguided.
The Duluth Model is the classic feminist approach to domestic violence and falls into the misguided category. It seeks to blame men and the 'patriarchal society' for all domestic violence in a blinkered and reductive way. Sadly it has had a profound effect on justice systems in western societies.
Fortunately not all feminists accept this explanation. For example iFeminists 'recognize that the conventional wisdom - that men are the perpetrators while women are the victims - is based on politics rather than on fact'.