What’s in a name?

I felt very frustrated yesterday when someone told me that to say “violence against women” is discriminatory, that it should be called “relationship violence”.  I tried to point out that intimate partner violence is only one kind of violence against women.  There are a range of gendered ways in which women are targeted for violence, not all of which are “domestic”.  Erasing the language feminists have invented to describe the harms women disproportionately face is an attempt at silencing women.

I recognise that some kinds of feminism render women as innocent, always already victims and men as always already abusers.  Reality, of course, is much more complex.  Women are not innocent.  Women are not victims.  Men are not invulnerable to violence from other men and yes, from women.  Many feminists are naming as gendered-based violence men’s violence towards each other.  The kind of violence which makes many boys afraid to go to school, which causes many of them to arm themselves and which claims the lives of many, many young Caribbean men.

Gender ideologies structure the lives of both women and men.  Men and women produce and reproduce gender in their everyday lives.  Both women and men therefore have a stake in ending unequal and harmful relations of gender.

WomenSpeak is running a series of profiles to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women.  CODE RED got in on the action with a quick interview with one of Barbados’ feminist activists.  In Barbados, murders of women by their male intimate partners typically account for nearly half of all murders.

Have a look…

7 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. The Doc says:

    Well, there is an issue with violence against men and boys being ignored as a social problem.

    Which is all the more poignant because men are targeted for violence more often than women are.


  2. There are many other forms of violence we need to be talking about including homophobic and transphobic violence and child abuse. i am worried that we have become too comfortable with talking about intimate partner violence. even though in the region we are nowhere close to addressing it adequately. (TH)


  3. @Doc. I hear you loud and clear. When Guyana launched its Men’s Affairs Bureau it did not even have that fact that so many young men are dying from violence on its agenda. This reflects the ways in which violence in men’s lives is normalised and naturalised.


  4. I hear you Code Red. I know exactly which comment you’re speaking of, and in my previous interactions with said individual, I understood that any attempt to discuss the issue rationally would have been met with scorn.

    But, I’ve also had this question asked by women. In fact more women than men have expressed disdain with any assertion that violence against women is an issue that deserves special attention.

    There is always this bristling attitude when we speak out about women’s issues in general. And it is clear that both women and men are so uneducated about the nature and extent of discrimination against women and so socialized to to devalue a focus on women, that not only does violence against women continue but I actually think it’s creating a more permissive environment for it to occur.

    I try to engage folks in discussion about such issues but many many times it is met with such fierce anger. You would think that people would be angry about the murders of women, but they are more angry when feminists challenge their world view. And I understand that. I understand that when someone tells you that the beliefs you hold, that you shape your life around, are constructions not fact, you reject that. It sometimes takes many many many such conversations, blog series and a willingness to let people come to an understanding in their own time. But heaven knows, women are dying while we wait.


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