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"D. S. Cunningham" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 9 Jul 1994 02:20:30 PDT
text/plain (316 lines)
(and I realize we've strayed far from the purpose of this list--my
apologies to all who hate this thread and I promise that this is my
*final* posting on this topic)
I swore I was going to let this go--just stop reading the thread and
stop concerning myself with this, but I found myself at the library
yesterday--looking up the "facts" to hopefully return some balance to
this discussion.
 I hope to do this by entering into a discussion with fragments of
past posts. My intention is a dialogue. I have never denied that women are
violent, and a  closer examination of recent movies of the week (MOWs) shows
 that the media have *not* ignored violent women (Betty Broderick, the Texas
 cheerleader mom, the evil teacher who seduced her
 16-year-old lover/student into killing her
husband, Farrah Fawcett murdering her kids, the soon we'll see Bobbitt films).
But will anyone deny the fact that men commit more violence against women than
women commit against men? Please check with the Dept of Justice and FBI
stats first.
from J Thomas
>>But, none-the-less, the facts do speak for themselves.<<
I beg to differ. "Facts" are always interpreted. By different people
with different agendas, and often with funding sources with their own agendas.
 "Facts" are gathered in ways that don't always shed
any light on the situation.
from J Thomas
>>You might also want to obtain a copy of "The Battered Husband
Syndrome" by Susan Steinmetz of the Family Research Institute at Indiana
University.  Much more of these particular statistics are in that book.
You'll have to look for the book in local bookstores since it has been
effectively "banned" on many college campuses.  Ms. Steinmetz, BTW,
should be
lauded for publishing her book despite her having received threats to
harm her children from radical women's groups based on her own campus
at Indiana University! (The same Woman's groups she was a member of!)<<
First off, where did you get this information? Especially the parts
about threats and banning? I deplore this sort of behavior and refuse to belong
 to any group that engages in this sort of ostracism.
I found her "essay" on "battered husbands" readily
available, as were her books  (Steinmetz's books include: _The_Cycle_
of_Violence: Assertive,_Aggressive, and Abusive Family Interaction_--1977;
several anthologies with Murray Strauss and Richard Gelles, including
_Behind_Closed_Doors: Violence in the American Family, 1980; She has
since gone on to do pioneer work in elder abuse).
The findings of this study *have* been roundly criticized, not only
for the stance taken re: spousal abuse, but primarily with the methodology.
The real damage according to several sources, was the wholesale adoption of
these "facts" by the mass media. Their "statistics" were
disputed widely by many in the field of Family Violence--but the story
 Steinmetz  et al told was embraced by the media
and is still with us: witness Mr. Thomas's citation of the LA Times article.
In an excellent survey of the last decade of sociological writing on
the issue of Adult Domestic Violence, Mildred D. Pagelow writes:
"The Battered Husband Syndrome"
"   The claims that women are more violent than men
and that there are more male
victims of abuse than female victims were derived from a national incidence
study of violence in the family (Strauss, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980).
The notion that 250,000 husbands are battered by their wives each year in the
United States was first introduced by Steinmentz (1977-78, 1980)
 and soon the figure exploded
to 14 million in the foreign press (Pagelow, 1985). Some researchers critiqued
the claims and the evidence on which they were based (Dobash & Dobash,
1977-78; Fields & Kirchner, 1978; Kurz, 1989; Pagelow, 1984, 1985; Pleck,Pleck,
 Grossman, & Bart, 1977-78). In the years since the immense publicity
in the mass media, there has been no scientific study of battered husbands to
support the idea of a "syndrome".
   "Instead, there is a preponderance of evidence showing the vast
majority of victims of spouse abuse are females, and the vast majority of
 abusers are males.Studies of marital violence show that only a small percentage
abused husbands are found in any sample. For example: Dunford et al (1990), 4%;
 Elk and Johnson(1989), 6%; Goolkasian (1986) 5%;
Judicial Council on Gender Bias in
the Courts (Welling et al., 1990) 5%; Sherman and Berk (1984a), 2%; U.S.
Department of Justice (1980), 5%; Watkins (1982), 4%.
   "The battered-husband syndrome can be laid to rest as empirical
evidence suggests that the claim was little more than an international
headline-grabber in the "man-bites"dog" tradition. The data clearly show that
approximately 5% of abused spouses are husbands--a serious problem, but hardly
 enough to constitute a syndrome."
------From _The_Journal_of_Interpersonal_Violence_, March 1992
"Adult Victims of Domestic Violence," pps 87-118.
(this is a really terrific article with an outstanding bibliography.
It shows how many studies about domestic violence, police interventions,
"mutual" combat, battered husbands, marital rape, and many other subjects have
 been debunked,
proven/disproven, refigured, revamped--but how the myths persist in popular
understanding of these complex issues and how drastically they have
affected social policy--I will gladly supply full citations for any of
the above).
From\: Rod Carveth
>>1) You indicate that "some" of the research on domestic violence
indicates that men can be victims, too.  So as not to leave that statement
hanging, there is only  "some" literature because until recently domestic
 violence was automatically defined as violence against women.<<
As you can see Rod from Pagelow, this is not the case. A great deal of
study has focussed on this issue. But most of it was done 1976-1985.
From\: Rod Carveth
2) We should always look at the context of research, as well as where
the research is coming from.  But Murray Strauss and Richard Gelles have
never seemed to have any political agenda that should make us
 suspicious,and Suzanne Steinmetz is a feminist.<<
AGREED! (although, as we witness on this very listserve, there are may
"kinds" of feminists, just as there are many kinds of women, and many
kinds of men. But what do these folks--Strauss, Gelles, and Steinmetz
have to say about their own research and their findings:
Sorry I can't provide an "image" of Chart 2--
Comparison of Husband and Wife Violence in Previous year
(on page 37 of Behind_Closed_Doors (1980) by Straus,
Gelles and Steinmetz.
Threw something at spouse      Husbands, about 2.5%--Wives about 5%
Pushed, shoved, grabbed        Husbands, about 10.5%--Wives about 8.5%
Slapped                        Husbands, about 5.5%--Wives about 5%
Kicked, bit or punched          Husbands, about 2.5%--Wives about 4%
Hit or tried to hit with something    Hus, about 2.5%--W about 3%
Beat up spouse                    Husbands, about 1.5%--Wives about .5%
Used a Knife or gun            both less than 1%, men slightly more
From page 37, "Of those couples reporting any violence, 49 per cent
were situations (in which) both were violent.For the year previous to
our study, a comparison of couples in which only the husband was
violent with those in which on the wife was violent shows the figures
to be very close: 27 per cent violent husbands and 24 percent violent wives."
From page 38, "The number of women who threw things at their husbands
is almost twice as large as the number of husbands who threw things at their
wives. The rate for kicking and hitting with and object were also higher for
wives than husbands. The husbands on the other hand had higher rates
for pushing, shoving,slapping, beating up, and actually using a knife or gun."
From page 38, "The number of women who threw things at their husbands
is almost twice as large as the number of husbands who threw things at their
wives. The rate for kicking and hitting with and object were also higher for
wives than husbands. The husbands on the other hand had higher rates
for pushing, shoving, slapping, beating up, and actually using a knife or gun."
from J Thomas
>>I would agree with everything you say except for one, minor
point.  The circle of violence is a completely equal one among both
men and women.  As long as we keep clinging to the myth that women are usually
the victims and men are the bad guys, we'll never get anywhere.<<
Here is where your sources disagree. From _Behind_Closed_Doors_(1980)
by Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz., p. 43-44 (emphases from original):
"Wives and Husbands as Victims: This study shows a high rate of
violence by *wives* as well as husbands,
 but it would be a great mistake if that
fact distracted us from giving first attention to wives *as victims* as the
focus of social policy. There are a number of reasons for this:
1--the data in Chart 2 show that husbands have higher rates of the
most dangerous and injurious forms of violence (beating up and using a
knife or gun).
2--Steinmentz (1977c) found that abuse by husbands does more damage.
She suggests that the greater physical strength of men makes it more
likely a woman will be injured when beaten up by her husband.
3--When violent acts are committed by a husband, they are repeated
more often than is the case for wives.
4--The data do not tell us what proportion of the violent acts by
wives were in self-defense or a response to blows intiated by husbands.
 Wolfgang's study of husband-wife homicides (1957) suggest this is
 an important factor.
5--A large number of attacks by husbands seem to occur when the wife
is pregnant (Gelles, 1975b), thus posing a danger to the as yet unborn child.
(anecdote deleted)
6--Women are locked into marriage to a much greater extent than men. Women are
bound by many economic and social constraints, they often have no alternative
 to putting up with the beatings by their husbands (Gelles, 1976; Martin 1976;
Strauss, 1976, 1977b)
  "Most people feel that social policy should be aimed at helping those who are
 in the weakest position. Even though wives are also violent, they are in the
weaker, more vulnerable position in respect to violence in the family. This
applies to the physical, psychological, and economic aspects of things. That is
 the reason we give first priority to aiding wives who are the victims of
beatings by their husbands."
From\: Rod Carveth
 >>2) A growing body of literature on family violence indicates that women are
more likely than men to be initiators of the cycle of violence (that is, they
are the first ones to start hitting).<<
I could find no material to support or refute this assertion. Could you cite
your sources?
From\: Rod Carveth
>>4) Women are more likely to use more extreme violence against men;  thus, 52%
 of all spousal murder victims are male. <<
Again, this percentage business is deceptive. Steinmetz et al above disagree
with this statement. And according to the Pagelow survey noted above (p.100):
"The danger of murder and/or suicide is great in families
where abuse occurs; it
is well-documented that there are "cries for help" to authorities be
fore the ultimate violent act (Police Foundations, 1976). In 1985, over 1300
women were killed by a husband or boyfriend, which was 30% of the total
homicides of females; 6% of the male victims of homicide were killed by their
wives or girlfriends (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1986). The large
difference in ratio occurs because men tend to kill and be killed in
far greater numbers than do women. The number of intramarital
homicides are closer: Browne (1987) said that
in 1984, of the over 2,000 persons killed by spouses,
two thirds (1,300) were wives killed by husbands, and one third (806) were
husbands killed by wives. The classic study by Wolfgang (1958) introduced the
concept of victim precipitation, which is a common feature in murders
of husbands by their wives: "When women kill, they are far more likely
than men to be responding to, rather than initiating, violence" (Campbell, 1986,
Perhaps the numbers have risen since the mid-80s and more women kill
their husbands now, hence the 52% figure. I tried through the net to find
more current stats, but failed miserably
(I am still a frustrated neophyte on the
net) The main point of criticism of Steinmetz et al's study was this point from
Wolfgang,that they didn't measure "self-defense," and they include
this point in their list above.
A side issue I didn't understand from J Thomas (and yet another
 >>A few years ago, here in LA, a large group of mothers were upset
about movie and TV violence and the effect they thought it was having on their
children.  So what did they do?  They had a law passed to make the
sale of squirt guns illegal in the City!  You can buy all the REAL guns you
want...Uzzi's, Glocks, AR15's, you name it.  BUT NO SQUIRT GUNS!<<
As I recall,
what were banned were squirt guns that "look" like the guns you list.This came
about after a child was gunned down by LAPD because he pointed a squirt gun at
an officer who thought it was a *real* gun. That officer, as I
remember, had to leave the force because of the emotional devastation
it caused him. I have not looked this up, perhaps you might detail
this issue futher. Squirt guns abound in this city, I have several
 brightly colored handguns myself. And
what did it have to do with this thread anyway--just "another example" of how
"wacky" and "unreasonable" women can be?
From\: Rod Carveth--To Alison McKee,
>>It is very dangerous to say "Gee, something is not part of my own
social reality, therefore it doesn't exist."<<
Who said this? My earlier post outlining my experiences with domestic
violence was in no way cited as any kind of "proof," just that I have problems
with figures seem to be contrary to all I have experienced. But my
experience of life is where I begin to test the "truth" of anything I
"know". I also question "how" I have come to know something.. To denigrate the
abilities of anyone on this  list as far as their thinking, especially
 "thinking" in/about our crazy media/media crazy
culture, or insisting that their thinking is simplistic or fouled by
feminist propaganda, is disrepectful. If I have ever appeared to be fearful of
a contrary position to my own, then I have misrepresented myself. I am
stubborn, but I'm also a student.
From\: Denise Bryson
>>The point of discussion isn't to pound on the correct's to present all sides of the story.  And contrary to the
comments that have made it seem otherwise lately, men ARE abused by
women.  This whole issue doesn't boil down to "men bad, women good." The facts
(yes, silly me, I never bought into the fuzzy-logic
tres fashionable postmodern 'there are no facts' school of thought)
are there, and they're undeniable.  Abuse is a two-way street in this
society, and all the media-screaming about poor, poor women and the
big, bad men who beat them isn't going to change that....<<
>>There are WOMEN being abused, and MEN doing all the abusing,
according to the list.  And no matter how many times you say it, that just AIN'T
Could you point out who it was that said MEN do all the abusing? No
one here reduced it to "bad men, good women" as far as I can tell from my
survey of this thread. Looking back over the posts, i don't see that
anyone engaged in "male bashing". Perhaps someone could point out where any of
 us has written
of how "evil" all (or any) men are.It frustrates me (and disenheartens
me) that this has *not* been an "open" discussion at all--"facts" were bandied
 about as if
there were no other "facts", and all attempts made to reason back were
summarily dismissed.
We have all concurred that spousal abuse is a complex topic, more so
than our beloved media representations would suggest. This is how the thread
began, with J Thomas's objection to the simplistic reduction of the
issues by the media. With that issue, I have to agree.
Finally, and I know this post is very long already, I would like to
make one suggestion: please back up your "facts" and figures with some sort of
a citation. Academic wars in sociology, history, in all disciplines, are
no less devisive than in our own.
Donna Cunnningham
University of Southern California
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