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A new article just published, really nails the issue being discussed. Written by Molly Dragiewicz. Here’s an excerpt:
Despite the repetition of FR pronouncements that domestic violence is not about patriarchy, sex, or gender, FR discourse on VAWA reveals the centrality of patriarchy, sex, and gender to their efforts. My analysis of FR discourse about VAWA found calls for formal equality, calls for the reassertion of patriarchy, and objections to women’s authority to be central. The intensification of anti-VAWA rhetoric in the form of calls for “fathers’ rights” not only fails to challenge feminist research and theorizing on violence, but also points to the centrality of the relationship between patriarchy and men’s violence against women. FR emphasis on reasserting patriarchy is paradigmatic of backlash, but FR groups are not just talking to themselves. Many complicated connections exist to mainstream fatherhood and marriage promotion initiatives and liberal and conservative politics that are yet to be investigated. The use of FR Web sites as places for like-minded men to seek out and receive peer support for violence-supportive attitudes is a serious concern for those interested in decreasing domestic violence, especially when we recognize their similarity to batterer accounts. The compatibility of FR commentary on VAWA with patriarchal peer support for violence against women should not go unnoticed.
This inquiry has limitations inherent to a discourse analysis of FR Web sites on VAWA. As a qualitative study, it is not representative of the total number of themes or the frequency with which they are found in all FR attacks on VAWA. Rather, this is an exploratory study that categorizes many different claims according to important themes. The sources that I cite here represent commentaries and arguments that are posted over and over again on many FR Web sites, and there is a great deal of continuity between the sites, but we cannot know about the reception of these claims from looking at Web postings alone. Additional studies that look at a larger number of sites using quantitative approaches would help to develop our understanding of this field. Additional work is needed to investigate more fully the relationships between the different sites, including cross-membership, and the funding relationships between FR and other groups across the political spectrum. Research that combines analysis of Web sites with materials made available to members but not posted online, and studies that compare FR group activities with their Web presence are still needed.
The good news is that the escalation of fathers’ rights rhetoric and other forms of backlash indicate that feminism is hitting a nerve in its criticism of patriarchy. The following quotation exemplifies the extent to which members of FR groups perceive that feminism has resulted in substantive changes for women and men:
[W]hen I lived in Democrat-ruled San Francisco, and was accused by my estranged wife of domestic violence, the ideological Feminist/leftist/democrats were in control of Family Court Services, the Criminal Courts, the prosecutors office, Social Services, and all the attendant government-funded NGOs whose purpose was to brutally and methodically separate fathers from their children. This was a world of purchased justice, wherein the Feminist Left were the rulers, and any man accused—regardless of his political affiliations (and I was at that time a Democrat)—was an instant enemy in the eyes of the State Apparatus. (LaSalle, 2007)
There is plenty of room for further research and advocacy against violence, and it is important to remember that multiple forms of violence, not just men’s violence against women, are shaped by gender. We need to understand the tactics of backlash and how they work in order to advance efforts to protect victims of abuse and decrease the occurrence of violence. Because of their preoccupation with issues related to battering and their bountiful Web presence, FR groups provide a plethora of opportunities for studying the specific dynamics of backlash against perceived feminist gains related to violence policy.
I understand that many scholars have been slow to respond to FR rhetoric for a variety of reasons, but it is important to recognize that FR groups’ organization around violence against women is having a negative impact on battered women and their children. Survivors, service providers, and attorneys report the adverse impact of FR activism (Booth vs. Hvass, 2002; Jaffe & Crooks, 2004; Kaufman & Davis, 2006; Morrill, Dai, Dunn, Sung, & Smith, 2006; Rosen & O’Sullivan, 2005; Waits, 2003). Battered women’s organizations note that battered women have problems with abusers receiving custody at divorce (Varcoe & Irwin, 2004). FR group members have also sued shelters and other domestic violence service providers (Blumhorst v. Jewish Family Services of Los Angeles, 2005; Booth v. Hvass, 2002). Despite their lack of success, such lawsuits are a waste of time and money for agencies that are already unable to fully meet demand for services (California Women’s Law Center, 2003). Rather than seeing FR groups as marginal, we need to understand the relationships between their cause and the other efforts that allow them some measure of influence. Finally, FR groups’ literal and figurative emphasis on patriarchy provides ample opportunities for theorizing its relationship to masculinity and violence that are increasingly important in an era of federally funded fatherhood and marriage promotion initiatives.
Read the entire article here.