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Sexual Inequality and Wife Beating (From Social Cause of Husband-Wife Violence, P 86-93, 1980, Murray A Straus and Gerald T Hotaling, ed. - See NCJ-72913)

NCJ Number
M A Straus
Date Published
8 pages
This article describes a major aspect of the social structure underpinning husband-wife violence: the sexist organization of the family and of society in general.
Sexism produces violence because men use violence to maintain their position as head of the household. Sexism is also grounded in institutional arrangements, such as the expectation that men will marry younger women and the segregated labor maket where women's jobs are less well paid, that make male dominance a reality. The right to use force provides the ultimate support for maintaining the power structure of the family if those low in the male-dominant hierarchy refuse to accept their place and roles. The ascription of superior authority to husbands is a potent force producing physical attacks on women. In addition, the economic constraints on women and the occupational structure of society force women to endure attacks by their husbands since the alternative to divorce is poverty. Under this social structure, women tend to develop negative self-images, especially in relation to achievement. Full sexual equality would eliminate this as a sexually structured pattern of behavior, even though it may remain on an individual basis. As society moves toward a more egalitarian family system, both the actual levels of violence and the norms implicitly permitting such violence should decline. However, progress towards sexual equality and freedom from sexually stereotyped roles have not been as great as seemed possible in the early 1970's. The Equal Rights Amendment remains unpassed, and traditional sex roles remain entrenched even among the young. Unless sexual equality is reflected in the law and in societal arrangments, the domination of women by men will continue. (Author abstract modified)


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