The high rate of violence in the United States shocks foreigners and frightens Americans. Only a couple of generations back, many Americans left their homes and cars unlocked. Today, fearful of carjacking, they lock their cars while driving and fearful of rape and kidnappings, they escort their children to school. Lurking behind these fears is gender inequality of violence and that is the fact that females are more likely to be victims than males. Women are also the typical victims of family violence.
Spouse battering, marital rape, and incest are just some of the violence in the home. Feminist sociologists have been especially effective in bringing violence against women to the public’s attention. Some use symbolic interactionism, pointing out that to associate strength and virility with violence, as it is done in so many areas of U. S. culture, is to promote violence. Others use conflict theory. They argue that as gender relations change males are losing power, and that some males become violent against females as a way to reassert their declining power and status.
When thinking of a solution there is no magic bullet for this problem, but to be effective any solution must break the connection between violence and masculinity. This would require an educational program and that incorporates schools, churches, homes and the media. Given the gun-slinging hero’s of the Wild West and other American icons, as well as the violent messages so prevalent in today’s mass media and throughout our culture, it is difficult to be optimistic that a change will come any time soon.
To determine the amount and types of violence in U. S. homes, sociologists have interviewed nationally representative samples of U. S. couples. Murray Straus is one sociologist and Straus concludes that husbands and wives are about equally likely to attack one another. When it comes to the effects of violence gender equality vanishes. Another thing Straus points out though is that even though she may throw something first, it is the man who throws the last most damaging blow.
There could be many reasons given for this violence but the one underlining factor is the fact of the sexist structure of society. Growing up with norms that encourage aggression and the use of violence, many men feel it is their right to control women. When frustrated in a relationship, or even by causes outside it, many men turn violently on their wives, lovers and family.
Reference: Straus, M. A. (May-June, 1980). Victims and aggressors in marital violence. American Behavioral Scientist, 23, 681-704.