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Root Causes

The underlying cause of woman abuse is the man’s need to control, often paired with a belief that men can or should be in charge.

Perhaps he learned these attitudes by watching his father, or because he was raised believing that men’s rights are more important than those of women or children or is surrounded by a community of peers with the same beliefs. Some social and historical factors that contribute to the dynamic of violence against women in our society:

  • Belief in Natural Superiority and Hierarchy – most societies subscribe strongly to the belief that hierarchical relationships among people are natural. Hierarchy and authority, supposedly, maintains order in our social relationships so that we do not descend into chaos. Accordingly, men, being “natural” superiors to women, are entitled to the position of authority in the family. Since men are entitled to authority within the family, their attempt to maintain the position by any means necessary is also given social approval, their attempt to maintain the position by any means necessary is also given social approval.

  • Lack of Consequences for Using Violence – Men’s superior physical strength allows them to use aggression without the fear of meaningful retaliation from their victims. Given the “privacy” granted to the home environment, an atmosphere without significant consequences has been created for perpetrators of domestic violence.

  • Social Conditioning – since masculine authority is regarded as natural and desirable, women are socialized to accept male power. The gender socialization in almost every society reflect the two sides of the same coin: boys are taught to dominate and girls are trained to accept this domination. Many girls are encouraged to be nurturing, non-confrontational, and to put the needs of others over their own. Girls are exposed to messages that being male is better, men cannot be expected to share domestic duties, women are only valued for their beauty and ability to have children, and women without a man should be pitied. Little boys are socialized in quite a different way. Boys can receive messages that being powerful and in control are good, thinking is better than feeling, and expressing feelings is a sign of weakness. As adults, some have difficulty appreciating the viewpoint of others. They may believe the man is the head of the household and his opinions and needs are the most important. Since masculine authority is considered the preferred condition in society, resistance by women is seen as unnatural, wrong, unfeminine, and a serious transgression of social and moral codes. Consequently, male violence to put down women’s resistance to their partner’s oppression is frequently viewed as justified and necessary, or at least understandable.

  • Historical and Social Objectification of Women and Violence Against Women – Batterers are socialized in cultures that promote and support objectification of women. Portrayals of women in films and on television suggest that we collectively see women as legitimate targets of violence. Indeed, some people believe there are circumstances when a man is justified in hitting a woman, such as if she is unfaithful or he is drunk. Men who are exposed to multiple forms of hostility towards women (watching their fathers abuse their mothers, exposure to violent pornography, misogynist views about women, etc.) are primed to think and act with disrespect and loathing towards women. Rarely do men assault their partners while calling them by their given names. To understand these men as simply “choosing” to batter may be too simplistic. To see them as victims is a distortion.

  • Inequality of Women – The Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women concluded that the root cause of woman abuse is the social, economic and political inequality of women. For example, women earn less money than men, their work at home is under valued, and few politicians are women.

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