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Violence Against Women Argumentative Essay Sample

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Violence Against Women Argumentative Essay Sample

Though they originated in areas of the United States, Specialized Domestic Violence Courts have gained newfound recognition in the Toronto area.  The idea behind Specialized Domestic Violence Courts is to assign one judge to all cases involving domestic violence so that the court system can bring about substantive benefits in the handling of domestic violence cases.  The question is whether or not Specialized Domestic Violence Courts lead to the more beneficial and efficient handling of domestic violence offenders, especially habitual offenders.  Does having a specialized court system effect change in outcome indicators like the length of sentencing or the sentencing options available to domestic violence offenders.

               The crime of domestic violence is recognized as a widely pervasive social issue in Canada, statistics show that 1 in every 4 Canadian women have been abused physically by a spouse or partner during a relationship with married women being nine times more likely to be abused or killed by their partner than by a  stranger (Christopher, para. 1).  The notion that a man has a right to `discipline’ his wife is deeply rooted in the history of our society. The woman’s duty was to serve her husband to stay in the marriage at all costs `till death do us part’ and to accept as her due any `punishment’ that was meted out for failing to please her husband. One consequence of this attitude was that `wife battering’ was rarely spoken of, rarely reported, rarely prosecuted, and even more rarely punished. Long after society abandoned its formal approval of spousal abuse; tolerance of it continued and continues in some circles to this day” (Christopher, para. 11).

               It is said that Specialized Domestic Violence Courts aid in the breaking of the cycle of violence.  The idea is that Specialized Domestic Violence Courts take the offense from the realm of being strictly criminal to being moral and symbolic.  The courts set up community intervention programs to point out the problem to offenders and attempt to allow them to reform themselves.  Because of this some people believe that domestic violence, as a crime has been removed from the mainstream criminal court because it has been decriminalized and diminished as if it were not a real crime.

  • Carol Smart & the Socio-Legal Perspective

Carol Smart focuses her research and studies on the intimate relationships within families in attempts to analyze and understand the relationships within families as it relates to individualism.  Her research points out how individual outlooks can lead to conflict and enmesh those involved in negative relationships.  She has an intense interest in how the law influences personal relationships and the way that people seek legal solutions to problems that may arise in personal relationships having related the situation to the position of individuals within intimate relationships on a socially hierarchical level.

The socio-legal perspective is in some arenas considered the most pertinent and important perspective in the treatment of women as the socially inferior gender understanding that most of the offenses that maintain the status of women as the oppressed gender are socially and legally constructed conditions.  It all relates to the woman’s social position and how the law cares for people in that position. Base on the socially constructed gender hierarchy women are the greatest victims of criminal and social injustice.

The Socio-Legal Perspective is likely to be the most receptive area of feminist thought in regard to the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system because the Specialized Domestic Violence Courts are geared toward the legal reform of a major social issue, domestic violence, so Smart and her colleagues are likely to view such efforts as a leap in the right direction whereas the other ladies would consider it a baby step.

Because the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system focuses on offender reform Smart is likely to see them as helpful to the socio-legal battle.  These Courts take the battle out of the personal arena, the home and place it in the courtroom, the legal arena, but the best part about it is that the men committing the abuse are being “re-programmed” to unlearn the violence that they are inflicting in their personal relationships, which should make them better people when returned to society.  What Smart may find problematic is the fact that it is high unlikely that the theory of the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system and all of its intended improvements will translate very well into practice.

  • Catherine MacKinnon & Radical Feminism

Catherine MacKinnon’s work focuses on the status of equality in practice as it relates to the law and everyday life.  MacKinnon believes that the systems failure to recognize the existing hierarchy in society results in differences in the subordination of groups portrayed and perceived as the natural order of things. The law justifies distinctions based on gender differences. In MacKinnon’s theories, the opposite of equality is the hierarchy of social constructs. “Equality thus requires promoting equality of status for historically subordinated groups, and dismantling group hierarchy.” (Finan, para. 4)

      MacKinnon argues that sexuality explains the social inferiority of women because of its innate hierarchical structure; thus heterosexuality becomes a force for the subordination of women. “Women and men are divided by gender…by the social requirements of heterosexuality,” MacKinnon explained, and [women]   have been brainwashed into accepting subordinate roles and into believing themselves to be inferior to men. This is not their fault, of course: … [M]ale dominance is perhaps the most pervasive and tenacious system of power in history…”  (Finan, para. 17)

      With this being the case, MacKinnon felt that liberal feminism was far less than equipped to handle the job of helping these women, with its greatest weakness being the fact that liberal feminism seeks legal equality for women within a corrupt and tainted legal system; efforts that will never translate from theory into practice.  If the law is biased in favor of men, you cannot then obtain equal rights for women within that same system – from this came the birth of radical feminism.

      Radical feminism is a field of feminism that focuses its attentions on the theory of patriarchy as a hierarchical system of power that has organized society into a series of complex relationships structured such that they will produce a system of innate male supremacy put in place to formulate and sustain the oppression of women. Radical feminisms intention is to challenge and ultimately overthrow the culturally accepted patriarchy by casting out “traditional” gender roles and radically restructuring society.

      Radical feminism has made some headway in addressing the issue of domestic violence, which is now often defined in a manner prescribed by feminist thought. Laws mandating the reporting of domestic violence are now in place throughout the United States and discussions of domestic violence are not nearly as “hush hush” as in previous decades largely due to statistics that show women as the primary victims of domestic abuse.

It is a fact that women experience and are made victims by significantly more partner violence than men and are thus far more likely to be injured by an intimate partner.  Radical feminism works to take the current statistics and turn them around to ensure that women are no longer victimized and made prey to man’s flagrant whims of aggression.  An aggression heightened and rationalized by the social dominance of women by their male counterparts.

Radical feminism views patriarchy as a division of rights and power enacted to promote the oppression of women.  As such, MacKinnon and her colleagues may find the Specialized Domestic Violence Courts of Toronto to be a fairly feasible idea on the path to improvement; but they are not likely to view them as any true legal effort to enact reform. You have to change the system itself, not just the physical structure of practice.

MacKinnon is likely to see the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system as a big joke.  Radical feminism is all about changing the patriarchical system but the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Courts is attempting to enable that system by working within it to achieve “reform”.  Domestic Violence is supposed to be a victims’ rights issue, but the rights of the victims are being pushed aside because the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system feels it would be more valuable to attempt to “fix” the offender.  To start, MacKinnon would find this problematic because we all know that it’s not going to work, but the greatest issue is the fact that Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Courts are further distorting the issue of domestic violence and attempting to downplay the criminality of the offense.

  • Kimberle Williams-Crenshaw & Intersectionality

Kimberle Williams-Crenshaw believes that there are many varying forms of discrimination that can intersect to create some very particular vulnerabilities for those already defenseless to the inequality of discrimination.  Williams-Crenshaw thus coined the term “intersectionality” to call attention to those overlapping vulnerabilities that play such a strong role in the forming of lives and relationships.  Intersectionality is particularly germane to the area of violence against women and other areas of strong discrimination and inequality.

Intersectionality involves the inclusion and/or presence of repeatedly overlapping oppressions, the discrimination could include both age and race or it could involve both age and sex or race and sex. Intersectionality holds that the more classic forms of oppression and discrimination upon which our society is founded; such a race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. do not necessarily perform independently of one another.  Instead, oftentimes these areas of discrimination are interrelated in their use and oppressive power.

Williams-Crenshaw’s intersectionality approach to analyzing the oppressed state of women aims at the capturing of the consequences possible interactions between two or more varied forms of subordination could have on the human condition.  It calls to light how society’s patriarchal hierarchy along with issues like race, class or sexuality can work together to create the organization of discriminatory systems of inequality that thereby structure an individuals position in this world.

With the influence of intersectionality in this world being so strong and ever present it is nice to see such systems as the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court enacted to attempt the improvement of at least some limited aspect of the legal system, but reform is far in the offing.  Specialized Domestic Violence Court can only address one area of intersectionality, the others are left to fester like open wounds, thus, she would likely see the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Courts as a step in the right direction, not necessarily a big step, but a step nonetheless.  The problem would come in with the fact that the Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system does not address all of the intersectional elements of domestic violence as a crime and component of human behavior in our society

  • Ann C. Scales

Scales relies primarily on male sources of “authority” along with Catherine MacKinnon but her approach is far more liberal.  Liberal feminism, also known as mainstream feminism asserts the equality of men and women through political and legal reform.  It focuses on women’s ability to show and maintain their equality through their own actions and choices. Liberal feminism looks at the personal interactions of men and women as the starting ground from which to transform society into a more gender-equitable place. According to liberal feminists, all women are capable of asserting their ability to achieve equality and with that being true; it is therefore feasible for change to occur without actually having to alter the structure of our society in its current state.

Domestic violence is among the issues that are extremely vital to liberal feminists based on its frequency, severity and attached consequences.  Liberal feminists largely work toward the implementation of better laws because they believe that men and women should be treated as equals under the law and that personal “rights” should clearly take precedence over any concern for the social good.  The oppression liberal feminists identify involve the cultural injustices fostered by ‘traditional’ gender roles that have historically favored men over women. The liberal feminist wants to free women from these oppressive gender roles and place them in their rightful position in our society.

Liberal feminism seeks to promote equality in the legal, social, and political, realms of society and with that being the case they are likely to appreciate the forming of Toronto’s Specialized Domestic Violence Courts but may view the efforts as not being enough.  The Toronto Specialized Domestic Violence Court system seeks to reform men who abuse women for the sake of those men in hopes that it will improve the plight of the women who are or may become involved with them; it makes no direct attempt to improve the status of the women being abused, Scales would definitely see this as problematic.  You can appreciate the effort but Scales would likely find fault in the fact that there are provisions in place for the attempted reform of the offender, but there are no provisions for the empowerment of the abused, thus no real change is being made.

References

Stopping Violence Against Women: Eve Ensler and Kimberle Crenshaw on V-Day, Women in Prisons and Breaking the Silence.  DemocracyNow.org. 21 June 2006.  http://www.democracynow.org/2006/6/21/stopping_violence_against_women_eve_ensler

Feminist Ultimatums: Not in Our Name. Huffington Post.  5 February 2008.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberle-crenshaw-and-eve-ensler/feminist-ultimatums-not-_b_85165.html

Hirshman, Linda.  “Looking to the Future, Feminism Has to Focus”.  Washington Post.  8 June 2008

Scales, Ann.  “Legal Feminism: Activism, Lawyering and Legal Theory.  New York: New York University Press, 2006.  240pp.

Rockler-Gladen, Naomi.  Types of Feminism:  Liberal, Socialist, Third Wave and Other Feminist Philosophies.  Feminism Suite.  22 April 2008.  http://feminism.suite101.com/article.cfm/types_of_feminism

MacKinnon, Catharine.  “Are Women Human?: Reflections on the Declaration of Human Rights 171”.  Retrieved 18 March 2009. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/mackinnon/mackin1.html

Christopher, Catherine.  “Domestic Violence Courts”.  LawNow.  Feb-Mar 2002.  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0OJX/is_4_26/ai_n25039246

Finan, Christopher.  “Catharine A. MacKinnon: The Rise of a Feminist Censor, 1893-1993”. Retrieved 19 March 2009.  http://www.mediacoalition.org/reports/mackinnon.html

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