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Masculinity and its Effects on Domestic Violence within the Working Classes

Bachelorarbeit 2012 35 Seiten

Soziologie - Familie, Frauen, Männer, Sexualität, Geschlechter






Literature Review


The Roots and Developments Masculinity

The Crisis of Masculinity

Domestic Violence Masculinity and Class




Firstly I would like to thank Peter Beaney for his useful and stimulating supervision as well as his patience and understanding. I would also like to thank my partner Rachel Peters for reading drafts and giving crucial feedback, as well as looking after our two young children Katie and Isabelle while I went about my work and research.


Jonathan Parkes

Masculinity and its Effects on Domestic Violence Within the Working Classes

Is masculinity a social construct? Is there a ‘crisis of masculinity’?

Do men’s gender roles need to be revaluated? What is the importance in the roots and developments of masculinity in Western culture? Is masculinity the key cause for domestic violence amongst the working class?

This paper looks at the current debates surrounding masculinities importance to domestic violence within the working class system. It examines masculinity historically in terms of its developments and explores the debate surrounding the ‘crisis of masculinity’ and the importance of work to men As well as discussing masculinity as a social construct and the cultural norms placed upon genders. This dissertation finally concludes that men’s new gender roles need to be solidified and given purpose within societies changing structures; this should be implemented with the purpose of removing masculinity as a key proponent for domestic violence amongst the working classes.


Why this topic

‘The seeds of wife beating lie in the subordination of females and in their subjection to male authority and control. The relationship between women and men has been institutionalised in the structure of the patriarchal family and is supported by the economic and political institutions and by a belief system, including a religious one that makes such relationships seem natural, morally just and sacred. This structure and ideology provided the roots of our cultural legacy’.(Dobash and Dobash 1979 p33)

This dissertation critically explores the argument of Masculinities importance in domestic violence in the western working class families this idea is best shown by Kimmel in Men and Masculinities ‘men’s physical violence against women is accompanied by a range of other coercive and controlling behaviours. Domestic violence is both an expression of men’s power over women and children and a means through which that power is maintained’ (Kimmel 1988 p234) Although Domestic violence is a wider term of reference, including women abusing male partners, the focus will remain on male violence against women not to segregate but to centralize as the idea of masculinity is a social term and can apply to both sexes. This has become the diagnostic benchmark for defining and understanding domestic violence as a social issue.

Research focus

Masculine ideals are based on the traditional male patriarchy and male expectations of domestic authority and an inherent right to control monogamous relationships, and its legitimacy in a post modernity society, which focus on factors of globalisation and the technological revolution ‘This Impacts on in particular the working class where male sense of dominance within a household falls’.(Messerschmidt 1993 pg.123 ), Resulting in emasculation, and the feminist idea that stems from this which makes the link between violence and sexism, that men use violence in intimate relationship ‘is particularly reinforced by sexism, the ideology of male supremacy and superiority’ (Gamache, 1990 p52). To reinforce this lost masculinity to maintain and exercise status and authority over women, is best understood in the context of power inequalities and gender norms and can be seen as a development of dominant-submissive power relations that exist in 'normal' family life and are legitimised as such. The terms ‘masculinity and violence will be examined and pluralised’( Dobash and Dobash 1992 p3) where violence in identified, legitimised, excused and explained where male masculinity is implicated amongst all these processes as Virginia Woolf wrote‘ fight has always been the man’s habit, not the woman’s. Law and practice have developed that difference, whether innate or accidental’ (Woolf 1977 p.58)


This dissertation is made up of seven chapters. Chapter one is the introduction.

Chapter two is the literature review which will evaluate previous studies in literature around masculinity and domestic violence within the working class to help to clarify the purpose of the research. Focusing on works specific to the area such as Masculinities (Connell 2005) and The Making of Masculinities (Broad 1987) to name just two. Chapter three is the methodology, examining the reasons for both quantitative and qualitative research during the study. And the personal and ethical motivations for linking masculinity to domestic violence and class. The next chapter discusses The Roots and Developments of Masculinity, with the aim to provide a foundation to understand masculinity and expand on definitive terms, and present the concept of hegemonic masculinity and the idea of a ‘real man’. Chapter five will highlight the ‘crisis of masculinity’ and how gender roles are confirmed through violence. It will also examine waged work and its effects on both men and women in terms of masculinity and the ‘breadwinner role’. Following this the next chapter will focus on the difficulty studying domestic violence amongst the working class and masculinities as a social construct to evaluate class differences. Lastly the conclusion will answer the importance in masculinities as a cause for domestic violence in the working class by analysing the findings presented critically and there importance to future research.


Domestic violence

The term domestic violence will be used throughout this paper as it is the most common term used today ‘domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behaviour designed to exert power and control over a person in an intimate relationship through the use of intimidating, threatening, harmful or harassing behaviour’ (Dutton 1995 p7) This is a rather broad definition and there still remains some debate over this and the difficulty it creates measuring actual incidents of domestic violence. There is also discussion over the predominance of men as victims of domestic violence. without intending to ignore men as victims the focus will remain primarily on woman as victims especially with the centralisation around masculinity.


The concept of masculinity is a fairly recent invention with its roots in early modern Europe colonialism and capitalism, with the rise of individuality. Masculinity as a term exists in contrast to femininity where 19th century bourgeois ideals seperarated men and women. Connell best describes masculinity ‘to the extent the term can be briefly defined at all, is simultaneously a place in gender relations the practices through which men and women engage that place in gender as the effects of these practices in bodily experience, personality and culture’ (p71)

Working class

Karl Marx described the working class as the ‘proletariat, and that it was the working class who ultimately created the goods and provided the services that created a society's wealth’ (Marx 2006 p112) in terms of modern socioeconomics however they occasionally described as lower class separated from other classes by lower paying jobs with little economic security and the culture that surrounds this, not necessarily service jobs.

Literature review

There has recently been an increase in literature surrounding the issues of masculinities and domestic violence amongst the working class . In fact the idea of traditional masculine ideals resulting in domestic violence is not a new concept. Various authors have noted that careful attention needs to be paid to the construct of masculinity and its importance in studying and examining domestic violence. Different approaches to the study of masculinity have been conceptualized differently depending on the researcher, literature and academic field. In recent literature there has been a predominance of two main approaches.

The first is that of patriarchal tradition where ideal are imbedded at a young age through social norms. (Goffman 1971; Bowker 1988) which creates behavioural differences of what men and women should and shouldn’t act like in society (e.g. traditionally pink clothes for girls and blue for boys, construction toys for boys and housekeeping toys for girls) these views confirm that men and boys are simultaneously made vulnerable by rigid social norms of masculinity, while also making women and girls vulnerable. Other researchers take a different approach towards masculinities, focusing on more cultural issues such as the loss of waged work, and class (Connell 2005; Whitehead 2002) as historically men’s status is defined by property ownership and the ‘breadwinner’ role to provide for one’s family.

Regarding masculinities the main literature on its roots and developments comes from Connells (2005) work, which is considered foundational. In the western world modern masculinity originates from the 16th century, with a spread of protestant culture, giving rise to self expression and individuality, and the development of colonialism is also crucial as it allowed a relationship between military violence and national patriotism. He also developed the concept of Hegemonic Masculinities within his social theory of gender. Which put emphasis on the importance of power as a base of men’s relationships. Critiques of this theoretical approach show its lack of ability to work on an empirical level Edley(2006) suggest that in real life men switch positions of power. Also Beasley (2004) argues that the use of the word hegemony as a descriptive term provides confusion between the words other political meaning.

The idea of the crisis of masculinity remains in academic works such as Masculinities (2005); The making of Masculinities (1987) and femininities, masculinities, sexualities Freud and beyond (1994) and most notably The Trouble with boys: parenting men of the future written by Phillips (1993) which shows how destructive forms of manhood derive from an increased presence of women in the workforce removing from the traditional ‘breadwinner role’. However in critique of this are feminists like Bruegel (1979) who argues there is no actual ‘crisis of masculinity’ and it serves as an apology for the destructive behaviour of men towards women in changing standards and ideals.

In regards to understanding masculinities as a social construct to be examined with class and domestic violence the key text remains Masculinities and Violence by Bowker (1983) who puts forward that men with low income have difficulty maintaining dominance, thus become more likely to use violence to establish and maintain control which they cannot gain through financial resources. In regards to this theoretical approach Messerschmidt (1993) develops an elaborate scrutiny of the gender roles within the class, arguing that regardless of financial resources violence still occurs.

Broadly speaking, much research on masculinity and its link to domestic violence within the working class has remained theoretical and for this reason caution is advised when relating them to British crime survey data as little empirical research has been produced for the western world. It is expected to be found during this dissertation that the issue of men and masculinities is the underlying cause for domestic violence within the working classes, however future research should replicate this theoretical standpoint in these Western settings .



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Staffordshire University
masculinity effects domestic violence working classes



Titel: Masculinity and its Effects on Domestic Violence within the Working Classes