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Violence's victims: the gender landscape

Socialist Register
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  • Psychosocial Studies
  • Economics
  • Law


Twenty years ago, completing a book on changing patterns of masculinity, I welcomed the growing evidence of diversity in men's lives and their relations with women and children, while remaining aware of the resilience of so many aspects of gender hierarchy, both symbolically and socially. Surveying the gender landscape today, one sees that the challenge to men's grip on power and privilege relative to women has continued, if haphazardly, with global capital itself sometimes seeming to support some of women's moves against traditional patriarchal precedents, although in narrowly defined ways that never disrupt the efficient workings of capital. Certainly, any shrinking of old gender hierarchies remains distinctly uneven, but women in the West are reaching higher levels in the labour market, even though legislation promoting equality between the sexes has failed to prevent women's average hourly wages still lagging well behind those of men, even in full-time work, while the gap is vastly greater in most sectors of part-time work. Moreover, this level of economic progress for women in the richer western countries is accompanied by disturbing patterns in women's lives globally, with impoverished armies of women providing domestic or other underpaid, unprotected forms of personal service in countries far from their homes and families. Above all, whatever may be agreed regarding women's progress on the bumpy road towards greater gender equality, many argue that any optimism vanishes once we turn our attention to progress in eradicating men's violence against women. This is surprising, one might think, when men's violence quickly became an issue of overriding importance to second-wave feminists whose hard-fought campaigns eventually succeeded in making it a key concern on social policy agendas ever since.

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