In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gender and Political Violence

  • Introduction

Political Science Gender and Political Violence
Julie Billaud, Lucia Direnberger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0339


Feminist studies have rejected the assumption according to which gender violence is an individual or private issue that has to be primarily approached from a psychological perspective. They have underscored the link between gender violence and other factors of social inequalities. Feminists contend that men use violence as a means to exercise power over women. They have defended the idea according to which violence against women is a form of political violence. Marxist/materialist feminisms have argued that the dichotomy between the private and the public spheres structures power relations between women and men. They have shown that the private/public distinction depoliticizes the private sphere. Simultaneously, they have demonstrated that the private sphere—as much as the public domain—is a political construction which serves to reinforce women’s subordination and their social, political and economic exploitation. Women’s relegation to domestic tasks and their responsibility for care work reinforce the norm of political participation and economic resources as a male privilege. The concept of political violence locates politics in the public domain, and links violence with armed conflicts, social movements, and wars. By contrast, feminist studies situate the production of political violence within domains of life which were previously dismissed as irrelevant for politics: the home, the neighborhood, the intimate space, interpersonal relations and everyday life. Feminist theories make visible the political nature of violence against women. They consider that violence against women takes various forms, occurs in all social spaces, and is closely intertwined with gender hierarchies. Violence against women is an instrument for maintaining women’s oppression and men’s privileges in societies. The political economy of patriarchy and gendered inequalities makes women more vulnerable and fuels violence against women. Furthermore, women of color and queer feminists have highlighted the importance of other categories of identity such as race, class, and sexuality in the way gender violence is deployed. A focus on gender, instead of women, enables to bring nuances to monolithic representations of masculinity and femininity by demonstrating how the masculine and the feminine constitute socially constructed sets of attributes, behaviors, and roles that are constantly negotiated and changing over time and history. An intersectional approach to gender is therefore necessary to understand how violence differently targets and affects women of color and queer people.

Gender Violence and Political Violence

Political violence has historically been conceived as a male domain with men considered the perpetrators of violence and women as victims without power. Whereas men and masculinity are associated with war and aggression, women and femininity conjure up socially constructed images of passivity and peace. This distinction of men as aggressors and women as passive victims denies women their voice and agency. This section of the bibliography references the scholarship that examines the gendered dimension of political violence. More specifically, the literature focuses on various contexts that are particularly prone to the mobilization of stereotypical representations of gender roles for political purposes, notably nationalism, militarization, colonialism, imperialism, and neoliberalism.

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