• Enter search term(s):

Cynicism in the Anti-DV Movement

mainstream feminism's failure created a room for co-optation

Date: 05/29/2007

[Below is part of the discussion about a domestic violence conference being organized by a group of anti-feminist scholars and "men's rights" activists.]

Hi Molly,

On May 29, 2007, at 6:34 AM, Molly Dragiewicz wrote:

This is not a legitimate conference. The speaker slate is made up of people who are virulently opposed to feminism and/or who claim that women are as violent as men, and the organization was created by fathers rights activists and a couple of scholars who actively attacked and continue to attack VAWA and other laws and services for battered women and the research that demonstrates that violence is gendered.

Looking at the flier for this conference as well as its website, I do recognize the anti-feminist bent. However, many of the topics listed (such as misuse of restraining order, negative effects of mandatory arrest, power and control within the domestic violence industry, etc.) are important issues to me as a feminist and it has been extremely frustrating trying to address them within the mainstream anti-DV movement.

Perhaps they don't really care about the social justice aspect of these issues and are cynically using them as weapons to discredit the movement against domestic violence, but I wish that the mainstream anti-DV movement took more interest in addressing these issues (and didn't rely so much on law enforcement and bureaucracy) so that they can't be appropriated by these people.

I agree that this is not a group that I'd like to associate with because I think it is sexist and disingenuous, and I appreciate you for pointing that out. But I am also concerned about the notion of "legitimacy" being applied here: I also question the current state of VAWA under Alberto Gonzales at DOJ, reliance on the law enforcement in the neoliberalist state, mandatory reporting and arrest laws that deprive choice from victims, disproportionate focus on shelters, etc., from a feminist social justice standpoint, and I fear being denounced as "illegitimate" for voicing these views.

Emi Koyama

Date: 05/29/2007

On May 29, 2007, at 2:48 PM, Molly Dragiewicz wrote:

Hi Emi,
Feminist scholars and activists are among those most critical of the practices you name, but I also understand that many advocacy organizations have resorted to damage control and using the available tools rather than focusing on broad based social change. Many people in the mainstream DV movement have that same concern. I fear that in this context however these issues are being used cynically. The issues are legitimate but presenting a group and event as something that it is not is not. You present your views as they really are and make no attempt to disguise your beliefs, where you are coming from, the issues that you think are important, and advocate what you think should happen and why. I am all for open debate and discussion about the best approaches and remedies, but I seriously doubt it will be found at that event where the common denominator is the denial that gender and power are relevant to violence.

Hi Molly,

Thanks for your comments. I also view their interest in exploring problems with the law enforcement approach (or same-sex DV for that matter) as cynical, but there is also cynicism on the part of mainstream anti-violence organizations that promote the interest of neoliberalist state (in fact, I feel that neoliberalism to be inseparable from its cynicism)...

For example, it was RAINN and other anti-rape groups that promoted the Genetic Fingerprint Act portion of VAWA in its current edition, which basically made it easier for the state to create a database of DNA information anyone of detained--and not necessarily indicted or convicted--by the police. Of course, the end result would be a huge database of mostly Black or Latino/a youth and young adults who are for the most part innocent of any crimes. I find that approach--and the fact none of the anti-DV groups made it an issue when they emailed me urging to call the Congress in support of VAWA renewal--cynical.

- ek