Question Melissa Hammond Social Sciences

How is male violence against women a patriarchal (structural and systemic) phenomenon, not an individual issue?

How is male violence against women a patriarchal (structural and systemic) phenomenon, not an individual issue?

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Answer Internal Staff

Patriarchy is a concept concerned with the social relations of power between men and women. The relationship between patriarchy and male violence against women is a complex one, but from a feminist perspective, patriarchy is ultimately a cause and catalyst of abuse against women. The logic of this assertion is that power and the retention of power is innate to a patriarchal system and as such, many males assert their dominance and power through acts of violence against women. In this light, male violence against women is a consequence of a patriarchal system and therefore, not an individual issue. The historical significance and ongoing presence of gender based violence further suggests that it is not societal irregularity but systematically and structurally present and reinforced by patriarchy. Evidence to support this assertion can be seen by examining the legislation surrounding male violence against women. Rape within marriage became a crime as recent as 1991 and consent was only given a legal definition in 2003 (BBC, 2008). This is significant, from a feminist perspective, because it evidences that prior to these dates, rape in marriage was somewhat a legal grey area thus, evidencing a neglect to this important issue by lawmakers and politicians in British society, the majority of whom have traditionally been male. Patriarchy and the notion of a patriarchal system provides a framework for understanding this by suggesting that that this male dominance and the values it promotes relating to power, are transferred down through society and manifest themselves into other spheres of society in the form of domestic violence or violence against women. This is an issue which is discussed by scholars including Archer (1993). However, it is worth noting that this perspective does not advocate that all men are abusive or use violence to assert power in their social relationships. Moreover, there are still ongoing arguments that male violence against women in down to individual psychological issues. Some literature also suggests that the extent of power dominance behaviours can be linked to patriarchy ideology rooted in religious backgrounds.


BBC (2008) ‘Continuing Struggle over Rape Cases’, accessed 11th July 2016

Archer, J. (1993) Male Violence, London: Routledge