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Teaching against Violence
Reassessing the Toolbox
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 1 2013.08.22. 15:09
TITLES IN THE SERIES:
1. Teaching with Memories.
European Women’s Histories in International and Interdisciplinary
2. Teaching Gender, Diversity and Urban Space.
An Intersectional Approach between Gender Studies and Spatial
3. Teaching Gender in Social Work
4. Teaching Subjectivity. Travelling Selves for Feminist Pedagogy
5. Teaching with the ird Wave.
New Feminists’ Explorations of Teaching and Institutional Contexts
6. Teaching Visual Culture in an Interdisciplinary Classroom.
Feminist (Re)Interpretations of the Field
7. Teaching Empires.
Gender and Transnational Citizenship in Europe
8. Teaching Intersectionality.
Putting Gender at the Centre
9. Teaching “Race” with a Gendered Edge
10. e Power of Information.
Teaching Gender with Libraries and Archives
11. Teaching against Violence.
Reassessing the Toolbox
Title 1 is published by ATHENA2 and Women’s Studies Centre, National University of Ireland, Gal-
Titles 2–8 are published by ATHENA3 Advanced ematic Network in Women’s Studies in Europe,
University of Utrecht and Centre for Gender Studies, Stockholm University;
Title 9-10 are jointly published by ATGENDER, e European Association for Gender Research, Edu-
cation and Documentation, Utrecht and Central European University Press, Budapest.
Title 11 is jointly published by ATGENDER, e European Association for Gender Research, Educa-
tion and Documentation, Utrecht, Central European University Press, Budapest and DAPH-
NE III Programme of the European Union for the Project ‘EMPoWER: Empowerment of
Women - Environment Research’.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 2 2013.08.22. 15:09
Edited by Ines Testoni, Angelika Groterath,
Maria Silvia Guglielmin, Michael Wieser
Teaching against Violence
Reassessing the Toolbox
Teaching with Gender. European Women’s Studies in
International and Interdisciplinary Classrooms
A book series by ATGENDER
ATGENDER. e European Association for Gender Research,
Education and Documentation
Central European University Press
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 3 2013.08.22. 15:09
© Editors and Contributors, 2013
© “Yes, it is possible!” by Ines Testoni
Series editors: Nadezhda Aleksandrova, Sveva Magaraggia, Annika Olsson, Andrea Pető
Editorial board: Barbara Bagilhole, Gunilla Bjeren, Rosi Braidotti, Anna Cabó, Sara Goodman,
Daniela Gronold, Aino-Maija Hiltunen, Nina Lykke, Linda Lund Pedersen, Elżbieta H. Oleksy,
Anastasia-Sasa Lada, Susana Pavlou, Kirsi Saarikangas, Adelina Sánchez, Harriet Silius,
Svetlana Slapsak, Berteke Waaldijk
Editorial assistant: Mónika Magyar
Joint publication by:
e European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentation
P. O. Box 164, 3500 AD Utrecht, e Netherlands
Telephone: (+31 0) 30 253 6013
E-mail: email@example.com, Website: http://www.atgender.eu
Central European University Press
An imprint of the Central European University Limited Liability Company
Nádor u. 11, H-1051 Budapest, Hungary
Telephone: (+36-1) 327-3138, Fax: (+36-1) 327-3183
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.ceupress.com
224 West 57th Street, New York NY 10019, USA
Telephone: (+1-212) 547-6932, Fax: (+1-646) 557-2416
“is publication has been produced with the nancial support of the DAPHNE III Programme of the
European Union for the Project ‘EMPoWER: Empowerment of Women - Environment Research’. e con-
tents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Authors of each contribute (Article/Chapter) and
can in no way be taken to reect the views of the European Commission”
It is realized with the scientic collaboration of the CIRSG (Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca Studi di Ge-
nere – Interidpartimental Centre of Gender Studies Research, University of Padova) and of the GDG (Gruppo
Discriminazione di Genere – Gender Discrimination Group of AIP – Association Italian Psychology)
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A CIP catalog record for this book is available upon request
Printed in Hungary by Prime Rate K.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 4 2013.08.22. 15:09
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ines Testoni 1
e “missing link” between de jure and de facto 5
Innovative elements in the ght against gender-based and domestic
Changing women’s education: From educative punishment to
Alisa Del Re 15
Femicide as the culmination of domestic violence 15
e International framework 17
e European Union 19
National laws in Dierent European Countries 21
e Italian situation 23
Local initiatives: Anti-violence centers, women’s shelters, women’s
Implications for teaching 27
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 5 2013.08.22. 15:09
T A B F T C
V A W: I, P
Suryia Nayak 31
e Activism of black feminist theory 32
Objectify Myself: Objectify her 33
Interconnections: Relations of proximity 35
Lorde and Hill Collins’ encounter 37
Productions of distortion 38
e totalizing eect of distortion 41
e Invitation 43
Disconnection and connection 46
Moving from generality to specicity 47
‘Uses of the Erotic’: Fear and proximity 48
‘Uses of the Erotic’: e spatial politics of fear 50
‘Uses of the Erotic’: Bridge of connection 52
Implications for Teaching 54
“B ”: A
S A. “Y K!” - D R !
Phoebe Kisubi Mbasalaki 61
“Talking” policies 65
e Brothers for Life campaign 67
Implications for teaching 73
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 6 2013.08.22. 15:09
Assignments questions 73
G, D I V
I’ M L: A A T
F R A
Auxiliadora Pérez-Vides 77
Portraying gender polarities 79
Intra-institutional terror 83
Implications for teaching 90
Marlene Matos, Anita Santos, Rita Conde 93
Research developments in Portugal
Group intervention: Pathways to change? 98
Establishing group intervention program 100
Results and discussion 101
Implications for practice 108
Final remarks 110
Implications for teaching 111
Additional assignments for group/ individual work 113
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 7 2013.08.22. 15:09
I, A, B,
P, R, A
Ines Testoni, Alessandra Armenti, Michael Wieser, Alice Bertoldo,
Mihaela Bucuta, Galabina Tarashoeva, Lucia Ronconi, Maria Silia Guglielmin,
Gabriela Dima, Gabriela Moita, Adriano Zamperini,
Sibylla Verdi, Daniela Di Lucia Sposito 119
Lack of female agency as a sociatry problem in domestic violence 123
EMPoWER Research Design 126
Hypothesis and aim 126
Internal consistency 132
e average score and the dierences between the means and cut-os 133
Dierences between the means 136
Subjective well-being 137
Items without risk 139
Correlations between spontaneity and well-being 141
Implications for teaching 144
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 8 2013.08.22. 15:09
“O F S”: A
Vincenzo Calo, Marta Codato, Ines Testoni, Alice Bertoldo 151
eoretical background 153
e Daphne project 153
Research objectives and hypothesis 155
Research design and variables 156
Instruments and measures 159
Experimental process of empowerment 160
Statistical atnalysis 161
e overall situation before the experimental process of empowerment 162
Eects of the experimental process of empowerment on the
participants’ attachment networks, nonattachment sociopolitical
control: Comparison between the rst and second administration 164
Implications for teaching 167
L C 177
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 9 2013.08.22. 15:09
LIST OF TABLES
Figure 1. Percentages “Marital status” variable (N= 136) 129
Figure 2. Percentages “Occupation” variable (N= 136) 130
Figure 3. Sample distribution per country and per type of intervention 130
Table1. Socio-demographic data sample for each country 131
Table 2. Cronbach’s Alpha, SAI-R 132
Table 3. Cronbach’s Alpha, CORE-OM 132
Table 4. Average score, SAI-R 133
Figure 4. e average PG score in each country and at T1 –T2, SAI-R. 134
Figure 5. e average EG score in each country and at T1 –T2, SAI-R. 134
Figure 6. e average PG score in each country and at T1 –T2, CORE-
Figure 7. e average EG score in each country and at T1 –T2, CORE-
Figure 8. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for Subjective
Figure 9. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for Problems
Figure 10. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for Function-
ing domain 138
Figure 11. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for Risk fac-
Figure 12. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for Without
Risk items 140
Figure 13. Percentage comparison between Intervention Group T1 and
cut-o with Intervention Group T2 and cut-o, for all CORE-
OM domains 140
Table 5. Correlations between SAI-R and CORE-OM 141
Table 1. Percentages of dierent targets as primary attachment gures 162
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 10 2013.08.22. 15:09
FOREWORD: GENDER EDUCATION AS A FIRSTLINE
TOOL TO FIGHT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
is volume is the result of an analysis carried out by various scholars working
at the international level on the issue of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). It pays
particular attention to domestic violence, as in this eld feminism has tenaciously
sought to change the condition of women and, as a result, many international
policies have promoted a signicant social transformation. Despite these positive
steps, which have increased the self-determination of women, allowing them to
improve their agency in every domain of private and public life, the problem still
exists. erefore we question, with pain and bewilderment, but also with deter-
mination to continue advancing, how it is possible—aer the Declaration of
Human Rights and the development of feminism—that violence against women
is still so deeply rooted in every culture and even in Western countries. If we
consider social policies as a fundamental factor that signals individual and social
awareness and action, the political commitment against GBV that is now more
than four decades long should have accomplished more.
In fact, political action against GBV began in 1979, when the United
Nations (UN) draed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Dis-
crimination against Women (CEDAW) and dened “discrimination against
women” as any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex that
has the eect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise
by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, eco-
nomic, social, cultural, and civil dimensions. e application of the CEDAW
agenda, in 1981, required that the ratifying states incorporate gender equality
into their specic legislation, abolish all discriminatory references in their laws,
and enact new specications to ght such discrimination. en in 1994 the UN
classied GBV as any act resulting in physical, sexual, or mental harm or suer-
ing to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation
of liberty, whether in public or in private life. Furthermore, it emphasized that
violence against women is a global health and development issue, entailing a host
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 1 2013.08.22. 15:09
of policies aimed at changing public education and promoting action programs
around the world.1 is political ideology has been accepted, and it paved the
way for the European Istanbul Convention, which since 2011 has been working
to create a series of specic social measures and promote the “four Ps”: preven-
tion, protection, support of victims, and prosecution of oenders.
Despite the activation of the four-Ps social interventions, derived from
forty years of CEDAW action and largely prepared in the agenda of the Fourth
World Conference on Women, where the principles of the ird Wave of Femi-
nism (TWF) were acknowledged as fundamental, the systematic lockout of
women from social and political power persists. is results in the phenomenon
of discrimination, so that in almost all areas of life, the status and the condition
of women are usually the lowest and the poorest, aecting women’s private and
social life.2 Furthermore, intimate partner violence seems to be a social evil that
is still hard to remedy. In fact, the media attention given to the occurrence of
intimate partner violence does not necessarily correspond to the actual number
of incidents of violence, because even today there is a large gap between the
actual incidents of violence and the number that is reported to the police. e
real number is much higher. Even if we are astonished by the quantity of victims
of such violence reported at last in the media, the fact still remains concealed,
as until a few years ago GBV was culturally and morally accepted, and then the
problem was simply le in the shadow of indierence and social collusion. Fur-
thermore, the “black number” that denes the unreported acts of crime perpe-
trated against women remains a problem even in the areas where the culture of
gender equality is widely promoted.
Part of the reason that GBV has not yet been resolved is that policies still
need to become more encompassing in order to change the relationship between
society and individuals. If we consider basic gender equality parameters, it appears
that no country actually treats its women the same as its men, and there are also dif-
ferences between Western and non-Western cultures with respect to this disparity.
e data provided by the Global Economic Forum seems to conrm that Western
1 Daniela Gronold, Brigitte Hip, and Linda Lund Pedersen, Teaching with the ird Wave: New Feminists’ Explorations
of Teaching and Institutional Contexts (Utrecht: Teaching Series, ATHENA3, 2009).
2 See http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/; http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/convention-vio-
3 See World Economic Forum, http://www.weforum.org/pdf/Global_Competitiveness_Reports/Reports/gender_gap.
pdf; UNDP : http://hdr.undp.org/docs/network/hdr_net/GDI_GEM_UNDP_Gender_Score_Card.pdf.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 2 2013.08.22. 15:09
countries are reducing the gap between women and men, but it is also true that the
situation varies between the United States and Europe, and even more so within
Europe. In general, the women in United States have more self-determination than
their European counterparts, and women in Northern Europe are much less dis-
advantaged than those in the former Soviet republics and the Mediterranean.
may be that in the United States and in Northern Europe, policies more eectively
address individual-society relationships, and this has supported the transition from
an ideological dimension to social practice. In many Western countries the revo-
lutionary theory of TWF is widely known, but in some countries the discussion
remains relegated to academic settings and thus is not able to develop in parallel
with women’s ability to enjoy measurable benets. For example, Italy is a Western
Mediterranean country where the academic debate about gender studies is very
extensive, but at the same time the number of femicides is increasing faster than
in any other European country: almost every second day a woman is murdered by
her husband, boyfriend, or ex-lover. e Italian situation is so severe that, during
the Twentieth Session of the UN Human Rights Council, on June 25, 2012,
the special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo opened the session on “Violence against
Women: Its Causes and Consequences” with an important remark denouncing
the Italian situation and underscoring the separation between de jure and de facto:
“Although the Italian legal framework largely provides for sucient protection for
violence against women, it is characterized by fragmentation, inadequate punish-
ment of perpetrators and lack of eective redress for women victims of violence.”
In this regard, she stressed that a weak political will and a lack of funds available
for programs in the area of women’s rights “aects the responsibility of the Central
Government to fulll, with due diligence, its international and national obliga-
tions to eectively address violence against women.”
is UN report depicts the current situation in Italy, despite the fact that
gender studies at the academic level has achieved increasing international success.
Given the current situation, we can also state that in many other Western coun-
tries, the second and third waves of feminism have in theory opened up the hori-
zons on female self-determination, subjectivity, agency, and the right to equality,
4 See UN Women, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-
5 See Wideplus, 2013: http://wideplusnetwork.wordpress.com/news/un-special-rapporteur-on-feminicide-and-vio-
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 3 2013.08.22. 15:09
but that this has not carried over into reality. However, it is important to high-
light that the Italian situation is not the worst. For example, the women who live
in Turkey, the country where the Istanbul Convention was stipulated, live in con-
ditions that are certainly more dire. is country is still waiting to become part
of the EU, and the debate over its membership has become a major controversy
among the Council of Europe. e rst reason for this interminable argument
is the fact that Turkey does not seem to follow the 1993 Copenhagen criteria,
which require member states to respect human rights in order to become eligi-
ble, and the dreadful conditions for women are indexed in this aspect as non-
respected. is problem has been recognized by the government, so the fact that
Turkey has been blocked from joining the EU has facilitated a change in the
women’s empowerment. In fact, in 2001 Turkey reformed the Civil Code, result-
ing in the legalization of divorce and in the reduction of discrimination against
women. Nevertheless, despite this progress and despite the fact that on Interna-
tional Women’s Day on March 8, 2012, the parliament passed a new law address-
ing the issue of violence against women, in this country, according to the data
released by the Women’s Rights Center of Istanbul Bar Association, 85 percent
of registered divorce applications are due to violence (approximately 2,000 annu-
ally), and approximately 300 women have applied for protection.6 is means
that European policies may promote the empowerment and the liberation of
women but that this is not enough to change the concrete situation. e Italian
and Turkish examples are useful to illustrate how policies created as a result of
feminist and gender studies theories may change women’s political situation, but
the policies need to be followed up with another kind of intervention that can
link the socio-cultural dimensions with the psychological and individual ones.
Many authors have already emphasized that more research is needed to
identify the causes and the outcomes of the gap between de jure and de facto and
to describe how the type of violence inicted on women varies depending on the
cultural context, particularly in the Western world, where policies to empower
women are already in place. e literature on this topic is extensive; however, it
is possible to highlight some key points that are useful in promoting change.7 In
6 See http://www.istanbulbarosu.org.tr/images/haberler/GENDER_PRESENTATION.pdf; UN Women, http://
progress.unwomen.org/pdfs/EN-Report-Progress.pdf; and ACUNS, http://acuns.org/femicide-a-global-problem/
7 See Nancy Felipe Russo and Angela Pirlott, “Gender-Based Violence: Concepts, Methods, and Findings,” Annals of the
New York Academy of Sciences 1087 (2006): 178–205.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 4 2013.08.22. 15:09
our opinion, the most important among them is the relationship between policy
and educational processes, because this may form the foundation for real empow-
erment, by overcoming female vulnerability through the activation of both indi-
vidual and social dimensions. e diculty is to dene the intersections between
the various areas of studies that are useful for improving the psychological and
social awareness of female subjectivity and agency.
e “missing link” between de jure and de facto
Feminist action certainly inuenced the egalitarian policies of the last century,
but TWF seems to be facing a particular diculty in that, aer enabling changes
to existing laws, it is not able to transform these laws into practice and coherent
Indeed, TWF developed during a time of major social change in human
history: the break-down of U.S.-USSR bipolarism and a consequent decline in
Marxist ideologies, the progressive crisis of liberal capitalism, the development
of digital-tech, “glocal” multiculturalism, “political correctness,” and, last but not
least, aer the sexual revolution breakthroughs, the rise of gay pride and post/
trans-genderism. TWF has taken on all of these issues, trying to overcome the
remaining legacy of traditional patriarchal systems. Furthermore, the emergence
of queer theory, cyber and cyborg feminism, transgender and queer-gender
politics, cultural post-humanism, post-sexualism, and advanced biotechnology
including contraception and assisted-reproductive technology (which is freeing
women from the determinism of nature) has resulted in the rejection of a gender
binary that classies humanity into two dierent and irreducible forms—mas-
culine and feminine.8 ese theories open up the possibility for contemporary
society to be able to guarantee the right of self-determination, but in practice
that does not actually occur. Indeed, discrimination against women is still a huge
problem and seems to be viewed as less important than other priorities result-
ing from the recent rapid social changes. is situation gives the impression that
TWF is unable to involve the most recent generations of young women and is
8 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990); Leslie Feinberg,
Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999); Donna J. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science,
Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: e Reinention
of Nature, ed. Donna J. Haraway (New York: Routledg e, 1991), 149–181; Sue V. Rosser, “rough the Lenses of Femi-
nist eory: Focus on Women and Information Technolog y,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 26, no. 1 (2005): 1.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 5 2013.08.22. 15:09
intrinsically powerless to indicate solutions for the serious inequality that women
experience. Notwithstanding the considerable eorts by European policies to
reduce this gap, nothing seems to diminish the persistent humiliation of women
and their submission to traditional logic that keeps them strongly subordinate to
men, thus making incompatible the dimensions of de jure and de facto.
To the extent that this situation results in part from a substantial lack of
gender equality education, the book addresses this need by proposing two types
of educational materials. e rst one is inherent to the methodologies that can
be used to discuss the themes analyzed in each chapter; the second one illustrates
the results of some social and educational interventions aimed at promoting
agency in women who are victims of domestic violence and at reducing the gap
between women and men. Assuming the feminist intersectionalist suggestions,
in whose perspective gender discussion implies the relationships among multiple
dimensions and modalities of social interactions and subject formations,9 both
the kinds of education presented develop within the juncture between social
thought and psycho-educational action, focusing on specic strategies aimed at
changing the concrete situation and at measuring their ecaciousness in produc-
ing change. We think that the usefulness of this second aspect is related to its
ability to translate every policy change into actual measurable action plans that
highlight the methodologies utilized in reaching specic aims.
As the AtGender agenda illustrates, change is possible if women acquire
the power to manage the ideologies taught in school and translate policy action
into psychosocial and pedagogical practice, whose ecacy can be measured
by showing the replicability of the adopted strategies. With this perspective,
the volume fully adheres to the mission of the AtGender series Teaching with
Gender, which is ultimately focused on this aim. e enhancement of women’s
awareness about their condition and the fundamental right to freedom is pos-
sible, especially thanks to educational activities that involve women themselves
in producing a psychosocial outcome that is able to change the cultural frame
on which policies are founded. Moreover, in each chapter the book underlines
the importance of the replication/dissemination of concepts/actions promoting
women’s empowerment and dedicates a specic nal part to the teaching-gender
9 Leslie McCall, “ e Complexity of Intersectionality,” Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30, no. 3 (2005): 1771–
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 6 2013.08.22. 15:09
discussion. Since the l rouge of the entire work is the idea that educational pro-
cesses provide the missing link between policies and psychosocial relationships
in the ght against GBV, the educational dimension is therefore incorporated in
the development of the entire volume, beginning with a discussion about policies
and social thought, and nishing o with a description of activities carried out in
light of gender consciousness-raising and overcoming discrimination.
Inscribed in the mission of Teaching with Gender, the volume, focused on
the missing link between policy and the psychosocial dimension, collaborates in
the construction of a possible bridge between the social and personal dimensions
through educational operationalization. It also introduces the following novel
concepts to feminist thought: the discussion of a new perspective in black femi-
nist theory, the involvement of males in social education against GBV and the
ecaciousness of active techniques of intervention, derived from psychodrama.
Innoative elements in the ght against gender-based and domestic
Many people (not only men but also women) do not understand sexism, or if they
do, they think it is not a problem. Such a misunderstanding produces the disa-
vowal of politics and practices promoting gender equality and reects the reality
that most people interiorize these themes from traditional (that is, “patriarchal”)
points of view, still dominant today, thus invalidating the relationship between
egalitarian law and everyday life. Since this diculty is particularly evident in Italy,
the book begins by discussing the Italian legal context and comparing it to the
European one. e issues are discussed by Alisa Del Re in her paper “About Leg-
islation against Domestic Violence in the EU and Italy.” As the author explains,
according to studies released by the Council of Europe, between 12 and 15 percent
of women in Europe have been victims of domestic violence aer the age of sixteen.
Despite the fact that domestic violence is recognized throughout Europe as the
most salient type of violence against women and is treated as a violation of funda-
mental human rights, and despite the activities of the European regulatory frame-
work and the international partnerships existing among EU member states, there
are major dierences in how domestic violence is addressed from the political and
legislative point of view. e lack of comparable data on the actual size of the phe-
nomenon also makes it dicult to manage the problem in an ecient way. Alisa
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 7 2013.08.22. 15:09
Del Re provides an analysis of European legislation on this issue and various other
legislative interventions in individual states with particular reference to the Italian
situation, focusing on the variability of the laws and actions, given that they deeply
aect the dynamics of the creation of a European citizenship for women.
An example that illustrates from theory to social practice how to break free
from a very serious condition of oppression is oered by feminists who have suf-
fered from a double disadvantage, being both women and black. Black women are
victims of two atrocious forms of dehumanization: racism and gender discrim-
ination. Suryia Nayak, in her chapter “e Activism of Black Feminist eory
[BFT] in Confronting Violence against Women,” introduces the interventions of
BFT as a lens of critical analysis to deconstruct feminist discourses and practices
about violence against women. is contribution uses conceptual tools developed
within BFT both as the subject and method of enquiry. is paper argues that
just as racism operating within the regime of visibility has nothing to do with the
color of skin, sexual violence against women such as rape, pornography, sexual
abuse, prostitution, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation has nothing
to do with sex and the erotic. e author underlines that if the space and place we
inhabit produces us, the ways in which the psychic life of power
operates will be
specic to space and place in terms of gender, race, class, and sexuality. However,
because “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” and in order
not to use “epistemic violence” to think about violence against women, new forms
of dialogue, communication, interaction, and collective practices need to be imag-
ined, developed, and practiced. Nayak’s suggestion is that BFT, born out of sub-
jugated knowledge in the matrix of power, oers a “politics of location” that is
pivotal to negotiating interdisciplinary, inter-subjective, psychic, emotional, polit-
ical, and practical solutions to the problems of gender violence.
Another innovation in feminist educational strategies is discussed in the
following chapter: the active involvement of males. Looking at the persistent dra-
matic female condition, the denial of necessary positive male involvement would
be a grave underestimation of the problem and perhaps, on the other hand, even a
radical understatement of the possibility of men’s humanity. It is certainly impor-
tant to assume this possibility, but it is also necessary to consider how female self-
determination and agency can be reached by women without excluding men. e
10 Judith Butler, e Psychic Life of Power (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 8 2013.08.22. 15:09
risk derived from the exclusion of men from the promotion of peace and equality
in a post-colonial culture is to indenitely ght against the parallel development
of backslash against female empowerment.
Indeed, the post-colonial feminist perspective has developed some of the
most important contributions in the direction of human rights, promoting women’s
capacity to participate in the peace process, involving men in the advancement in
peace, developing the security and stability of democratic policies that guarantee
comprehensive rights to women, including the right to take part in the political
process and the right to social and political equality. In this scenario, the policies
promoted in the most Westernized part of Africa—South Africa—may be con-
sidered an important intersection in the area of overcoming traditional-colonial
culture, between peacekeeping processes, human rights promotion, and the solution
of gender-based discrimination and violence. is testimony is presented by Phoebe
Kisubi Mbasalaki in the contribution “‘Brothers for Life’: A Campaign Address-
ing Gender-Based Violence (de/re) Constructing Masculinities in South Africa.”
South Africa has robust policies and programs of intervention in place to address
violence against women, although the majority of these are more reactive than pre-
ventative, but limitations on nancial and human resources frustrate these eorts,
blocking their eective implementation. It is worth noting that initiatives to thwart
violence against women recognize the need to interrogate hegemonic masculinities,
and hence eorts such as the “Brothers for Life” campaign have developed. is
campaign seeks to establish a male identity that is linked to healthy, nonviolent,
and more gender-equitable behavior. e campaign’s variety of media draw upon
the concept of brotherhood to convey to men the importance of the decisions they
make and how these decisions impact their future and that of their dependents. e
paper discusses some of the eorts in place to address violence against women in
South Africa, drawing on examples from the latest preventative measures, such as
the “Brothers for Life” campaign—deconstructing these through a feminist lens.
Changing women’s education: From educative punishment to
Violence against women may also be determined by the diculties TWF has
encountered in transforming legal changes made by feminists into viable social
practices. In many gender-based discourses, this phenomenon is oen called
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 9 2013.08.22. 15:09
“backlash” to criticize the perceived political implications of almost any issue
having to do with women, and especially to deplore many representations of
women in popular culture and the eect of these representations. One of the
most dicult factors to change is the role of women who assume an anti-feminist
attitude because they do not know the history of women’s condition and do not
understand how they are discriminated against: oen the “victim” is not aware
of the extent that she is treated unjustly. is attitude is the result of centuries
of patriarchal education that demanded that women be systematically subor-
dinated. e strategy of using education to keep women subordinate has pro-
gressively become less of an issue thanks to an increase in women’s awareness,
which has determined what Cornelius Castoriadis called “reforming education
and social systems,” towards an “autonomous society” versus the “heteronomous
society.” e two concepts are opposite: in the second case, society is composed of
members responding to an extra-social authority; in the rst example, members
are aware of creating their own institutions (laws, traditions, and behaviors),
and explicitly self-centering (self-determining) in order to become increasingly
capable of critical self- and social thought.11 is idea symbolizes a milestone
in psychological thought, because it is founded upon the essential construct of
“individuation” and its basic implication: individuals who have gained the ability
to manage their personal freedom are self-determined.
Today women can become more self-determined than in the past, partially
because their education has changed, and it is not the same as the one that was
taught to their predecessors. Until the declaration of fundamental human rights
and universal surage, the “edication” of women was aimed at guaranteeing
that their will would remain subordinated to hegemonic and patriarchal power.
e maintenance of women in a state of adherence to male domination was
created through systematic training, disabling them from individuation in the
name of “heteronomous” volitions: God and deities, laws of nature, the neces-
sity of history, and so on. e rst symbolic representation responsible for limit-
ing women’s agency is “motherhood,” which before the feminist revolution was
primarily managed by religious value-oriented criteria. e topic of heteronomy
implied by faith is widely considered in the human rights debate, because world-
wide religions set norms for what is considered ethical in order to obey God or
11 Cornelius Castoriadis, Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 10 2013.08.22. 15:09
godheads. Many religions state that women must submit to the will of God that
establishes the manner in which collective moral principles and policies must
manage female fertility. e “holy” has become a leading actor in the interna-
tional stage in opposing women’s human right to control their own fertility. But
reproductive autonomy is an indispensable condition for women’s sociocultural
equality with men and, therefore, a fundamental human right.
e following chapters consider important initiatives from places like
Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, where religion has particularly inuenced the cul-
tural frame of mind by orienting gender-role dierentiation and the subordina-
tion of women. is section of contributions begins with an emblematic chapter
that discusses a specic aberration of the relationship between sacred Catholic
motherhood and social violence against women. Auxiliadora Pérez-Vides, in her
“Gender, Deviance, and Institutional Violence in Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries,”
describes how the Magdalene institutes constituted spatial metaphors of the
socially sanctioned, national, and religious manipulation of women’s bodies in
Ireland. Following this line of argument, the author examines Aisling Walsh’s TV
lm Sinners12 and Peter Mullan’s highly acclaimed lm e Magdalene Sisters.13
Her analysis explores and denounces Ireland’s atrocious treatment of deviant
sexuality by portraying the context in which outcast women were forced to live
and the bleak conditions of their childbirth and mothering experiences. Pérez-
Vides argues that the type of gender violence that the Magdalene women had to
endure at the hands of their families, nuns, priests, and lay professionals in these
institutions illustrates a culturally sanctioned understanding of female bodily
deviance as well as a strict system of corporeal expiation, by which they were
separated not only from normative society, but also from the right to choose, the
right to privacy, and other basic rights.
Archaic social models that have been more or less unconsciously internal-
ized provide the justication for numerous intimate victim-perpetrator relation-
ships, among which domestic violence is the most salient example. e follow-
ing three chapters consider some specic aspects of the consequences of female
subordination and the possibility of intervening in order to change the situation.
12 Sinners, directed by Aisling Walsh (Parallel Productions/BBC Northern Ireland, 2002).
13 e Magdalene Sisters, directed by Peter Mullan (PFP Production in association with Temple Films, 2002).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 11 2013.08.22. 15:09
Marlene Matos, Anita Santos, and Rita Conde, in the chapter “Gender
and Domestic Violence in Portugal,” provide their contribution as evidence
to establish the scientic and social relevance of the problem in Portugal. e
authors discuss the views that have oriented public policies and technical inter-
ventions with victims, illustrating how these emphasize the impact of violence
and its adverse consequences, usually portraying victims as “traumatized,” “impo-
tent,” and “passive,” while these same interventions pay little attention to the
change processes. is is why the authors have conducted studies that identify
the strategies women use in order to cope with domestic violence, recognizing
the psychological processes involved in the construction of adaptive processes.
Specically, they have studied the contribution of psychological interventions
with female victims (individuals and groups) and also analyzed the impact of
prevention campaigns among juveniles in order to measure the impact of educa-
tion. ese studies may provide signicant input for intervention eorts with
victims, leading to intervention models that rely on strengthening and empower-
ing women’s resources. e psychosocial and cognitive intervention described in
this contribution is particularly pertinent because it is the most widely used one
for enabling female self-determination. It triggers the motivation to change by
leveraging an understanding of the factors that determine abusive relationships.
Next to the psychosocial cognitive approach, some new strategies are
increasingly used in this specic eld of intervention. Among these, psycho-
drama and sociodrama seem particularly promising, because of their ability to
meet the criteria of TWF, especially with regard to the “embodiment” factor. Fol-
lowing Simone de Beauvoir’s claim that “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a
woman,” which has been appropriated and reinterpreted by the perspective of
constituting acts, where Butler’s performative account of gendered subjectiv-
ity shows how sex and gendered identication come to appear natural starting
from socio-constructionist processes, nowadays it is clear that it is important to
involve the entire body in the experience of learning processes aimed at empower-
ing women.14 Indeed, Butler’s perspective has opened the philosophical concept
of “acting” in the theatrical sense, and this is the reason for considering psycho-
drama and sociodrama—which are types of psychosocial and psychotherapeutic
14 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, cit.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 12 2013.08.22. 15:09
techniques ideated by Jacob Moreno.15 ese techniques are used with small or
large groups and use guided dramatic action to elaborate problems or issues of
an individual—and are elective techniques for female empowerment within the
TWF perspective. Psychodrama utilizes experiential methods and group dynam-
ics to bring insight and personal growth to participants, who may explore their
worldview and internal theater through action rather than through talking and
classical psychological methods. In this way, it provides a safe environment to
express strong feelings, under the guidance of a group leader who may be a psy-
chotherapist or a counselor.
is theoretical backdrop creates the basis for the discussion of Ines
Testoni, Alessandra Armenti, Alice Bertoldo, and their collaborators in the
chapter “e Eectiveness of the EMPoWER Project and Intervention.” In this
text, the nal phase of EMPoWER, a Daphne longitudinal research-intervention
project carried out between 2011 and 2013 and involving six countries—Italy,
Austria, Albania, Bulgaria, Portugal, and Romania—is presented. e focus
of this contribution is on gender-based violence, studied within the family
context and within a specic type of mother-daughter relationship. ere were
136 women victims of domestic violence who took part in the study, and the
eects of two dierent psychosocial interventions—ecological counseling and
psychodramatic action—were measured. e importance of this chapter lies in
the fact that it makes use of the longitudinal method, which measures change at
two dierent points in time: at the beginning (before the intervention) and at
the end (aer the intervention). is research design required the instruments
to be dened, in addition to measuring their validity and utilization. e results
from the research demonstrated a high validity; moreover, the dierent tests vali-
dated the hypothesized model before the intervention in a randomized sample,
showing positive correlations between indices of spontaneity and psychological
well-being and negative correlations with indices of depression in the treatment
group. e research supports the idea that both interventions (psychodramatic
and ecological) strengthen the empowerment of women who have been victims
of violence; however, psychodramatic techniques seem to be more eective in
Eastern European countries. e focus of EMPoWER, adopting the pro-woman
15 Jacob L. Moreno, Interpersonal erapy, Group erapy and the Function of the Unconscious (New York: Beacon House,
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 13 2013.08.22. 15:09
line, was the mother-daughter relationship, because the principal hypothesis
focused on the idea that the “traditional” perspective that subjugates women is
decreasing at a slow rate, and this seems to be partly due to the type of domestic
intergenerational moral education that is passed on from mother to daughter.
In the previous chapters, psychodrama was used both as a technique to
educate women victims of violence in order to emancipate them from the tradi-
tional representation of females and as a psychotherapeutic technique for treating
adolescent women victims of sexual abuse. But psychodrama may also be a useful
strategy for “teaching with gender” in school and university settings. In this case,
the adoption of psychodrama is aimed at improving young women’s individual
prevention strategies so that they can avoid being preyed on. In fact, believing
in the possibility of providing a concrete teaching example following the TWF
perspective, the following authors’ last chapter illustrates how to apply the model
discussed in the previous contribution, through a primary prevention project
carried out with female university students. Vincenzo Calvo, Marta Codato,
Ines Testoni, and Alice Bertoldo, in “‘Overcoming Female Subordination’: An
Experimental Process of Empowerment,” describe the results of an intervention
carried out utilizing sociodrama and active techniques. e aim of the project
was to manage the relationship with the mother and her possible backlash against
the emancipation of her daughter. e psychodramatic activities were aimed at
reecting on the maternal role in the transmission of traditional values that keep
women conned in intimate relationships. Attachment theory assumed some
specic importance, also making it possible to measure any changes in the rela-
tionship with the mother.
is contribution ends the volume by discussing the results of the research,
which demonstrate the ecacy of the intervention and the possibility of measur-
ing change aer only one intervention focused on feminist objectives.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 14 2013.08.22. 15:09
ABOUT LEGISLATION AGAINST DOMESTIC
VIOLENCE IN THE EU AND ITALY
Alisa Del Re
Domestic violence (is) “all forms of physical, psycho-
logical or sexual violence, and is as much about people
who have had or are proposed to have an intimate rela-
tionship, and about subjects within a family who have
more or less enlarged parental or aective relationship.”1
Femicide as the culmination of domestic violence
Historically, the process through which the modern state was born granted men
the power within the family. Men’s domination over women was later transferred
into laws, norms, and social structures. In the European national states the path
to acquisition of citizenship rights for women has been asymmetric compared to
that of male citizens, and many patriarchal structures remained active until well
aer the beginning of the twentieth century. In many states, family law continued
to dene the man as the head of the household up until the 1970s, giving him the
right to discipline his wife and children. Raping one’s wife was not considered a
crime in many European countries until the end of the twentieth century. In the
early 1970s the feminist movement raised the issue of interpersonal and struc-
tural violence against women as a social problem and found that the institutions
were not very interested in the elimination of such violence.
Although equality between men and women is established by laws and
by constitutional charters, as well as non-discrimination policies of the EU and
interventions by the UN, in practice many women are stuck in abusive relation-
ships because they are not materially helped to get out of them.
1 World Health Organization, WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women:
Summary Report; Initial Results on Prevalence, Health Outcomes and Women’s Responses (Geneva: WHO, 2005), http://
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 15 2013.08.22. 15:09
Any action to combat violence against women cannot be eective unless
the problem of structural inequality is tackled, particularly with regard to domes-
tic violence, including femicide.
Today, women are more in control of their bodies than of their repre-
sentations.2 In the phantasmagoria of images, representations of female bodies
and male power bolster the traditional models of discriminating relationships
between the sexes, and this contradiction is a fundamental root of violent behav-
ior.3 Even at the level of representation, action must be public.
On the feminist side of the commitment, new terms to describe violence
against women have been coined. “Gynocide” is the term suggested by Daniela
Danna,4 showing that male violence in the era of globalization may be linked
both to a break in the traditional gender model (in which violence was deeply
embedded in the system of roles and power and thus not so explicit) and to a
greater participation of women in everyday life and work. “Femicide” is the term
used by Barbara Spinelli,5 borrowed from Mexican anthropologist Lagarde,6 to
indicate systemic and structural violence to which women are subjected in the
asymmetric context of power and life, a violence that aects women’s bodies
daily, escalating as far as rape and murder. Tamar Pitch7 notes the close relation-
ship between sexism and racism in recurring opinions, political views, and legisla-
tive action (security laws), and she denounces the instrumental use of the concept
of “violence.” In the postcolonial West, women’s bodies are once again hostage
to male-oriented policies made by men, which have the goal of producing new
national political-cultural boundaries in order to keep out the “others,” above all,
2 Cf. L. Zanardo (2010), Il corpo delle donne, Milano Feltrinelli.
3 Eleni Varikas, “Una parola ‘sovranamente eversiva’ Da Claire Demar al gender mainstreaming,” in Donne Politica Uto-
pia, ed. Alisa Del Re (Padua: Il Poligrafo, 2011), 41–59.
4 Daniela Danna, Ginocidio. La violenza contro le donne nell’era globale (Milan: Eleuthera, 2007).
5 Barbara Spinelli, Femminicidio. Dalla denuncia sociale al riconoscimento giuridico internazionale (Milan: FrancoAngeli,
2008); Barbara Spinelli, “Perché si chiama femminicidio,” La 27esimaora, May 1, 2012, http://27esimaora.corriere.it/
6 Marcela Lagarde, “Antropología, feminismo y política: violencia feminicida y derechos humanos de las mujeres,” in
Retos Teòricos y nuevas practicas, eds. Margaret Bullen and Carmen Diez Mintegui (San Sebastián: Ankulegi, 2006),
217–218. Lagarde, a Mexican parliamentarian, adds, “ere are conditions for femicide when the state [or its institu-
tions] does not give sucient guarantees to girls and women and does not create conditions that ensure the safety of
their lives in the community, at home, at work or in public spaces. And this is even more so when the authorities do not
exercise their functions eectively. When the state is the structural part of the problem because of its patriarchal nature
and because it tends to keep this type of order, femicide is a state crime.” Ibid., 217 (trans. Alisa Del Re).
7 Tamar Pitch, La società della prevenzione (Rome: Carocci, 2008).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 16 2013.08.22. 15:09
migrants. In a social context where the dominant discourses on gender construct
categories of “man” and “woman” as exclusive and hierarchically ordered, the rep-
resentation of violence is itself highly sexualized and inseparable from the notion
e international amework
Since World War II, many international measures against violence on women
have been enacted: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December
10, 1948), the United Nations Convention on the Suppression of the Trac of
Persons and the Exploitation of Prostitution (December 2, 1949), and the Inter-
national Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1966 (which took eect in
But the specic complaint of “domestic violence” came much, much later.
Attention to gender policies at the international level was manifested in a slightly
more eective sense starting from the 1970s. In 1975 the UN proclaimed the
International Year of the Woman and began a series of world conferences, the
rst of which was held that year in Mexico City. In 1979 the UN General Assem-
bly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW), entreating the states to eliminate gender inequalities
suered by women in public and private life; in 1999 an optional protocol was
added that guarantees women the opportunity to submit an individual report
to the Committee.8 In the year 2000, at the twenty-third special session of the
General Assembly of the United Nations, known as “Beijing+5,” governments
rearmed their commitment to the Fourth World Conference on Women in
1995. Some of the main recommendations contained in the document recog-
8 Also of note is that in 1993 the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against
Women. e issue of violence, along with the status of women in armed conict, is considered in detail in the Platform
for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Also important are the Declaration
and Program of Action of Vienna of June 25, 1993, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights (A/CONF.
157/23) and UN Resolution No. 54/134 of December 17, 1999, proclaiming November 25 the International Day for
the Elimination of Violence against Women. Finally, other interesting UN interventions on this topic are Resolution
58/147 of February 19, 2004, by the General Assembly stating that violence against women is a violation of human
rights, and that of December 18, 2002, entitled “Measures for the Elimination of Crimes against Women Committed
in the Name of Honor” (A/RES/57/179), in addition to the United Nations General Assembly Rsolution of Decem-
ber 19, 2006, entitled “Intensication of Eorts for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women” (A/
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 17 2013.08.22. 15:09
nized that stronger laws were necessary against all forms of domestic violence and
that people need laws, policies, and educational programs to eradicate harmful
traditional practices, such as genital mutilation, early and forced marriages, and
honor killings, and to eliminate the commercial exploitation and sex track-
ing of women and girls, infanticide, and crimes and racial violence caused by the
issue of a dowry. But it was not until the Resolution of December 22, 2003, enti-
tled “Elimination of Domestic Violence Against Women,”9 that this issue was
addressed and the need to eliminate domestic violence clearly recognized.
However, all these interventions, from the international conferences to the
resolutions, have not been able to create a strong mobilization at the intergovern-
mental level in order to seriously combat violence against women. Particularly in
the case of Italy, the CEDAW Committee, in the recommendations to the Italian
government, stated that there was “concern about the high number of women
killed by partners and former partners (femicides), which may indicate a failure
of state authorities to adequately protect women victims from their partners or
former partners.” is is the rst time that the CEDAW speaks of femicide in
relation to a non-Latin American country, underscoring the probable inadequacy
of the actions taken to protect women from violence. e CEDAW Committee
highlighted its concern that in Italy there persist “socio-cultural attitudes that
condone domestic violence”: perhaps this is the point we have to start from in
order to ght femicide.
Delimiting the eld of investigation to Europe, it is necessary to report
the most signicant interventions of the Council of Europe. In particular, the
Program of the European Campaign to Combat Violence against Women,
including domestic violence,10 and the Council of Europe Convention on the
Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse11 should be
noted. Also noteworthy is the work of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Council of
Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and
domestic violence (CAHVIO), created in December 2008 to prepare a future
Council of Europe Convention on this issue, and the conclusions of the EPSCO
9 A/RES/58/147, February 19, 2004.
10 European Union, Rompere il silenzio. Campagna europea contro la violenza domestica (Luxembourg: Ucio delle pub-
blicazioni uciali delle Comunità europee, 2000), http://dirittiumani.donne.aidos.it/bibl_1_temi/g_indice_per_
11 Council of Europe, Council of Europe Conention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual
Abuse STCE no. 201, October 25, 2007, http://conventions.coe.int.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 18 2013.08.22. 15:09
Council of Ministers of March 8, 2010, on violence (Employment, Social Policy,
Health and Consumer Aairs). e most recent intervention concerns the
Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against
women and domestic violence.12
is important convention stated that the achievement of equality de jure
and de facto between women and men is a key element in preventing violence
against women and that violence against women is a manifestation of historically
unequal power relations between men and women that have led to domination
over and discrimination against women by men, depriving women of their full
emancipation. Recognizing that the structural nature of violence against women
is gender-based and that violence against women is one of the crucial social
mechanisms by which women are kept subordinate to men, it points out that
women and girls are oen exposed to serious violence such as domestic violence,
sexual harassment, rapes, forced marriages, and crimes committed in the name
of “honor” or “passion.” is is a serious violation of human rights of women
and girls and the main obstacle to achieving equality between women and men.
In Art. 30 of the convention, an innovative concept is expressed with respect to
gender violence: the need for compensation for victims, assigned by the state if
the damage is not covered by other sources.
e European Union
e European Union (EU) Charter of Fundamental Rights of 200013 contains
the foundations of the idea of dignity of individuals and equality between sexes
(chapters 1 and 3). But it is necessary to get to the March 10, 2005, resolution of
the European Parliament (EP) in order to see member governments called upon
to take eective measures for the eradication of violence against women. Art. 11
reports that a clear political commitment to address domestic violence is totally
e EP resolution of November 26, 2009, on the Elimination of Violence
against Women is fundamental. It follows the written statement of the EP on
12 Council of Europe, Council of Europe Conention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic
Violence, April 12, 2011, http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/equality/03themes/violence–against–women/
13 2000/C364/01, December 12, 2000.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 19 2013.08.22. 15:09
April 21, 2009,14 on the campaign “Say NO to Violence against Women.” In all
interventions the lack of regular and comparable data on violence against women
in the European Union is highlighted. Although some EU member states have
carried out important investigations on the subject, the results are not com-
parable, or they are obsolete. With the resolution on the Stockholm Program
(November 25, 2009), the European Parliament asked the Agency for Funda-
mental Rights to compile and publish “reliable and comparable statistics on all
causes of discrimination (...) and that these dierent causes be treated equally, also
including comparative data on violence against women in the European Union.”
ese reliable and comparable data are essential to assess the magnitude of the
phenomenon and to nd appropriate solutions.15 In 2011–2012 the European
Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)16 conducted a survey across the
EU on violence against women. Previously, in 2010–2011, the FRA conducted a
preliminary study on violence against women in six EU member states: Finland,
Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and Hungary. is study was designed to assist the
FRA in the development of survey questions capable of producing comparable
results on the experiences of violence towards women in the EU, such as experi-
ences of physical, sexual, and psychological violence at “home” and at work, as
well as in a new context: the social networks. e results of the survey, which
are to be released in 2013, will help to fuel the ongoing debate on action at an
EU level to combat violence against women, for example through a new law, the
harmonization of existing laws, or programs to raise awareness among EU citi-
zens. In each country the survey will provide information related to police work,
operators of health and social care sectors and civil society organizations, helping
to distribute resources eciently and improve services. For example, estimates
of the number of cases of violence, the needs of victims, and their perceptions of
the quality of the aid received can lead to re-evaluations of the resources available
from government agencies and private assistance to the victims. In September
2010, the European Commission, at the end of the Lisbon Road Map,17 adopted
14 Unione Europea, Gazzetta uciale dellUnione Europea 285 (2010): 53.
15 Not only are the European data not updated, but additional information concerning the suicide of women in cases of
domestic violence is oen absent. For example, in Italy, although research on suicide has recently been carried out by
ISTAT, domestic violence as a motivating factor was not taken into account.
16 See http//: www.fra.europa.eu.
17 European Union, “Road Map for Equality between Women and Men 2005–2010,” http://europa.eu/legislation_sum-
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 20 2013.08.22. 15:09
a new ve-year strategy for the promotion of equality between men and women
(2010–2015), which translates into action the principles dened by the Women’s
Charter approved in early 2010.18 e strategy on gender equality adopted by the
European Commission foresees a series of measures based on ve priorities: the
economy and the labor market, equal pay, equality in positions of responsibility,
the ght against gender violence, and the promotion of equality outside the EU.
As regards the ght against gender violence, measures to be taken are coopera-
tion with all member states to combat violence against women, and especially to
eradicate female genital mutilation in Europe and worldwide. It should be noted
that domestic violence is not particularly noted except as being “exogenous” and
“culturally alien” to Europe. Also noteworthy is Decision no. 779 of June 20,
2007, establishing the Daphne III Program (2008–2013), which develops and
reinforces a range of programs begun in 1997 under Daphne I (ended in 2003)
and continued with Daphne II between 2004 and 2008.
National laws in dierent European countries
Among the European nations only a few have specic laws on domestic violence
(Poland, Bulgaria, Belgium, Ireland, France).19 Even fewer states punish domestic
violence more severely than other forms of gender violence (Poland, Cyprus).20
Some states, however, have adopted specic legislation on violence against
women that also includes—but is not limited to—domestic violence (Sweden,
Spain, Austria). Regarding sexual violence, the elements that dene “rape” vary
from state to state for the prediction of the act of penetration or more gener-
18 e Charter presents a series of commitments based on agreed principles of equality between women and men in
order to promote “equality in the labor market and equal economic independence for women and men,” in particular
through the “Europe 2020” strategy stating “equal pay for equal work” or “work of equal value” to foster cooperation
with member states in order to signicantly reduce the wage gap between men and women over the next ve years.
e strategy also focuses on equality in decision-making through EU incentive measures; the dignity and integrity
of women, particularly by ending violence against women through a comprehensive policy framework; and equality
between men and women outside the EU, addressing the issue in external relations and international organizations.
19 See: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_344_en.pdf.
20 France: Law no. 399, April 4, 2006, on the prevention and the countering of violence between spouses and partners
or against children; Bulgaria: Law no. 27 of March 29, 2005, on contrast to domestic violence and gender violence;
Poland: Law no. 180 of July 29, 2005, on contrast to domestic violence and gender violence; Austria: Federal Law to
combat and prevent gender-based violence (approved in 2004); Belgium: Law of November 24, 1997, on the preven-
tion and combating of violence between spouses and cohabitants; Ireland: Law of 1996 on domestic violence and abuse
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 21 2013.08.22. 15:09
ally of a sexual intercourse that occurred, for the dierent characteristics of the
conduct of the agent, and for the presence or absence of the victim’s consent.
In addition, many states have no appropriate standards to combat sexual harass-
ment. In those where the standards are present, they are oen included in labor
law or within specic laws on violence against women. One feature common to
all European countries to those where the oense is prosecuted ex ocio, as well
as to those in which violence can be prosecuted only upon complaint, is that vio-
lence against women most oen goes unpunished. e most important reason
is that women do not oen report domestic violence, since they are oen chal-
lenged by those who tend to downplay family disagreements and would rather
settle the conict in the name of family unity. Another common factor is the
problematic relationship between repression and protective measures, protection
from domestic violence and immigration laws. Of particular note is the lack of
harmonization between penal and civil measures, since they oen oer the same
protection of interests in dierent degrees, or are alternatives to each other. For
the woman who has suered violence and seeks protection, this makes the legal
path more tortuous.
e president of Amnesty International Italy, Christine Weise, with an
explicit reference to the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee, which
oversees the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimina-
tion against Women, stated that gender discrimination in Europe and domes-
tic violence are closely linked to the phenomenon of femicide and that action
against it should be a priority for governments. e lack of concrete action to
combat violence is a serious violation of human rights. A report by Amnesty
International stated that Italy “must overcome the representation of women as
sexual objects and challenge stereotypes about the role of men and women in
society and family.” In Denmark, the report identies a number of non-consen-
sual sexual crimes and abuses “in which the victim is defenseless because of an
illness or intoxication, are not punishable by law if the perpetrator and the victim
are married.” In Finland “services for victims of violence are inadequate,” particu-
larly for victims of domestic violence, since, given that the centers are funded
by Child Protection Services, they hosted mainly women with children, placing
“many vulnerable people at risk of further violence.” In Norway, “women are not
adequately protected against violence in the law and practice,” because, “despite
the fact that the number of rapes reported to police has increased, more than 80
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 22 2013.08.22. 15:09
percent of these cases are closed before getting to trial.” In Portugal, domestic
violence “is a serious cause of concern” (in 2011 alone, there were 14,508 reports
of domestic violence).21
One of the most important laws (and considered among the best laws in
Europe by the organization Choisir Cause des Femmes) is the Ley Orgánica de
Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género,22 the law against
gender violence in Spain, promulgated on December 28, 2004. It increases the
penalties for assault and abuse from two to ve years, but it also provides greater
protection and assistance for female victims of abuse and provides them the right
to unemployment benets (unprecedented in Europe) if the woman quits her
job following a domestic violence situation. It then established the right to social
assistance, which includes integrated support services, emergency, and recovery,
including the service of advocacy at state expense. e law is based on the prin-
ciple of “equality between men and women” because violence is the most strik-
ing manifestation of inequality that exists. Victim protection is pursued through
measures that address prevention, the punishment of the aggressor, and the
measures of total care for victims. ere is also a State Observatory for Gender
Violence. In short, the law is a set of standards that aims not only to punish the
aggressor with sti penalties but also to protect and support victims in their daily
e Italian situation
When the CEDAW Committee asked Italy on July 14, 2011, to provide data
on femicides, the Italian government was not able to provide a timely response,
simply because these data have never been collected. In July 2011 many women
and associations (including the National Network of Anti-Violence Centers)
gathered at the Italian platform “30 Years of CEDAW: Work in Progress” in order
to provide the necessary information and dra what was known as the “Shadow
Report” on the implementation of CEDAW in Italy. As for violence, the basic
idea was that it was up to the institutions to take the necessary steps to prevent
21 Amnesty International, “Annual Report 2011,” http://www.rapportoannuale.amnesty.it/.
22 Gobierno de España, Ministerio de la Presidencia, Agencia Estatal, “Ley Orgánica 1/2004, de 28 de diciembre, de
Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género.” Boletín Ocial del Estado 313 (2004): 42166. http://
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 23 2013.08.22. 15:09
femicide through cultural actions and adequate protection for those women who
choose to exit all forms of violence (from tracking to domestic violence).23
One chapter in the Shadow Report captured the inconsistencies in policies
and enforcement of existing laws on male violence against women in our country.
Only in 1996, with Law no. 66 on Sexual Violence, did Italy move violence from
the title “crime against morality” to “crime against the person and against indi-
vidual freedom.” With Law no. 154/2001, measures against violence in family
relationships were established, and nally with Law no. 38/2009 urgent measures
concerning public security and, to combat sexual violence, terms of persecution
(stalking) were activated. e lack of reliable data and serious surveys has led to
the creation of a National Observatory on Domestic Violence (ONVD), founded
in October 2006 in collaboration with the University of Verona and ISPESL
(National Epidemiological Observatory on Living Environments), established in
2002 for purposes of study, research, and promotion aimed at improving safety
in the living environment.24 Complete investigations were undertaken without
using the method of sample selections. is methodological choice allowed the
building of a network that begins to quantify (and qualify) the “dark” side of the
phenomenon and facilitate its emergence.
e analysis of the events outlined a critical framework: a reection on
it and on the existing legislative framework indicated the need to change paths.
e activity of the ONVD involves many hands—academics and criminologists,
emergency unit personnel, general practitioners, family planning clinics and
regional personnel, agents of the state police, the carabinieri corps, police and
judicial magistrates. All participants contribute with their specic skills to the
identication of dierent forms of abuse and violence, and at the same time they
give an indication of the actions to undertake.
In almost all the regions of Italy there are local anti-violence laws, the con-
tents of which are very dierent, ranging from “Rules for the Protection and
23 Daniela Danna, Stato di famiglia. Le donne maltrattate di onte alle istituzioni (Rome: Ediesse, 2009).
24 ISPESL’s interest in the issue of domestic violence is due to the fact that this act, involving “weak” social players and acts
of violence that are concealed and that occur in the domestic environment, is strongly connected to the protection of
the health and safety of the people in the living space. For this reason, ISPESL, in collaboration with the Department
of Medicine and Public Health, the University of Verona, the Verona Public Prosecutor, the Verona Hospital and the
Prevention Department of Health Services No. 1 of Trieste, conducted a preliminary study [the National Centre on
epidemiological conditions of health and safety in the living environment], published in December 2005 under the
title “Domestic Violence: An Oxymoron to Understand and Unravel.”
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 24 2013.08.22. 15:09
Enhancement of the Family”
to the regional law of the Piedmont Region
“Establishment of a Solidarity Fund for Legal Aid to Women Victims of Violence
and Abuse” and the “Regional Plan for the Prevention of Violence against Women
and Support for Victims” of July 8, 2008, also of the Piedmont Region. In recent
years, many regions have established standards for the activation of anti-violence
centers and shelters. e laws are oen uneven and ineective; the regulations are
contradictory, and some of them need to be modied. For instance, Art. 1 of the
Testo Unico (Comprehensive Law) for Public Safety, states: “through its ocers,
and at the request of the parties, (the law) provides for the amicable settlement of
private disputes.” Such a denition lends itself to controversial interpretations, and
certainly leads to a behavior that is contrary to the right of women to access judicial
protection for self-preservation, exposing all parties to known and unknown risks.
Given the law provision, one is almost obliged to avoid presenting a complaint.
For this reason, many victims actually report violence only aer many
occurrences. According to the latest ISTAT data, in Italy one out of three women
has been the victim of male aggression during her life. ere are 6,743,000
women who have suered physical and sexual violence (in 2011 there were 128
killed, ten more than the year before). Whether it is domestic violence, sexual
abuse, rape, stalking, tracking, forced prostitution, or inbulation, there is no
doubt that this phenomenon originates in the unequal and discriminatory posi-
tion of women in society and (then) within the family.
Local initiatives: Anti-violence centers, women’s shelters, women’s
Created in the mid-1980s, local initiatives in Italy have, with great determina-
tion, developed a method to work eectively to support and promote the rights
of women and their empowerment.28 Until now these have been the only struc-
tures to address the issue of male violence against women on a public level, not as
25 LR no. 10, Sicily, July 31, 2003.
26 LR, March 17, 2008.
27 ONVD has so far published numerous territorial investigations, particularly focused in the Veneto, and manuals to
ensure that operators can detect domestic violence. See http://www.onvd.org.
28 Gabriele Codini, La vittimologia e le vittime agili. La situazione in Europa e i servizi di supporto (Milan: FrancoAngeli,
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 25 2013.08.22. 15:09
one of the many problems of women in our country, but as a paradigm of male-
female relationships and the power that is used against women. ey also created
networks of multidisciplinary support, initiating processes of change, prevention,
protection, and social inclusion. e women who work in anti-violence centers
and women’s shelters are concerned with violence against women, both within
and outside the family (physical, psychological, sexual, economic, stalking, traf-
cking), and with children who witness these types of violence in any form it is
expressed. ey manage the telephone reception and give information to walk-
ins. ey host women, adolescents, and children who have suered violence, and
they carry out activities designed to prevent and combat it. ey support pro-
jects of individual women facing temporary hardship and diculties as a result of
ongoing or past violence, or violence suered as a minor. ey welcome women
alone or with children, respecting cultural dierences and the experiences of each
one, in the awareness of the signicance and impact of belonging to dierent
ethnic groups, cultures, religions, social classes, and sexual orientations. ey
guarantee anonymity and secrecy to the women they host, and they undertake
actions that aect these women only with their consent. ese centers are oen
funded by local authorities, but they are staed primarily by volunteers.
e interest in intervention against gender violence emerged at an international
level as a result of the gradual awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war.
e UN interventions, the several conventions that have taken place over time,
although signed by many governments, have not had sucient compulsive power
so far, and every intervention is paralyzed by a succession of recommendations,
causing it to remain a “dead letter.” According to the EU, the actions of the Com-
mission and the Parliament have not been translated into coherent and consist-
ent national policy. ey pointed out the existence of a social problem that is
imposed without a viable solution for all member states. e Council of Europe
has proved to be much more attentive to the problem, but in this case, the appli-
cation of the directives has occurred unevenly.
Men’s violence against women—at home, at work, on the streets, in
schools—is a crime which every year is enumerated, shown, and disclosed, although
the data certainly underestimate the problem, and in many cases the statistics are
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 26 2013.08.22. 15:09
not reliable. For over thirty years solutions have been given to governments in order
to combat the leading cause of premature death for women, which is also an obsta-
cle to the realization of human rights. Feminist movements have found partial but
eective solutions at regional levels—from the case delle donne (women’s shelters)
to the anti-violence centers, oen supported by local institutions.
e repetition of the oenses with the same or other victims and the
spread of ownership behavior in men, despite the strong political reinterpretation
of femicide by the women’s movement, show that the inadequacy of the rules
invalidates any cultural change.29 According to some studies of the Council of
Europe, 12–15 percent of women above the age of sixteen have suered domestic
violence.30 Domestic violence, the most common and widespread form of gender
violence, knows no geographical, cultural, ethnic, or class boundaries. It is now
formally recognized as violence at every institutional level, as are all types of vio-
lence against women, and treated as a violation of fundamental human rights rec-
ognized and guaranteed by both the ECHR (European Convention on Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is
also subject to rules such as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Vio-
lence against Women and Domestic Violence of the Council of Europe (April
2011), as well as to the Directive of the European Parliament and Council on
European Protection of November 15, 2011.
Despite the European regulatory framework and international partner-
ships among member countries of the EU, there are major dierences in how
domestic violence is addressed in law and policy. Furthermore, we still lack com-
parable data on the actual size of the phenomenon. Domestic violence remains a
fundamental problem not yet solved, linked to the concern for victims’ compen-
sation, as indicated by the Council of Europe, and for any damage that may have
repercussions on the entire lives of the victims and on future generations.
Implications for teaching
is text can be used to deepen understanding of important issues concerning
the legislation against domestic violence in Italy and in other European countries
29 Lea Melandri, “Violenza contro le donne: le rme non bastano,” Gli altri online, May 10, 2012, http://www.glial-
30 AUSL Rimini: http://www.ausl.rn.it/doceboCms/page/89/dafne-dati-epidemiologici.html.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 27 2013.08.22. 15:09
from a historical and transnational perspective. In particular, it provides a useful
analysis that compares Italian legislative actions to combat domestic violence
with those implemented in other European countries. e framework within
which the regulation of sexual and domestic violence is discussed in this essay
highlights the complexity of the legislative “spaces” that make up both penal and
civil procedures that are based on dierent ideological backgrounds that thwart
rather than facilitate women’s legal eorts. Another important aspect concerns
the lack of clear legal denitions of domestic/sexual violence and rape, which are
particularly problematic when combined with issues relating to immigration laws
or race and citizenship.
We stress the importance of taking actions that dismantle the structural
inequality that sustains violence against women in all areas of private and insti-
As this paper highlights, the points mentioned above need to be discussed
further, and various perspectives need to be integrated. is is the reason why the
text is an important tool, as it can be included in course materials ranging from
international relations, European policies, women’s studies, and gender studies,
to migration, law, politics, and social and cultural studies.
Given the complexity of the topic, it is important to proceed by clarifying dier-
ent aspects that concern the legislation to protect women against violence.
Dierent paths can be taken in order to reect on and discuss issues con-
cerning violence against women in EU member states:
1. e text points out many problematics concerning the gap between
existing European policies and single-country legislation. In which
way does the broader European level aect the internal management of
social policies in each country with respect to domestic violence?
2. How has the denition of domestic and sexual violence and rape been
adopted by the EU to build coherent policies at the European level and
consequently in each individual country?
3. Do EU policies on domestic and sexual violence reect a post-colonial
perspective? What aspects need to be improved?
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 28 2013.08.22. 15:09
4. e urgent need to create a legislative framework that protects women
from male violence reects the more intimate asymmetrical power
imbalance that constitutes the relationship between men and women.
Can you link the private sphere (such as the domestic/working/class/
race aspect) to aspects concerning the implementation of EU policies at
an international level?
1. Analyze the historical development of European policies that protect
women from violence. ere are various ways to approach this:
• Describe the current policy situation in one individual European
country (you can also compare two dierent countries), trying to
analyze the country’s particular history and cultural background (for
example, post-socialist countries have developed a profoundly dierent
legal framework from other European countries).
2. Immigration policies and violence against women: why are these issues
so problematic? Chose a country case study and describe the weak and
strong points of VAW legislation.
Amnesty International. “Rapporto annuale 2011.” http://www.rapportoannuale.amnesty.it/.
Codini, Gabriele. La vittimologia e le vittime agili. La situazione in Europa e i servizi di supporto.
Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2010.
Council of Europe. Council of Europe Conention on Preventing and Combating Violence against
Women and Domestic Violence. April 12, 2011. http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/
Council of Europe. Council of Europe Conention on the Protection of Children against Sexual
Exploitation and Sexual Abuse STCE no. 201. October 25, 2007. http://conventions.coe.int.
Danna, Daniela. Ginocidio. La violenza contro le donne nell’era globale. Milan: Eleuthera, 2007.
Danna, Daniela. Stato di famiglia. Le donne maltrattate di onte alle istituzioni. Rome: Ediesse,
European Union. “Road Map. Tabella di marcia per la parità fra le donne e gli uomini 2005–
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 29 2013.08.22. 15:09
European Union. Gazzetta uciale dell’Unione Europea 285 (2010): 53.
European Union. Rompere il silenzio. Campagna europea contro la violenza domestica. Luxem-
bourg: Ucio delle pubblicazioni uciali delle Comunità europee, 2000. http://dirittiumani.
Gobierno de España, Ministerio de la Presidencia, Agencia Estatal. “Ley Orgánica 1/2004, de
28 de diciembre, de Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género.” Boletín
Ocial del Estado 313 (2004), 42166–42197. http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-
Halimi, Gisèle. La Clause de l’Européenne la plus favorisée. Des Femmes, Choisir la cause des
femmes. Paris: Des femmes Antoinette Fouque, 2008.
Lagarde, Marcela. “Antropología, feminismo y política: violencia feminicida y derechos humanos
de las mujeres.” In Retos Teòricos y nuevas practicas, eds. Margaret Bullen and Carmen Diez Mint-
egui, 217–218. San Sebastián: Ankulegi, 2006.
Lagarde, Marcela. “Por la vida y la libertad de las mujeres n al feminicidio.” In Resistencia y
alternativas de la mujeres ente al modelo globalizador, eds. Leonor Concha Aida and Gabriella
Labelle, 114–126. México City: Red Nacional de Género y Economia, 2005.
Melandri, Lea. “Violenza contro le donne: le rme non bastano.” Gli altri online, May 10, 2012.
Pitch, Tamar. La società della prevenzione. Rome: Carocci, 2008.
Spinelli, Barbara. “Perché si chiama femminicidio.” La 27esimaora, May 1, 2012.
http://27esimaora.corriere.it/articolo/perche-si-chiama-femminicidio-2/ (accessed October 10,
Spinelli, Barbara. Femminicidio. Dalla denuncia sociale al riconoscimento giuridico internazionale.
Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2008.
Varikas, Eleni. “Una parola ‘sovranamente eversiva.’ Da Claire Demar al gender mainstreaming.”
In Donne Politica Utopia, ed. Alisa Del Re, 41–59. Padua: Il Poligrafo, 2011.
World Health Organization. WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic
Violence against Women: Summary Report; Initial Results on Prevalence, Health Outcomes and
Women’s Responses. Geneva: WHO, 2005. http://who.int/gender/violence/who_multicoun-
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 30 2013.08.22. 15:09
THE ACTIVISM OF BLACK FEMINIST THEORY IN
CONFRONTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN:
INTERCONNECTIONS, POLITICS, AND PRACTICE
In the previous chapter of this volume, Alisa Del Re calls the acts and conse-
quences of violence against women “femicide.” She is right to do so, because
violence against women is a matter of life and death that “knows no geographi-
cal, cultural, ethnic, or class boundaries.”1 An understanding of femicide that
includes the persistent attack on women’s human rights enables analysis of the
“living death” that many survivors of sexual violence experience. As a matter of
the life and death of women and their human rights, it is crucial that connections
between teaching, critical analysis, and interventions to confront femicide are
continually reviewed and articulated loud and clear.
is paper uses Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as
Power”2 as an analytical framework to explore an account of gender violation
experienced by Patricia Hill Collins. e intention is to demonstrate that the
activism of Black feminist theory in general, and the activism of Lorde’s scholar-
ship in particular, are eective tools for confronting and teaching about femicide.
Drawing on bell hooks’s idea of “Teaching to Transgress,”3 this paper uses the
activism of Black feminist “[t]heory as liberatory practice.”4 In the context of this
paper, reference is made to gender violence, but the focus is on violence against
Black women, with specic reference to the function and production of the
objectication of Black women. e use of the activism of Black feminist theory
to examine the complex intersection of multiple complex vectors of oppression
in the sexual denigration of Black women is quite deliberate. e point I am
making here is that any hope of meaningful alliances across dierence to combat
1 Alisa Del Re, “Review of the Legislation against Domestic Violence in Europe and Italy.”
2 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power” (paper delivered at the Fourth Berkshire Conference on the
History of Women, Mount Holyoke College, MA, August 25, 1978). Published as a pamphlet by Out and Out Books,
1978; reprinted in Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press Feminist Series, 1984).
3 bell hooks, “ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom” (New York: Routlege, 1994).
4 Ibid., 59.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 31 2013.08.22. 15:09
gender violence will fail if Black feminist interventions, wisdom, and experience
continues to be marginalized. Furthermore, it will fail if any element in that alli-
ance replicates the unequal power relations at work in gender violence through
hegemonic thinking and positioning in that alliance, thereby replicating the very
problem it seeks to address.5
e activism of Black feminist theory
is paper uses the term “the activism of Black feminist theory” to insist on the
mutually constitutive relationship between theory and activism that emphasizes
the “…links between Black feminism as a social justice project and Black femi-
nist thought as its intellectual centre.”6 It is a direct challenge to the binaries of
activism or theory, and experience or scholarship, that questions what counts as
theory and who counts as theorist.7 Indeed, examination of the constituent ele-
ments of the activism of Black feminist theory demonstrates that it emerges out
of the dialectical and the dialogical. It emerges out of the dialectical because it
is formed out of the suppression of Black women’s voice, thinking, and schol-
arship in order to articulate that suppression with the objective of confronting
that suppression.8 It emerges out of the dialogical because of the interconnec-
tions with the activism of social justice. e dialogical relationship between expe-
rience, practice, and scholarship produces the methodology of the activism of
Black feminist theory, where the how to do and the doing of the project intersect.
Carole Boyce Davies asserts that “Black feminist criticisms, then, perhaps more
than many of the other feminisms, can be a praxis where the theoretical positions
5 Norma Alarcón, “e eoretical Subject(s) of is Bridge Called My Back and Anglo-American Feminism.” In Gloria
Anzaldúa, ed., Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (San
Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1990): 356–369; ValerieAmosand PratibhaParmar, “Challenging Imperial Feminism,”
Feminist Review 17 (1984): 3–19; AvtarBrah, Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities (Abingdon: Routledge,
1996); AvtarBrahand Ann Phoenix, “Ain’t I A Woman? Revisiting Intersectionality,” Journal of International Women’s
Studies 5, no. 3 (May 1, 2004): 75–87; Barbara Christian, “e Race for eory ” (1987), in J. James and T.D. Sharpley-
Whiting, eds., e Black Feminist Reader (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000) 11–23; e Combahee River Col-
lective, “A Black Feminist Statement” (1977), in e Black Feminist Reader, eds. J. James and T.D. Sharpley-Whiting
(Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000): 261–270.
6 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and e Politics of Empowerment (London:
Routledge, 2000), xi.
7 Barbara Christian (1987), “e Rac e for eory,” in J. James and T.D. Sharpley-Whiting, eds., e Black Feminist Read-
er (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), 11–23.
8 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 3-4.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 32 2013.08.22. 15:09
and the criticism interact with the lived experience.”9 e work of Audre Lorde
continues to be instrumental in this process and is evidence of the translation and
relevance of her work to current feminist practice and experience.
e tools we use, why and how we use them, what we leave out and what we
include and the connections we make between tools reect power relations.
Collins makes this point clearly in relation to the positioning of Black feminist
theory, stating that “[t]he shadow obscuring this complex Black women’s intel-
lectual tradition is neither accidental nor benign.”
I want to make a deliberate
intervention of using the “intellectual tradition” of the activism of Black feminist
theory in general and the “intellectual tradition” of Audre Lorde in particular to
interrogate aspects of the pernicious crime of femicide. AnaLouise Keating com-
ments, “Like Allen’s embodied mythic thinking and Anzaldua’s mestiza conscious-
ness, Lorde’s ‘erotic’ indicates a nondual transformational epistemology that com-
bines visionary language with cultural critique. Just as Allen’s embodied mythic
thinking enables her to synthesize spiritual, political, and material issues, Lorde’s
theory of the erotic enables her to unite alternate ways of thinking with material
Keating also refers to Lorde’s approach as a “transformational epistemol-
ogy” using performative “threshold locations” to “move beyond the existing frame-
works by exposing the hidden, masculine, Eurocentric biases that structure binary
Within the context of this paper, the notion of “threshold locations”
concerns the interconnections of Black feminisms to confront the function and
production of disconnection at work within this racist, homophobic patriarchy.
Objectify myself: Objectify her
Writing about the sexual politics of Black womanhood with particular reference
to violence against Black women, the Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins
9 Carole Boyce Davies, Black Women, Writing and Identity: Migrations of the Subject (London: Routledge, 1994), 55;
AminaMama, Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity (London: Routledge, 1995).
10 Chandra Talpade Mohanty (1984), “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” In C.T. Mo-
hanty, Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing eory, Practicing Solidarity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003):
11 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 3.
12 AnaLouise Keating, Women Reading Women Writing: Self-Inention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldua and Audre
Lorde (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 49.
13 Ibid., 6–7.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 33 2013.08.22. 15:09
comments, “I was invited to objectify myself in order to develop the objectivity
that would allow me to participate in her objectication.”14 e context in which
this comment was made refers to three separate occasions where Hill Collins was
part of the audience in which three dierent academic scholars (a white feminist,
a white male, and a black male) used Sarah Baartman’s image.15 Hill Collins states
the issues clearly: “I saw the reactions of young Black women who saw images of
Sarah Baartman for the rst time…. ey saw and felt the connections among
the women exhibited on the auction block, the voyeuristic treatment of Sarah
Baartman, the depiction of Black women in pornography, and their own daily
experiences of being under sexual surveillance.”16 When Hill Collins questioned
the “prominent White scholar”17 about his pornographic use of the presentation
slides, “He defended his ‘right’ to use public domain material any way he saw t,
even if it routinely oended Black women and contributed to their continued
objectication.”18 e “prominent Black male scholar” who made no mention
of Sarah Bartmann’s gender “[d]espite the fact that we stared at a half-naked
Black woman”19 responded to Hill Collins by stating, “I’m concerned about race
here, not gender!”20 ese encounters encompass the complexity of the politics
and practice of entering into a dialogue across dierence, where issues of race,
14 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 142.
15 e African slave woman Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman (also spelled Bartmann) (1790s–1815) was exhibited across nine-
teenth-century Europe as a living specimen of an anthropological freak. Displayed as the “Hottentot Venus,” Baartman
was forced to stand naked before the crowds, and her image swept through British and European culture as a repre-
sentation of sexual perversion. Baartman was the object of medical and scientic research that produced ideas about
Black women’s sexualit y and representations of Black women’s supposedly insatiable sexual appetite. ese representa-
tions continue to reproduce contemporary objectications of Black women’s bodies and sexuality used to justify the
position and function of Black women in society. Aer Baartman died in 1815, her vagina and brain were displayed
in the Musee de l’Homme in Paris until 1985. It was not until 2002 that her skeleton and body parts were returned
to Cape Town, where she now rests in Eastern Cape, the place of her birth. Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus (Dramatists Play
Service, 1998), Sadiah ureshi, “Displaying Sara Baartman, the ‘Hottentot Venus,’” History of Science 42 (2004): 233;
Crais Clion and Pamela Scully, Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2008); Deborah Willis, ed., Black Venus 2010: ey Called Her “Hottentot” (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 2010).
16 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 142–143.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 34 2013.08.22. 15:09
gender, and sexual violence intersect.21 In particular, Hill Collins highlights how
the mechanisms of objectication work across temporal and spatial contexts,
including subjectivity and inter-subjectivity to regulate, constitute, and construct
power relations that shape gender violence.22
Interconnections: Relations of proximity
is paper uses the interventions of the activism of Black feminist theory in
relation to interconnections, intersectionality, binary positions, and represen-
tation as a tool of critical analysis to deconstruct discourses and practices that
legitimize violence against women. Furthermore, this paper uses conceptual tools
developed within the activism of Black feminist theory both as the subject and
method of inquiry. It will become evident that both the subject under analysis
and the method used to examine the subject under analysis mirror and consti-
tute each other. e ways in which women are physically, emotionally, and sex-
ually violated and survive these experiences need to be understood in relation
to racism and those other weights of oppression that press us down. e daily
reality of living with the eects of racism and sexism, combined with other pres-
sures such as poverty, disability, and homophobia, is exhausting. Using the activ-
ism of Black feminist theory as an analytical lens to scrutinize the specicity of
Black women’s needs (which are all too frequently ignored or bolted onto general
service provision, policy, and teaching) performs two actions. First, it asserts the
importance of Black women’s thinking, which is also too frequently ignored or
bolted on to a general analysis of sexual violence. Second, it asserts the specicity
of Black women’s experience of violation within racism. For example, the Black
feminist concept of intersectionality conceptualizes interlocking and mutually
21 Kathy Davis, “Intersectionality as Buzzword: A Sociology of Science Perspective on What Makes a Feminist eory
Successful,” Feminist eory 9, no. 1 (April 2008): 67–85. Helma Lutz, Maria Teresa Herrera Vivar, and Linda Supik,
eds., Framing Intersectionality: Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011) Les-
lie McCall, “e Complexity of Intersectionality,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30, no. 3 (Spring
2005): 1771–1800. Ann Phoenix and Pamel a Pattynama, eds., “Special Issue on ‘Intersectionality.’” European Journal
of Women’s Studies13, no. 3 (August 2006): 187–192. Yvette Taylor, Sally Hines, and Mark E. Casey, eds. eorizing
Intersectionality and Sexuality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
22 Sara Suleri (1992), “Woman Skin Deep: Feminism and the Postcolonial Condition.” In B. Ashcro, G. Griths, and
H. Tin, eds., e Post-Colonial Studies Reader, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2006): 250–255.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 35 2013.08.22. 15:09
reinforcing vectors23 that could refer to public, private, gender, silence, body, and
family. Referring specically to sexual violence against Black women, Hill Collins
argues for an analysis of sexual violence in the context of all systems of oppression
because “is conceptualization views sexuality as conceptual glue that binds
intersecting oppressions together. Stated dierently, intersecting oppressions
share certain core features. Manipulating and regulating the sexualities of diverse
groups constitutes one such shared feature.”24
e challenge of Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality is the challenge
presented in the aphorism, “the personal is the political.” Intersectionality goes
beyond merely combining inadequate and oppressive socioeconomic, political,
and legal structures, and inadequate feminist theories and practices. In regard to
this point, Hill Collins oers a useful distinction between intersectionality and
her own concept of the matrix of domination: “…I use and distinguish between
both terms in examining how oppression aects Black women. Intersectionality
refers to particular forms of intersecting oppressions, for example, intersections
of race and gender, or of sexuality and nation. Intersectional paradigms remind
us that oppression cannot be reduced to one fundamental type, and that oppres-
sions work together in producing injustice. In contrast, the matrix of domination
refers to how these intersecting oppressions are actually organized.”25 However,
even though there is an intersection of issues, elements, and mechanisms that
legitimizes violence against women, the politics and practice of confronting vio-
lence against women is not interconnected. Indeed, binary positions, fragmenta-
tion, and splitting, which work to silence survivors of gender violence, become
replicated within the politics and practice of challenging violence against women.
is lack of connection is exacerbated in the politics, discourse, and representa-
tion of sexual violence against Black women. Crenshaw explains that “[a]lthough
racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in
feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when the practices expound identity as
woman or person of color as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity
of women of color to a location that resists telling Political, practical, and policy
23 Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination
Doctrine, Feminist eory, and Antiracist Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989); Jennifer Nash,
“Re-inking Intersectionality,” Feminist Review 89 (2008): 1.
24 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 36 2013.08.22. 15:09
solutions to tackle violence against women need to be founded on the interde-
pendency of dierence.26 In other words, the concept and practice of intercon-
nection is central to understanding and working to confront gender violence.
Hill Collins explains that “[f]or Black women, ceding control over self-deni-
tions of Black women’s sexualities upholds multiple oppressions. is is because
all systems of oppression rely on harnessing the power of the erotic.”27 is paper
argues that the activism of Black feminist theory born out of intersecting sub-
jugated knowledge in the matrix of power 28 oers a “politics of location”29 that
is pivotal to negotiating interdisciplinary, inter-subjective, psychic, emotional,
political, and practical solutions to the problems of gender violence. is paper
asserts that a feminist critical analysis of “…relations of proximity [that] high-
light the facts of connection or dis/connection”30 is central to nding creating
new meanings, solutions, and tools to confront violence against women.
Lorde and Hill Collins’s encounter
I return to the experience of Patricia Hill Collins quoted at the beginning of this
paper: because she identies the propositions at work in the dynamics of her experi-
ence as precisely what is at work in the subjugation of women through sexual viola-
tion. Patricia Hill Collins describes a particular encounter that brings her into a par-
ticular proximity to another Black woman, namely Sarah Baartman. I want to oer
26 Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redening Dierence” (delivered at the Copeland Colloquium,
Amherst College, MA, April 1980) (reprinted in Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press
Feminist Series, 1984); Gloria Anzaldua, “La conciencia de la mestiza,” reprinted in Writing on the Body, eds. Katie
Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997); Judith Butler, Precarious
Life: e Powers of Mourning and Violence (London and New York: Verso, 2004); Erica Burman, “From Dierence
to Intersectionality: Challenges and Resources.” European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling and Health 6, no. 4
(December 2004): 293–308; Andrea Krizsan, HegeSkjeie, and JudithSquires, eds., Institutionalizing Intersectionality:
e Changing Nature of European Equality Regimes (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); DagmarSchiek and
AnnaLawson, eds., European Union Non-Discrimination Law and Intersectionality: Inestigating the Triangle of R acial,
Gender and Disability Discrimination (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2011); NiraYuval-Davis, “Intersectionality and
Feminist Politics,” European Journal of Women’s Studies 13, no. 3 (2006): 193–209.
27 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 128.
29 Carole Boyce Davies, Black Women, Writing and Identity, 153; Caren Kaplan, “e Politics of Location as Transna-
tional Feminist Practice,” in Scattered Hegemonies, Postmodernity and Transnational Practice, eds. Inderpal Grewal and
Caren Kaplan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).
30 ElspethProbyn, “e Spatial Imperative of Subjectivity,” in Handbook of Cultural Geography, eds. Kay Anderson, Mona
Domosh, Steve Pile, and Nigel ri (London: Sage, 2003), 290–299; Sara Ahmed, Strange Encounters: Embodied
Others in Post-Coloniality (London: Routledge, 2000).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 37 2013.08.22. 15:09
an encounter of Hill Collins’s experience through a particular proximity to Audre
Lorde via her 1978 paper “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power.” e rationale
for using this framework of analysis is, rst, that Lorde’s paper provides a feminist
analysis of the intersection of objectication, the politics of location, and discon-
nection as key props in the foundation of patriarchal constructions of the erotic.
e point here is that these are the same props used in patriarchal constructions of
the cause and sanctioning of gender violence. Second, the juxtaposition of Patricia
Hill Collins and Audre Lorde oers an encounter between two Black women that
is in stark contrast to the one Patricia Hill Collins was invited to participate in with
Sarah Baartman. In other words, the analysis and the tools used here oer a connec-
tion that does not trade on objectication and thus demonstrate an alternative non-
objectifying connection. Non-objectifying connections oered, developed, and
lived through the activism of Black feminist theory stand in deance of the connec-
tions that trade on objectication described by Patricia Hill Collins that are present
in too many accounts by survivors of gender violence and were not addressed in
analyses and interventions designed to confront gender violence. ird, in the spirit
of reassessing the tool box available to teach about and confront sexual violence
against Black women, I want to demonstrate that Black feminist tools developed in
work alongside tools developed in 2000 (Hill Collins includes her expe-
rience in the second, revised 2000 edition of her 1990 publication Black Feminist
ought), and actually the juxtaposition of the activism of Black feminist thinking
across space and time is a tool that should be reassessed and used more oen.
Productions of distortion
“I was invited to objectify myself in order to develop the objectivity that would
allow me to participate in her objectication.”
Here Hill Collins presents a
sequence involving three main propositions contingent upon the rst proposition:
• I objectify myself—I distort myself
• I develop objectivity—distorted thinking
• I participate in her objectication—distortion of her
31 Lorde wrote her paper in 1978.
32 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 142.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 38 2013.08.22. 15:09
Examination of the sequence reveals that Hill Collins has to distort herself and
her thinking as a condition for the distortion of Sarah Baartman. Hill Collins is
invited to subject herself to the same process of objectication that Sarah Baart-
man is subjected to and, as will become evident, the invitation is a crucial aspect
of the process. Furthermore, the distortion of Baartman into an object is the dis-
tortion of Hill Collins into an object and, ultimately, the distortion of all Black
women into objects. What is performed here is the construction of the objecti-
cation of the Black woman produced through a repetitive chain of distortions.
What is demonstrated here is the function of the construction of the distortion.
e point is not the fact of the distortion. Indeed, to rest on this alone
would be a distraction and diversion from the crux of the matter—namely, the
production of the construction of distortion and what this production func-
tions to do. Nor is this to imply that there could be no distortion. Furthermore,
the inquiry into the function and production of the construction would do well
to include questions of who and what is foreclosed, and who and what is privi-
leged, in the construction. Butler explains that “construction is neither a subject
nor its act, but a process of reiteration by which both ‘subjects’ and ‘acts’ come
to appear at all. ere is no power that acts, but only a reiterated acting that is
power in its persistence and instability.”33 In “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as
Power,” Lorde repeatedly refers to distortion as a mechanism of the “reiterated
acting that is power.” Lorde’s use of the rhetorical device of repetition performa-
tively re-inscribes the relationship between distortion and reiteration as demon-
strated in the following excerpts: “In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression
must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the
oppressed that can provide energy for change”34 and “…that we cannot grow
beyond whatever distortions we may nd within ourselves keeps us docile and
loyal and obedient, externally dened, and leads us to accept many facets of our
oppression as women”35 and also “…this misnaming of the need and the deed
give rise to that distortion which results in pornography and obscenity…”36 In
other words, distortion functions as a mechanism to sustain and extend oppres-
sion. However, the rigor of the analysis and its translation into eective feminist
33 Judith Butler, Bodies at Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 9.
34 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 53.
35 Ibid., 58.
36 Ibid., 59.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 39 2013.08.22. 15:09
interventions lie in being suspicious of anything that claims to have escaped dis-
Setting up the polarities of the “distorted” and the “not distorted” may
function as a political tactic of the “strategic use of positivist essentialism”37
(emphasis original). However, failure of the tactic lies in the transformation of
the essentialist from a strategy to a claim of representation. is point is made by
Spivak in her explanation of two meanings of the word “representation”: “Tread-
ing in your shoes, wearing your shoes, that’s Vertretung. Representation in that
sense: political representation. Darstellung-Dar, there, same cognate. Stellen, is
to place, so “placing there.” Representing: proxy and portrait…. Now, the thing
to remember is that in the act of representing politically, you actually represent
yourself and your constituency in the portrait sense, as well”38 (italics and empha-
Applying Spivak’s two meanings of “representation” to the issue of distor-
tion, it would seem that distortion by proxy or “treading in the shoes of” Baart-
man would enable a discourse and analysis of the pornographic objectication
of her body, while holding on to the temporal and spatial instability of “treading
in” the shoes of indeterminate perspectives. For example, the body of Baartman
is not in fact distorted. e distortion is a product of, and produces, the reiter-
ated acts of the abuse of power. e body of Baartman is “treading in the shoes
of distortion,” and any analysis of the “representation” of her body in the shoes
of distortion must be from a position of “treading in the shoes of ” “conventions
of representational realism.”39 However, a “placing there” of distortion, so that
Baartman is represented as distorted, and the portrait of a distorted Baartman,
functions to produce a xed, concrete, essentialist identication of Baartman as
the personication of distortion. Spivak’s point, however, is not a reductionist
proxy/portrait binary. Spivak contends that although it is important to under-
stand the dierence between essentialist and anti-essentialist positions, it is not
possible to deconstruct “the treading in the shoes of” without simultaneously
deconstructing the essentialist position that these are the true authentic shoes,
37 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (London: Methuen, 2006), 281.
38 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, e Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues, ed. Sarah Harasym (New York:
Routledge, 1990), 108.
39 Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, eds., Representing the Other: A Feminism and Psychology Reader (London: Sage,
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 40 2013.08.22. 15:09
my shoes, and the only shoes. is would be tantamount to claiming that if the
shoe ts, then the true subject of the shoe has been located. Landry and MacLean
summarize the predicament succinctly: “[t]he critique of essentialism is predi-
cated upon essentialism.”40
e totalizing eect of distortion
e construction of distortion is eective because it serves to mask, disavow, and
censor the existence, space, and energy for the disruption and destabilization of
oppression. Perhaps this is why Butler states that “[w]hat I would propose in place
of these conceptions of construction is a return to the notion of matter not as a
site or surface, but as a process of materialisation that stabilizes over time to produce
the eect of boundary, xity, and surface we call matter.” (emphasis original)41
e temporal and spatial, xed (in both senses of the word—immo-
bile and contrived) matter of Black women’s bodies produces xed, degrading,
obscene, shameful objectications that legitimize sexual violence. Sianne Ngai
explains that “…disgust is never ambivalent about its object. More specically, it
is never prone to producing the confusions between subject and object… disgust
strengthens and polices this boundary.”42 e totalizing disgust of the obscene
Black woman functions to x “…its object as ‘intolerable,’ disgust undeniably has
been and will continue to be instrumentalized in oppressive and violent ways.”43
Incorporating the process of stabilization imprisons women within the “bound-
ary, xity” (emphasis original)44 of docility, obedience, and loyalty with no appar-
ent alternative position. e repetitive action of performativity45 continues as
“boundary, xity” becomes translated into women’s compliance with sexual vio-
Patricia Williams’s analysis demonstrates something of how the “bound-
ary, xity” works with specic reference to objectication: “A habit of think-
40 Donna Landry and Gerald MacLean, eds., e Spivak Reader: Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New
York: Routledge, 1996), 7.
41 Judith Butler, Bodies at Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993), 9.
42 Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 335.
43 Ibid., 340.
44 Judith Butler, Bodies at Matter, 9.
45 Judith Butler (1999), “Preface.” In J. Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 3rd ed. (New
York: Routledge, 2006) (originally published in 1990 by Routledge).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 41 2013.08.22. 15:09
ing that permits the imagination of the voyeur to indulge in auto-sensation that
obliterates the subjectivity of the observed. A habit of thinking that allows that
self-generated sensation to substitute for interaction with a whole other human
being, to substitute for listening or conversing or caring… the object is pacied,
a malleable ‘thing’ upon which to project.”46 Here, Williams’s use of “a habit of
thinking” resonates with Butler’s “reiterated acting that is power,” and Williams’s
reference to the “auto-sensation that obliterates the subjectivity of the observed”
resonates with Lorde’s rejection of “…using another’s feelings as we would use
a kleenex.”47 Objectication is a mechanism that forges “false and treacherous
connections”48 through a process of disconnection based on distortion. is is
illustrated in the disconnection of sensation from feeling, and the disconnec-
tion of “self-generated sensation” from “interaction with a other whole human
being.”49 In accordance with Williams’s analysis, Lorde concludes that “Pornog-
raphy emphasizes sensation without feeling.”50 Lorde is clear that “e erotic
cannot be felt secondhand.”51 Hill Collins explains, “Contemporary pornogra-
phy consists of a series of icons or representations that focus the viewer’s attention
on the relationship between the portrayed individual and the general qualities
ascribed to that class of individuals.”52 ese intersecting distortions become an
incorporated norm that “…qualies a body for life within the domain of cultural
intelligibility.”53 However, the terms of viability are simultaneously the terms for
lack of viability. Lack of viability of Black women as human beings “within the
domain of cultural intelligibility” is well-documented by Black feminists.54
46 Patricia Williams, e Rooster’s Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995),
47 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 58.
48 Audre Lorde (1980), “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redening Dierence.” In Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Es-
says and Speeches (Trumansburg, NY: e Crossing Press, 1984), 115.
49 Patricia Williams, e Rooster’s Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice, 123.
50 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 54.
51 Ibid., 59.
52 Ibid., 136.
53 Judith Butler, Bodies at Matter, 2.
54 Angela Davis, “Rape, Racism and the Capitalist Setting,” Black Scholar 9, no. 7 (1978): 24–30; Angela Davis, Women,
Race and Class (New York: Vintage Books, 1981); bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism (London:
Pluto Press, 1982); Alice Walker, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down: Stories (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1981); Alice Walker, e Color Purple (New York: Washington Square Press, 1982).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 42 2013.08.22. 15:09
“…I was invited to objectify myself in order to develop
the objectivity that would allow me to participate in
Other components of the sentence above open up further lines of inquiry, and it
is worth dwelling upon these because the issues raised are the issues that Lorde
is concerned with. ey are issues that are fundamental to our understanding
of the mechanisms used in sexual violence against women and the development
of emancipatory interventions to confront this pernicious problem. Hill Collins
uses words that simultaneously invoke her subjectivity and position her subjec-
tivity in relation to Baartman. e uses of “I,” “me,” “myself,” and “her” identify
and locate the subjectivity of Hill Collins and Baartman as the conduit for the
process of objectication. is stands in contrast to the invitation, which has no
pronoun. Hill Collins states, “I was invited.” Here, the lack of a pronoun, the
use of the passive voice and an unnamed, unidentied inviter leave the “invited”
unxed. In other words, the initiator of the invitation is le open. Alistair Pen-
nycook explains that pronouns “…are in fact very complex and political words,
always raising dicult issues of who is being represented. ere is, therefore,
never an unproblematic ‘we’ or ‘you’ or ‘they’ or ‘I’ or ‘he/she.’”56 In the context
of the situation in which Hill Collins was “invited to objectify myself in order to
develop the objectivity that would allow me to participate in her objectication,”
the invitation could be epistemology, social constructions, social sanctions, and/
e questions that could be, and indeed, frequently are asked by women
survivors of sexual violence are: does invitation imply choice? Does the choice
invoked in the invitation designate responsibility? Survivors of gender violence
are le feeling: if I am invited and accepted the invitation, then I am responsible
for the consequences of the invitation. e invitation locates shame and blame
with the survivor of sexual violence and not with the originator of the invitation,
nor with the invitation itself. e invitation situates responsibility in the subjec-
55 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 142.
56 Alistair Pennycook, “e Politics of Pronouns,” ELT Journal 48, no. 2 (April 1994): 173.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 43 2013.08.22. 15:09
tivity of the survivor of sexual violence. is keeps the process of objectication
alive so that self-blame becomes self-objectication, which in turn becomes a sig-
nicant block to the self-connection that is so vital to the recovery process.
Objectication causes emotional, psychological, and physical fragmenta-
tion because the self becomes too contemptible to be in proximity with. is
condition of self-abhorrence, self-blame, and overwhelming shame creates dis-
integration and prevents a sense of self-connection that is crucial to the recovery
process. However, I would argue—and here is where I would question Lorde’s
proposal—that the challenge for feminist thinking and interventions is to hold
on to a rigorous analytical framework in order to track the maneuvers of distor-
tion. For example, the notion that distortion resides and functions only in dis-
connection would foreclose analysis of the location and function of distortion
Lorde argues that the process of disconnection functions to distort and
suppress the erotic in order to prevent women from using the erotic as a source of
power, revelation, and transformation: “[t]he erotic has oen been misnamed by
men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the
psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have oen turned away
from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and
information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic.”57
Close scrutiny of the language used by Lorde and Hill Collins indicates
that this process of distortion is a construction; Hill Collins says, “in order to
develop” and Lorde says, “[i]t has been made into.” In other words, there is a
deliberate manipulation occurring that these two, and many other Black femi-
nists, seek to identify, expose, and challenge. Furthermore, the words “develop”
and “made into” open up the possibility of a dierent “develop” and a dierent
“made into,” leaving room for social change, emancipatory interventions, imagi-
nation, and activism. Further close scrutiny of the words used by Hill Collins
indicates further elements that intersect to produce a powerful package of distor-
tion, objectication, and regulation. Her use of the word “objectivity” invokes
the idea of an obtainable position of impartiality and neutrality, conjuring up
the notion of a truth contingent upon fairness. e word “objectivity” functions
57 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 54.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 44 2013.08.22. 15:09
to resist questioning, because to question that which has a claim of objectivity
would be to question fairness, impartiality, and neutrality.
e psychological and emotional impact of this sequence is interrogated
by “e Duluth Model: Social Change to End Violence against Women, Domes-
tic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP)”58 and articulated within the Duluth
“Power and Control Wheel.” e Duluth program discusses how the claim to
“objectivity” is used by those who abuse power over women through sexual and
domestic violation in order to distort perception. e consequence of distorted
perception is self-doubt and a lack of trust in cognitive functioning. is results
in confusion, fear, dependency, and deep internal disconnection. Lorde describes
the process in the following way: “[a]s women, we have come to distrust that
power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge. We have been
warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling
enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but
which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within
themselves. So women are maintained at a distant/inferior position to be psychi-
cally milked, much the same way ants maintain colonies of aphids to provide a
life-giving substance for their masters.”59 e unequal power relation that Lorde
refers to is picked up in Hill Collins’s use of the word “allow.” Connotations of
the word “allow” invoke a power dynamic between the “allowed” and that which,
or who, “allows.” is power dynamic conjures up the conditions upon which
being “allowed” depends and gives rise to the notion of a border and criteria for
crossing the border. To “allow” is not the same as to enable or to empower. Inter-
estingly, Hill Collins places the passive “allow” with the active “participate” in
which she is invited to be active. is implies more than a reductionist regime of
visibility. In other words, “allow me to participate in her objectication” involves
more than Hill Collins’s looking at Baartman.
Just as racism operating within the regime of visibility has nothing and
everything to do with the color of skin,60 sexual violence against women, such
as rape, pornography, sexual abuse, prostitution, forced marriage, and female
genital mutilation, has nothing and everything to do with sex and the erotic.
58 “e Duluth Model,” http://www.theduluthmodel.org/.
59 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 53–54.
60 Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race (London: Routledg e, 2000).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 45 2013.08.22. 15:09
In other words, “[t]he parallels between distortions of deep human feelings in
racial oppression and of the distortions of the erotic in sexual oppression are
striking.”61 Participation brings to mind all of the implications of Butler’s theory
of performativity and the repetitive re-inscribing of identity categories, subjectiv-
ity, and positioning. Hill Collins’s use of the word “participation” invokes the
ways in which racism and sexism intersect through mechanisms of representation
as a tool of oppression. e role and meaning of “participation” are signicant
components of the self-blame, self-hatred, and self-disconnection that survivors
of sexual violation grapple with, and have to confront in the process of recovery.
Disconnection and connection
Any intervention or analysis, whether packaged in the form of teaching, policy,
activism, or scholarship in response to a problem, needs to have a detailed under-
standing of the mechanics of that problem—namely, how and why it works.
Lorde argues that racist, homophobic, and patriarchal formulations of the erotic
function to suppress detailed critical analysis, stating, “…we have oen turned
away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power
and information, confusing it with its opposite, the pornographic.”62 Here,
Lorde’s point is that the erotic is the source of critical inquiry, so that suppression
of the erotic is, by denition, the suppression of detailed critical analysis.
e trick of the distortion of the erotic is that “confusing it with its oppo-
site, the pornographic,” means that the source of critical analysis to enable women
to be “less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being…
such as resignation, despair, self-eacement, depression, self-denial”
is where it is
least expected. In other words, who would look to the pornographic as “our most
profoundly creative source”?
Who would think of “the pornographic, the abused,
and the absurd”
and “the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation”
61 Hill Collins, Black Feminist ought, 171.
62 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 54.
63 Ibid., 58.
64 Ibid., 59.
66 Ibid., 54.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 46 2013.08.22. 15:09
well of replenishing and provocative force”
to women? In a racist, homopho-
bic patriarchy, such juxtapositions would appear to be non-rational and chaotic.
However, uncovering the mechanisms by which “We have been taught to suspect
this resource, vilied, abused, and devalued within western society”
the task of breaking silence about sexual violence against women.
Indeed, a signicant part of the journey of recovery for women survivors
of sexual violence is being able to trust that “uses of the erotic” that wield “power
over” can be displaced by “uses of the erotic” in a form of “power to.” It should be
noted that the notions of “power over” and “power to” that I am using here pick
up on particular discourses of power that are used within some feminist activist
contexts, primarily with specic reference to confronting sexual violence.69
Moing om generality to specicity
I propose that Lorde’s feminist use of the erotic provides a rigorous framework
for enabling “the transformation of silence into language and action”70 that is
vital for survivors of sexual violence. Lorde states that “…the erotic is not a ques-
tion only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in
the doing.”71 Furthermore, Lorde proposes: “Our erotic knowledge empowers us,
becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing
us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our
lives… not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected,
nor the merely safe.”72 e therapeutic potential of feminist consciousness-rais-
68 Ibid., 53.
69 Amy Allen, “Foucault on Power: A eory for Feminists.” In S.J. Hekman, ed., Feminist Interpretations of Michel Fou-
cault (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 265–282; Amy Allen, “Rethinking Power,”
Hypatia 13, no. 1 (1998): 21–40; Amy Allen, e Power of Feminist eory: Domination, Resistance, Solidarity (Boul-
der, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Amy Allen, e Politics of Our Seles: Power, Autonomy, and Gender in Contemporary
Critical eory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); A. Allen, “Power and the Politics of Dierence: Oppres-
sion, Empowerment, and Transnational Justice,” Hypatia 23, no. 3 (2008): 156–172; Jean Bethke Elshtain, “Feminist
Discourse and Its Contents: Language, Power, and Meaning,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 7, no. 3
(Spring 1982): 603–621; Janice Yoder and Arnold Kahn, “Toward a Feminist Understanding of Women and Power,”
Psychology of Women uarterly 16, no. 4 (December 1992): 381–388.
70 Audre Lorde (1977), “e Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.” In A. Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays
and Speeches (Trumansburg, NY: e Crossing Press, 1984), 40.
71 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power.” 54.
72 Ibid., 57.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 47 2013.08.22. 15:09
ing and teaching about violence against women works in direct relation to “how
acutely and fully” we collectively and honestly scrutinize the discourse, behav-
iors, and impact of sexual violence. For example, in relation to gender violence,
this could represent moving from the “general” to the “specic.” Too oen, thera-
peutic and political interventions in relation to women’s experiences of sexual
violence fail to get close to the specicity of those experiences. Lorde argues that
“[t]he erotic is a measure,”73 and application of this in terms of moving from the
general to the specic is vital for a number of reasons:
First, staying with the “general” is used to silence the “specic,” creating a
barrier to survivors speaking out about the particular acts and processes they have
endured, and continue to endure. Generalities skim over the specicities of the
horrors of sexual violation.
Second, overt and subtle resistance to interrogating the specic mechanisms
used in the control and regulation of women subjected to gender violence reaf-
rms the survivor’s sense of shame, blame, and disconnection. e logic becomes
that the unnameable must remain unnameable because it is so abhorrent.
ird, resistance to naming the specic acts and processes used in gender
violence conrms to the survivor that the experience needs to remain hidden and
silenced in order not to contaminate others.
Finally, resting within the “psychic retreat”74 of generalities is to be com-
plicit with, and to maintain distance from, the destructive consequences of dis-
connection. e disconnection “…puts woman in the position of experiencing
herself only fragmentarily…”75 and maintains her isolation from others.
“Uses of the Erotic”: Fear and proximity
Both Ahmed76 and Lorde explore the ways in which fear operates in relation
to two specic axes: those of “proximity” and “anticipation.” e logic is that,
because we fear the anticipated, we keep a distance; we do not get too near to
73 Ibid., 54.
74 John Steiner, Psychic Retreats: Pathological Organizations in Psychotic, Neurotic and Borderline Patients (London: Rout-
ledge, 1993), 1.
75 Luce Irigaray (1977), is Sex Which Is Not One, reprinted in Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury, eds.,
Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist eory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 254.
76 Sara Ahmed, e Cultural Politics of Emotion (London: Routledge, 2004).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 48 2013.08.22. 15:09
the unknown. In turn, this regulates movement. It follows, therefore, that if the
anticipated is to be kept at a distance to prevent close proximity, then this will
inuence, inform, and aect movement, position, and situation. Productions of
the distortion of the erotic keep women at a distance from each other and from
their own/collective creativity. Subsequently, productions of distortion function
to make the notion and/or experience of dierence suspect. Ahmed explains it
in the following way, “Fear’s relation to the object has an important temporal
dimension: we fear an object that approaches us.... Fear involves an anticipation
of hurt or injury. Fear projects us from the present into a future.... So the object
that we fear is not simply before us, or in front of us, but impresses upon us in the
present, as an anticipated pain in the future”77 (emphasis original). e point is
that fear gains legitimacy through terror, anxiety, and a phobia of the anticipated,
of that which is unknown, unfamiliar, and dierent. Proximity is key; no one
wants to get too close to that which they are fearful of. is restricts movement,
limits, regulates (becomes self-regulating of) position, and maintains a xity.
is is not in keeping with the notion of a shiing, decentered, unanchored epis-
temology and subjectivity. is is not in keeping with the qualities, experience,
knowledge, and power necessary to lessen the threat of dierence, to stretch out
and build bridges with others.
is delimited, xed, distant position inuences the vantage point for
vision and looking. Donna Haraway also asks some important questions in rela-
tion to vision and looking: “How to see? Where to see from? What limits to
vision? What to see for? Whom to see with? Who gets to have more than one
point of view? Who gets blinded? Who wears blinders? Who interprets the
visual eld? What other sensory powers do we wish to cultivate besides vision?”78
Interrogation of these questions requires close proximity to the concepts, posi-
tions, and elements that have been kept at a distance. Implicit in the questions
posed by Haraway is that some are allowed or enabled to see and some are not;
some have their vision restricted and some do not. Butler comments, “is kind
of questioning oen engenders vertigo and terror over the possibility of losing
social sanctions, of leaving a solid social station and place. at this terror is so
well known gives the most credence to the notion that gender identity rests on
77 Ibid., 65.
78 Donna Haraway (1988), e Persistence of Vision, reprinted in Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury, eds.,
Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist eory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 289.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 49 2013.08.22. 15:09
the unstable bedrock of human invention.”79 Similarly, Ahmed concludes, “So
the question of what is fearsome as well as who should be afraid is bound up with
the politics of mobility, whereby the mobility of some bodies involves or even
requires the restriction of the mobility of others.”80
“Uses of the Erotic”: e spatial politics of fear
In relation to the specic ways in which fear regulates movement and orches-
trates a particular relationship between the body, the psyche, and the world, both
Lorde and Ahmed refer to the capacity for “being open” or “openness.” Lorde
states, “[a]nother important way in which the erotic connection functions is the
open and fearless underlying of my capacity for joy. In the way my body stretches
to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms, so every
level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience…”81
(emphasis added). Notice that Lorde puts together “open and fearless” in her
description of how the erotic functions. Conversely, Ahmed explains how fear
operates precisely not to open up: “…openness itself is read as a site of potential
danger, and as demanding evasive action. Emotions may involve readings of such
openness, as spaces where bodies and worlds meet and leak into each other. Fear
involves reading such openings as dangerous; the openness of the body to the
world involves a sense of danger, which is anticipated as a future pain or injury….
Fear involves shrinking the body; it restricts the body’s mobility precisely insofar as
it seems to prepare the body for ight”82 (emphasis original). Here, Ahmed makes
the link between reading openness and shrinking containment that results in a
“spatial politics of fear.”83 Ahmed uses this link to develop a feminist analysis of
how women are restricted within social spaces. Taking up the constituent ele-
ments of fear, including the representation of women’s bodies, the demand for
retreat as the body recoils and shrinks, and the subsequent shrinking of social
space, Ahmed concludes, “Vulnerability is not an inherent characteristic of
79 Judith Butler (1987), “Variations on Sex and Gender: Beauvoir, Wittig, Foucault,” in e Judith Butler Reader, ed. Sara
Salih with Judith Butler (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 27.
80 Sara Ahmed, e Cultural Politics of Emotion (London: Routledge, 2004), 70.
81 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 56.
82 Ahmed, e Cultural Politics of Emotion, 69.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 50 2013.08.22. 15:09
women’s bodies; rather, it is an eect that works to secure femininity as a delimita-
tion of movement in the public, and over-inhabitance in the private.”84 Similarly,
Lorde speaks about how particular spaces, including the private, are delimited
because “…the erotic is so feared, and so oen relegated to the bedroom alone…”85
e restriction of women’s access to certain spaces legitimates an articial separa-
tion between public and private, and between legitimate and illegitimate mobil-
ity, producing a binary that Lorde’s reclamation of the erotic seeks to challenge.
In relation to the binary between public and private spaces, and how this
particular binary constitutes subjectivity and manages dierences, Grosz
the analysis further. Speaking about lesbianism specically and discourses about
the erotic, desire, and women’s sexuality in general, Grosz talks about the “…
split between what one is and what one does that produces the very possibility
of a notion like ‘the closet,’ a distinction between private and public that refuses
e split between public and private serves as a key element pre-
serving “regimes of sexuality.”
is “codication and control of sexuality”
tions to legitimize sexual violence against women exemplied in continuing legal
and policy battles in relation to rape, immigration, and the physical, emotional,
and material implications of domestic abuse. It is clear from the wealth of femi-
nist scholarship in this area that the binary of public/private operates to control
and constrain what is heard/unheard, seen/unseen, in relation to women’s voices,
evidence, and representations.
roughout her paper, Lorde shis between, and
outlines, the inextricable links between physical and social spaces, and mobility
and psychic spaces. Gloria Anzaldúa comments, “Borders are set up to dene the
places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a divid-
84 Ibid., 70.
85 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 57.
86 Elizabeth Grosz, Space, Time and Perversion (London: Routledge, 1995).
87 Ibid., 225.
88 Ibid., 217.
89 Ibid., 221.
90 Erica Burman, “Engendering Culture in Psychology,” eory and Psychology 15, no. 4 (2005): 527–548; Mark Cowling
and Paul Reynolds, eds. Making Sense of Sexual Consent (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004); Miranda Horvath and
Jennifer Brown, eds. Rape : Challenging Contemporary inking (Cullompton: Willan Publishing, 2009); Selma James,
Sex, Race and Class : e Perspective of Winning; A Selection of Writings, 1952–2011 (Oakland: PM Press, 2012); Nadia
Siddiqui, Ismail Sajida, and Meg Allen, Safe to Return? Pakistani Women, Domestic Violence and Access to Refugee Protec-
tion; A Report of a Trans-National Research Project Conducted in the UK and Pakistan (Manchester: South Manchester
Law Centre in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008); Ingrid Palmary, Erica Burman, Khatidja
Chantler, Peace Kiguwa, eds., Gender and Migration: Feminist Interventions (Zed Books, 2010).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 51 2013.08.22. 15:09
ing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undeter-
mined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in
a constant state of transition. e prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants”
In contrast to the spatial politics of fear, Lorde provides a
feminist analysis of the ways in which intersubjective connections could bridge
dierences, cross dichotomous borders, and transgress boundaries prescribed by a
patriarchal epistemology of the erotic. Lorde’s treatise on the erotic can be read as
a treatise outlining the erotic as a force for interdependency, for connection, and
for a mutual sharing, with the potential for transformational emancipatory change.
In her concluding remarks of her address, Lorde states: “is deep participation
has oen been the forerunner for joint concerted actions not possible before.”
Here, Lorde is not just giving voice to a vision yet to be realized, but, rather, she is
indicating that “the erotic as power” as feminist praxis already exists “more within
the realm of the ‘elsewhere’ of diasporic imaginings than the precisely locatable.”
“Uses of the Erotic”: Bridge of connection
Teaching about the issue of sexual violence against women requires detailed
deconstruction of the constituent components of the mechanisms used within
this violation. e component of disconnection is central both in terms of the
process of the abuse of power and in relation to the trauma experienced as a
result of that abuse. Lorde presents a detailed reassessment of the erotic, expos-
ing techniques such as fear, proximity, anticipation, mobility, and vision used by
patriarchy to distort the erotic as a force of connection to one of disconnection.
Furthermore, Lorde demonstrates that the sum of these is greater than the indi-
vidual parts to create an eective strategy of appropriation that places a woman
“in the position of experiencing herself only fragmentarily, in the little-struc-
tured margins of a dominant ideology, as waste, or excess, what is le of a mirror
invested by the (masculine) ‘subject’ to reect himself, to copy himself.”94
91 Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: e New Mestiza (3rd ed.) (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2007), 25.
92 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 59.
93 Carole Boyce Davies, Black Women, Writing and Identity, 88.
94 Luce Irigaray (1977), is Sex Which is Not One, reprinted in Katie Conboy, Nadia Medina, and Sarah Stanbury, eds.,
Writing on the Body: Female Embodiment and Feminist eory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 254.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 52 2013.08.22. 15:09
Examination of disconnection under the analytical lens of Lorde’s work
indicates that the component of disconnection is not an arbitrary or random con-
sequence of the experience of gender violence. Lorde emphasizes a Black feminist
“uses of the erotic” that is primarily a force for connection that enables “unbeara-
ble rationality” and prioritizes “the importance of intersubjective bonds,”
recognizes multiple, decentered, shiing subjectivity. us the erotic functions as
a necessary bridge enabling deep self-connection and connection with others in
the situation where “e contingent, self-incoherent subject is dependent upon
the recognition of the other,” which means that “we are from the start, ethically
implicated in the lives of others.”
Lorde explains, “For the bridge which con-
nects them is formed by the erotic—the sensual—those physical, emotional, and
psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us,
being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.”
us it is possible
to re-read Lorde’s vision of the “uses of the erotic” as part of a wider tradition of
Black feminist discourses on connection and dierence that both preceded and
anticipated Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal work
on, and current debates about,
intersectionality. is point is demonstrated in Lorde’s claim that the erotic “…
forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much
of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their dierence.”
Here I want to make a link between Lorde’s metaphor of “bridge,” Hill Collins’s
experience of objectication, and the necessity for intersectional approaches to
feminist thinking and interventions to confront sexual violence against women.
Hill Collins identies three sequential elements in her experience and process of
gender violation, namely: “to objectify,” or disconnection from self; “objectivity,”
95 Judith Butler, “Giving an Account of Myself” (Spinoza Lecture 32.2 21–41 2002 in Diacritics) (reprinted in e
Judith Butler Reader, ed. Sara Salih with Judith Butler, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004).
97 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 56.
98 Kimberlé Crenshaw, Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination
Doctrine, Feminist eory, and Antiracist Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989).
99 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 56.
100 L.L. Lockhart and F.S. Danis, eds., Domestic Violence: Intersectionality and Culturally Competent Practice (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2010).
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 53 2013.08.22. 15:09
or disconnection from mobility of position; and “objectication,” or disconnec-
tion from other women. e point is that connection necessitates close decon-
struction of and resistance to the mechanisms of disconnection. Lorde oers a
vivid, sensual description of the intimacy involved in a proximity of connection:
“During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored
margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just
inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to
soen, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releas-
ing the rich yellowness into the so pale mass of margarine. en taking it care-
fully between our ngers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over,
until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thor-
oughly coloring it. I nd the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released
from its intense and constrained pellet, it ows through and colors my life with a
kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.”101
Application of the essence of this description to teaching, policy, inter-
vention, activism, and scholarship raises questions concerning who or what is
allowed to inuence or color strategies, service provision, campaigns, law, and
therapeutic work. A key question is, how is the issue of connection and discon-
nection considered in encounters with survivors of gender violence, in teaching
and learning about sexual violence, among providers of services and between dif-
ferent organizations, dierent discourses, disciplines, and ideological positions?
I contend that the activism of Black feminist theory is essential in addressing the
complexities of this mission that is a matter of life and death for women.
Implications for teaching
is paper investigates the constitutive “Uses of the Erotic” with specic refer-
• e problematic of the guises and function of “distortion”;
• e mutually contingent, constitutive relationships between fear and
proximity, and disconnection and connection;
101 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic,” 57.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 54 2013.08.22. 15:09
• How Lorde identies and proposes an alternative radical reworking of
the erotic as the basis for harnessing the power for transformation;
• ‘Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power” as a tool for intervention and
thinking in relation to violence against women.
I demonstrate that the strategies of a close re-reading of the construction of
Lorde’s text, tracing the lines of her inquiry, exploration of her claims, and textual
analysis of her literary techniques, demonstrate how she builds a theory of rec-
lamation as a mode of political resistance. For example, her title, “Uses of the
Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” refuses any xed, decided position of possession,
or right or wrong. e title itself is an indeterminate space without protago-
nist, without moral judgment, and without a decided “uses of.” Le open, the
unknown, unspecied demarcations of “uses of ” leaves space for the signication
of the erotic to be altered. e uncertainty invoked in the title stands in de-
ance of the xed positions of the male-fashioned erotic that she is contesting.
However, the audience is le in no doubt that there is an inextricable relationship
between the erotic and power.
1. What are the “uses of the erotic” a production of, and what do the “uses
of the erotic” produce?
2. How can Audre Lorde’s Black feminist “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic
as Power” function as “…a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects
of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms
of their relative meaning within our lives”?102
1. With specic reference to violence against women, provide a critical
analysis of how Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power”
provides “a new critical social theory that provides us with the grammar
102 Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,” 57.
i55 Violence 00 book.indb 55 2013.08.22. 15:09
and vocabulary to describe and dene dierence and the complex
nature of oppression.”103
2. “Representation is never merely descriptive: it serves also a constitutive
and regulatory function which is obscured in (but never absent from)
accounts relying upon conventions of representational realism.”104
inking about the implications of this quote, provide a critical analysis
of the function and production of exhibiting the African slave woman
Sarah Baartman as the anthropological freak called “Hottentot Venus.”
3. Placing Lorde alongside Foucault, provide a critical analytical explora-
tion of how the construction of the erotic is “…one of the prime eects
of power that certain bodies, certain gestures, certain discourses, certain
desires, come to be identied and constituted as individuals.”105
4. With specic reference to “Uses of the Erotic: e Erotic as Power,”
provide a critical analysis of the inevitable tensions in proposing the
interdependency of dierence and non-hierarchical alliances, while
advocating for recognition of the specicity of the lives of Black women.
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