The Battereris Voice: Equal Protection, Gender, and Domestic Violence Discourse

Molly Dragiewicz

Major Professor: .

Johnson Center, 240A
October 13, 2005, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


"This dissertation examines the Minnesota lawsuit Booth v. Hvass as a case study of contemporary American domestic violence discourse and its effects. The Booth case sought to eliminate the legislation that provides for the disbursement of State funding for emergency housing and other domestic violence related services to women, men, and children in Minnesota using an Equal Protection claim. The complainants argued that funding domestic violence services that target women or acknowledge gender differences in the violence is discriminatory against men. The dissertation utilizes a feminist cultural studies approach to discourse analysis to investigate the nature and impact of this case and the discourses surrounding it. I review the research on domestic violence discourse to reveal patterns in the ways that we talk about the problem in a variety of contexts. I use the extant research on domestic violence to demonstrate how current claims about Isex symmetryO create a profoundly distorted view of the violence. I argue that the conflation of sex and gender differences obfuscates the pervasive impact of gender in the dynamics of domestic violence. I also use batterer narratives to show how much of the rhetoric about sex symmetry in domestic violence emulates abusers' statements about why their violence is not their fault, or is not really violence. The batterer narratives illustrate the ways that allegedly Igender-freeO discourses on domestic violence mimic the minimization, justification, denial and excuses that batterers use to avoid accountability for their violence. Ultimately, I demonstrate that women and men are not similarly situated with regard to domestic violence, and that claims to the contrary not only fail to accurately describe domestic violence but also help to engender the conditions in which it proliferates. "

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