Подпись: 47One of the major achievements of feminist sociology has been the recognition of, and research on, the dark sides of family life (Dobash and Dobash, 1992, 1998). The re-discovery of domestic violence in the 1970s, (it had been a feminist campaign topic in the 1870s) and the establishment of refuges for battered women by feminist activists, were followed by a body of research. Greater recognition of the other five ways in which families may be sites of abuse followed. The six types of abuse are shown in Table 3.3.










The Elderly



Table 3.3: Six types of abuse in families

Such a typology does not include mental cruelty, which frequently accompanies the other types. All six types produce stigmatised victims, who are ashamed to tell ‘outsiders’ of their injuries. The research on all six types has been advanced by feminist sociologists and criminologists. The growth of feminist criminology, with its successes in expanding the range of topics that deserve research attention, has been similar to the rise of feminist sociology. The exemplary research now available on crime and violence in private settings such as the family has frequently been conducted by feminists who identify primarily with criminology.

It is very hard to estimate how many families contain abusers, and the official statistics are notoriously unreliable. Young children and the elderly may be unable to report abuse; many other victims are too frightened to do so, or unaware of where to go or whom to tell. In the early 1970s, the police in the UK were very unwilling to record com­plaints of domestic violence, so the incidents reported to them fre­quently did not make it into any statistics. Domestic violence is the best researched of the six dark sides, and has led to the biggest efforts towards protecting victims and changing society. Here the community action of the feminist movement went hand in hand with feminist research on its causes and consequences. Dobash and Dobash (1992) trace the rise of the social movement against domestic violence. They describe the establishment of refuges for victims, the attempts to change the law, to alter the practices of the police, the sentencing decisions of the courts, and to find ways to treat violent men. These are particularly controversial, with strong claims that schemes do and do not work put forward by practitioners and evaluators. At the heart of the debates around domestic violence is an issue of power. Men who batter their wives are exercising control over them, because they believe they have a right to do so. Women report being beaten up because: ‘his tea was too weak’ (Pahl, 1985) or ‘there was too much grease on his breakfast plate’ (Dobash et al., 1977) because they asked for money to feed the children, because they asked where their men had been, because he was drunk, because he had lost at gambling, because they had smiled at the butcher, because they were asleep when he came home, because, because, because… At the root of the violence is a man’s belief that he has a right to control ‘his’ wife, ‘his’ children, ‘his’ household. Studies of male aggressors show that they rarely express guilt: rather, the victims feel guilty.

Подпись: 48Police recognition of the existence of domestic violence has grown over the past 30 years, along with a reluctant recognition of the physi­cal abuse of children. There is much less acceptance that there can be rape in marriage, that children are sexually abused, or that old people may suffer both physical and sexual abuse. Children are taught to fear ‘strangers’ not ‘Uncle Fred’, even though they are more in danger from family and friends than from any stranger. In the summer of 2000 the Observer (16 July 2000) claimed that there had been an explosion of domestic violence, but it is more likely that public tolerance, police tol­erance, and victim tolerance have declined sharply, so that fewer women suffer in private silence. When the girlfriends and the wives of celebrities reveal that they have been beaten up (as a former girlfriend of the retired cricketer Boycott, and the ex-wife of soccer player Gascoigne have done), it is possible that the stigma may be starting to decline.

Research on the six dark sides of family life has been an achievement of feminist sociology, closely tied to political campaigns and community action. See Charles and Davies (1997) for a study of Welsh identity and domestic violence. Less obviously feminist at first glance is the fifth theme, that of research on food, drink and cooking.