Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Ironic Violence of Cheryl Kirk-Duggan`s Violence and Theology

The past few days I have been working through a lecture concerning violence for the theology and film class that I will be teaching this spring. I have used Cheryl Kirk-Duggan`s text Violence and Theology as a primary aid to survey the conversation. I generally have an appreciation for the insights of feminist and womanist scholars and yet find myself quite frustrated with her limited scope of domestic and sexual violence.
In her section on Sexism as a form of violence (p. 15-17), her portrayal is unidirectional...male to female. As a male I find this to be a violent portrayal men. As a feminist or womanist scholar committed to searching out the suppressed notions and narratives she fails to acknowledge that men too suffer violence at the hands of women. Violence in her definition is that which causes harm (p. 2) and is relational (p.2) and has a breadth of levels including psycological, emotional, mental, attitudinal etc (p. 2). Her feminist convictions here blind her to the violence, using her own definition, that women may do to men in the most intimate of relationships. Not only this, she makes a point to note that heterosexism is a form of violence (p.17), and yet she fails to note that violence may occur in these same sex relationships. Are we to think that these relationships are above violence... I understand that these constitute a minority percentage in domestic violence, but this would seem to have fallen into her womanist hermenuetics. She has missed the the opportunity to bring to light the violence that men do to men and women do to women within homosexual relationships.
Phyllis Frus, in her essay Documenting Domestic Violence in American Films contained in J. David Slocums edited volume Violence in American Cinema suggests that `women are batterers too` is a myth created by journalism objectivity. While she is concerned with physical violence she too easily dimisses female to male violence and creates a reverse sexism similar to Kirk-Duggan. Frus does note in passing that 5% of women do hit their partners.
I certainly agree that men likely do more violence to women than women to men, but both women have missed the mark by ignoring the complicated landscape of families and relationships present in current society. The irony is that their womanist and feminist hermenuetics that are meant to uncover the suppressed stories of women in particular, and humanity in general, join in the violent suppression of certain voices.