Masculinity and Violence

An analysis of the article “Gendering Violence: Masculinity and Power in Men’s Accounts of Domestic Violence” by  Kristin L. Anderson and Debra Umberson.

 In his book The sex is (not) political (2018), Slavoj Zizek criticized sexual differences with Lacan’s perspective. He pointed that what completes a man’s masculinity has nothing to do with genitals but a relationship with another subject based on his authority. The said man does this to gain his authority from another figure. The approval of this figure is what is essential for his authority. With a detailed examination of masculinity, it is possible to get a more transparent view of Zizek’s words and analyze the link between masculinity and violence. This thorough examination was made by Kristen L. Anderson and Debra Umberson and documented in their article: Gendering Violence (2001). Anderson and Umberson gathered their research through the interviews and data granted from Family Violence Diversion Network. These interviews were done with several men who were domestically violent. Through the outcomes, it is possible to understand how these men used violence to conduct their masculinities. 

Illustration by Nathalie Lees, Source: The Guardian, (

  According to Gendering Violence (2001), all these men committed more violent acts than their female partners during their fights. In some examples that were presented by Anderson and Umberson (2001), some respondents assaulted their female partners who were, in fact, not resisting them. The article refers to social and cultural exercises that favored men until this day to explain the different approaches that men and women have towards violence. Extreme sports and physical activities make men more familiar and efficient with violence and normalize them while women do not have that opportunity. While talking about the violence of their female partners, these men used different adjectives than the ones they used to describe theirs. While disdaining female violence, they exaggerated male violence and pointed out that their reaction was rational and mature, whereas their partners were the opposite such as hysteric and illogical. Respondents did not describe themselves in danger or feel frightened when narrating their female partners’ violence; however, gendered violence by representing it as fearful and vital when conducted by men. Even when they were actually in danger, these men said that they were worried that their female partner might do something foolish and hurt themselves since they do not know how to use dangerous tools such as a gun or a knife. According to Anderson and Umberson, these men’s attitudes have “naturalize the notion that violence is the exclusive province of men” (2001). 

  Another way violence is gendered by these men is their effort to blame their actions on their female partners. While describing their incidents, they concentrated heavily on the flaws of their partners’ behaviors or personalities. However, they mostly picked on the controlling or demanding features of their partners. Female partners threatened and questioned their masculinity within their relationship, and their so-called attitude made these men look emasculated towards other men. What bothered them was not that their female partner was particularly controlling, but a female was the one doing the controlling. Anderson and Umberson observed this because respondents were obscure when explaining exactly how their partners controlled or dominated them. These domestically violent men not only blame their female partners, but they also tried to persuade them to claim responsibility for their violent actions. Lastly, these respondents gendered violence by asserting that the criminal justice system favors women; thus, society has a preconceived opinion about men being the villain. These respondents mentioned they were the ones protecting their female partners from getting arrested by sacrificing themselves. This attitude is a bit controversial since they both claim to be the victim and then act “courageous” to avoid “victimization at the hands of a woman (Anderson and Umberson, 2001). The article mentions some respondents’ concern towards “women acting like men” with the assistance of feminist movements. 

  The point made within the article about how men gender violence and assert their masculinity somehow confirms Zizek’s interpretation of Lacan’s definition of masculinity. The examples are given in the article display how men practice violence for masculinity. Respondents tried to establish their masculinity with violence and used their female partners’ vulnerability to preserve it. Violence is not a component of masculinity but a tool these men used with the expectation of “reconstructing an unstable masculinity” (Anderson and Umberson, 2001). 


Anderson, K. L. & Umberson, D., 2001. Gendering Violence: Masculinity and Power in Men’s Accounts of Domestic Violence, Gender and Society, Sage Publications, pp. 358-380.

Zizek, S., 2018. Cinsel Fark: Hiyerarşi mi, Antagonizma mı?, Cinsel Olan Politik Midir?, Encore Yayınları, pp.51-65