Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat: Stand Your Ground, Battered Women's Syndrome, and Violence as Male Privilege
30 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2014
Date Written: September 18, 2014
Proponents of Stand Your Ground laws cynically exploit the image of vulnerable women to defend expansions of self-defense doctrine, despite the fact that such laws actually reinforce and exacerbate existing gender divides in self-defense law that disproportionately harm women. The appropriation of women’s right to self-defense by Stand Your Ground supporters masks the law’s hostility toward women’s use of force and obscures the real achievement of such legislation: the normalization and promotion of (often white) male violence in an ever-expanding variety of scenarios. Battered Women’s Syndrome, the chief narrative available to women who fight back, forces women to plead for mercy and subjects their behavior to extensive scrutiny and evaluation. Stand Your Ground, the chief narrative men can now use to justify provoking deadly fights, often allows men to escape evaluation altogether by granting immunity from prosecution and even from arrest. This two-track system of self-defense — Battered Women’s Syndrome for women and Stand Your Ground for men — has far-reaching implications outside of the courtroom. Battered Women’s Syndrome sends the legal and social message that women should retreat even from their own homes in the face of objective, repeated harm to their bodies; Stand Your Ground sends the legal and social message that men can advance against strangers anywhere on the basis of vague, subjective perceptions of threats. Male violence is not only tolerated, but celebrated; women’s violence is not only discouraged, but stigmatized. Invoking the image of vulnerable women to promote aggressive self-defense rhetoric serves to distract from the reality that violence remains chiefly a male privilege.
Keywords: stand your ground, battered women's syndrome, domestic violence, NRA, self defense, criminal law, violence against women, gender, male violence, Trayvon Martin, Marissa Alexander
JEL Classification: K14, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation