The Misogyny of the Criminal ‘Justice’ System: Law and its Operations as Another form of Male Pattern Violence?

So, even though the title of this post is posed as a question, it is rhetorical. And just to clarify the title a bit before I proceed – when i say ‘Law and its Operations’ i mean the legal system and its representatives (magistrates, judges, prosecutors, police, etc), not law itself as a homogenous ontological thing (although that is certainly debatable in some instances). SO. Ok. As women, we already know what the answer is to the question posed. But, because it is a matter of extreme importance for single mothers – especially those experiencing unfairness and violence in the courts (e.g. fighting to protect their children from unhealthy/abusive ex-partners) – it deserves to be raised as an issue again, and again, and again. We will continue to raise it as a matter of concern until the situation is rectified. Until we women are free from the institutional hatred that comes in the form of policies, unfair judgements, misrepresentation in the media, and bias toward dangerous men.

Here’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point in our lives, whether it was during girlhood or afterward:

Why does the criminal justice system seem to fail us women (and children) so often? 

Why are we made to suffer twice over as victims (once by the abuser and a twice by the courts)?

Rape. Child molestation. Revenge porn. Abandonment. Stalking. Cohabitant Murder. Domestic abuse. These are the things that men do – a lot. A host of horrible, vile, debased, deranged, uncompassionate and ungodly things.

“But not all men!” you say. This is true. Not all men.

Just mostly men. By and large, usually, it is men. So you’re right – not all men. Just overwhelming men.

We need to start understanding how male pattern violence manifests in our lives and begin naming the problem for what it really is. What is really going on? Are we doing ourselves justice by continuing to refer to domestic violence as just that – an incident of violence that happens in the ‘domestic’ sphere by an unnamed perpetrator? Is that really what it is? Is the term ‘domestic violence’ hiding anything (i.e. the reality of what actually happens to most victims of it: that it is overwhelmingly men who abuse women and children)? Or how about the phrase we hear so often: ‘the broken criminal justice system’? Sure, it’s broken. Yep. Got that. Victims already know it’s bad. We women are often re-victimised by courts because of the violence inherent in the way the system operates. It’s not really a stretch to say that the criminal justice system is notably sexist in all of its operations (toward crime victims AND those within the system itself, such as female police officers and attorneys). Rape culture pervades it (if you don’t know what rape culture is, check this out). Up until literally just a few days ago, Judges could refer to women attorneys as ‘Honey’ and ‘Sweetheart’ in a court of law. Think about that. That betrays some seriously antiquated notions about women. If judges don’t deem professional degree-holding women respectable enough to address them appropriately in a work environment, you can only imagine what they (and others in the system) think of the victims that come through their courts seeking justice. Pretty fucked up, if you ask me.

Considering the preponderance of male justices, prosecutors and and public defenders, the hyper-masculinization of law enforcement culture, and good ol’ boy favouritism, inter alia, it’s no surprise that over 70% of female attorneys report experiencing sexism within the system. 70% is not an insignificant number. 70% is completely unacceptable. But, it’s not altogether shocking. Because patriarchy

So, what if we started to call it what it really is? How would that change things? How would it change perceptions of people in courts of law? Or in shelters? Or even friends and family members? How would it changes cases? Why are we not calling it for what it really is? Male. Pattern. Violence.

Here are some other examples of male pattern violence:

  • Men who abandon women and children and contribute nothing in the form of support or resources
  • Criminal justice systems that do not consider the above punishable in a court of law
  • Male Justices that show undue leniency to male criminals who rape and abuse women
  • When a man murders a woman and his actions are called ‘understandable
  • Male Justices that show undue leniency and reductions in sentencing to male criminals who rape and abuse children
  • Justices that don’t take mother’s custody concerns seriously and perpetuate abusive father-child relationships

These are only a few examples. Feel free to list more in the comments. Bottom line is that these types of justices and this kind of criminal justice system are another form – just as bad as the others – of male pattern violence. We need to change how we talk about it. Literally. We need to change the words we use.

In this very insightful blog post (which I encourage everyone to read thoroughly), the author (Jennie Ruby) suggests how we can start changing our language to reflect the truth and existence of male pattern violence in our lives:

What You Can Do:

1. Replace the phrase “violence against women,” everywhere you or your feminist organizations currently use it, with the phrase “male violence against women” or possibly “male-pattern violence against women.”

2. Specifically name the most prevalent kind of domestic violence as “male-pattern violence in the home.”

3. When writing and speaking about male-pattern violence, actively name the perpetrator or at least the gender of the perpetrator: “A man raped a woman.” Do away with expressions such as “a woman was raped,” “her rapist” and every kind of wording that focuses on rape as a problem only for women.

4. Wherever possible, present statistics about violence in ways that clearly indicate the gender of the perpetrator, not just of the victim: Instead of “Every 15 minutes a woman is raped,” which makes rape seem like a female problem, try “Every 15 minutes, a man rapes a woman.” Or better: “Every 15 minutes, a man commits a rape.”

5. Call people on their defensiveness against acknowledging male violence. Watch for the classic defenses (see Ways People Deny Male Violence) and point them out.

6. Know the statistics and cite them often.

7. Talk about male-pattern violence openly and constantly. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this particularly masculine problem. Discuss it with your children. Discuss it with male friends. Discuss it with female friends. Discuss it in classrooms, in gossip sessions, and in bars.

8. Study the phenomenon. Examine how the construction of masculinity contributes to the commission of violence. Read what researchers such as James Gilligan are finding about why men become violent.

9. Encourage men to explore and question the cult of masculinity. If you are a man, call other men on their unexamined acceptance of mainstream masculinity.

10. Don’t accept male violence. Make it stop.

Make it stop.

Nile Pierce


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