Teaching about domestic violence Discussion/Aug 1997


Query From Regina Lark <lark@scf-fs.usc.edu> 02 Aug 1997

I am teaching an Intro. to Women's Studies course in the fall and would like to devote a discussion section to domestic violence. Can anyone suggest appropriate articles for this undergraduate, lower division class? Your help is greatly appreciated.

Responses:

From Lauren Coodley laurenil@napanet.net 03 Aug 1997

I think that the role of feminists in naming what we used to call wife-beating, and in developing hotlines (we developed one in our small town in the late seventies) has been made invisible. It seems important that the next generation understand the intervention that occurred from a historical perspective, which would include recent research such as Linda Gordon's. Seal Press has published some excellent materials addressing this issue, and also look at at feminist books for children on this topic. Since no one discusses this in high school, you're giving students their first readings on the topic: avoid jargon-ridden, overly academic studies at this level.

From Sydney Langdon aalan@asuvm.inre.asu.edu 04 Aug 1997

I also include a section on domestic violence in my Intro to Women's Studies, both 100 and 300 levels. The text I use, which students love, is _Justifiable Homicide, Battered Women, Self-Defense, and the Law_, Cynthia K Gillespie (Ohio State U Press, Columbus, 1989). It focuses more on the legal position women are placed in when they do defend themselves from lethal attacks (which is almost legally indefensible because of the structure of the self-defense laws) but also covers the reasons WHY battered women stay in these situations (my students initially all ask, "Why didn't she leave?"), Battered Women's Syndrome (that is, post-traumatic stress syndrome), how and to some extent why the law discriminates against a woman defending herself from a man she has or can be presumed to have had sexual intercourse with, and recommendations from legal associations and some state supreme courts. The book is well written, lacks legal jargon, and seems to hook students with the case studies. Good luck.

From Theresa McBride Tmcbride@holycross.edu 04 Aug 1997

Linda Gordon's _Heroes of Their Own Lives_ and Elizabeth Pleck's articles in various journals such as _Signs_ (1983) are essential. It is remarkable how little about battering has entered into the historical literature even recently.

From Lauren W. Hasten lwhny@juno.com 04 Aug 1997

While I do not have a specific article to recommend, I do have a word of advice: Be careful. Instructors often do not realize the can of worms they are opening up when introducing such discussions. Be aware that many of your students may have personal experience with domestic violence, and that an academic approach does not preclude the possibility of creating severe emotional disturbance. I have personally seen classes explode around this topic: one in particular comes to mind. When discussing _Bastard Our of Carolina_ in one class, no less than four young women broke down, revealing that they had suffered similar experiences. One teenager was shocked into spontaneous recall of an episode she had apparently repressed, and needless to say, neither she nor the class was at all prepared to handle it. It took several weeks before some kind of academic equilibrium was again reached in that class, and the young lady I speak of had to be referred for counseling. Please be certain that you provide resources to the students with whom you will be discussing these issues, so that they have somewhere to turn when the academic discussion becomes personalized.

From Amy Sara Clark clark@umich.edu 04 Aug 1997

I don't know of any good articles but we used Linda Gordon's _Heroes of Their Own Lives: the Politics and History of Family Violence in 1880-1960_, in an undergraduate class I once took and it worked very well. Perhaps you could assign a few chapters from there.

From Candace Dias cdias@emory.edu 05 Aug 1997

I haven't seen it mentioned yet, but a valuable text on this issue is Ann Jones' _Women Who Kill_, as well as her most recent _Next Time She'll Be Dead_. I think Jones was one of the first people to address domestic violence from a feminist perspective, and was the first to articulate what we now refer to as "battered women's syndrome".

Also, I'd like to second the cautionary note that someone posted. I'm not at the teaching stage of my program yet, but I've heard quite a few tales from friends. Actually, the most striking incident also came out of a class that _Bastard Out of Carolina_ was taught in. There were students for whom the book resonated particularly -because of their own experiences - but the classroom was most shaken when some students began to snicker that domestic violence and sexual abuse lie solely in the realm of "the undereducated lower classes" with a contemptuous "southern" parenthetically thrown in. Good luck.

From Sydney Langdon aalan@asuvm.inre.asu.edu 06 Aug 1997

In an earlier post re: texts on DV, I failed to mention another fine book, appropriate for upper division classes: _Femicide, The Politics of Woman Killing_, Jill Radford and Diana Russell, eds. It is relatively recent, 1992 I believe. It will provide good data for lectures to accompany other texts and class discussion.

For the past five years approximately 1/5 of my class material is related to women and violence, including domestic violence, yet I have never had any incident of any kind occur in class. Well, I must correct myself. I've never had a negative incident. We have many Native American students here at ASU, and they, males and females alike, just shake their heads in disbelief and assure me that this could not/ would not occur on the reservation. The behaviour would simply not be tolerated by the community.

Always, literally always, there are a dozen or so students who have been beaten by an ex-husband, know a friend who is being beaten, or who was raised in a violent family. Still, at least in my experience, they cope quite well with the discussion.

By the way, Ann Jones was the first to write about women and killing, at least the first to reach a large audience. However, I don't use her book. I think the text and subject treatment is more appropriate for a high school reading level, but it may work well for someone else.

From Myra Rich mrich@carbon.cudenver.edu 07 Aug 1997

Try an essay by Linda Gordon entitled "Family Violence, Feminism, and Social Control" in _Rethinking the Family_, ed. Barrie Thorne with Marilyn Yalom (Northwestern U Press, 1992). also, Gordon's _Heroes of Their Own Lives_ and Pleck's _Domestic Tyranny_. Good luck.

From Maria Elena Raymond M_Raymond@compuserve.com 15 Aug 1997

I'm surprised no one on the list mentioned David Del Mar's new book on domestic violence. It was published this year (1997) and was reviewed on H-Women sometime between approx. April and July. It's an excellent book.

An aside to the posting about Native American students insisting DV wouldn't happen on the "rez". Perhaps they live in a perfect world, or truly have never seen or known about any episodes of DV, but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened right where they live. And many Native American writers, including Beth Brant, Linda Hogan and Louise Erdrich have written about DV in lives of female N.Americans. FWIW.

From Regina Lark lark@scf.usc.edu 08 Aug 1997

Thanks to all of you who answered my query about teaching about domestic violence. To those who wrote cautioning me about the impact that the subject material might have on some of the students (as well as myself), I hear you. I will take appropriate measures to provide a safe place to talk about our personal experiences, as well as have additional resources available should my students need them. In sisterhood.

From:{See sender's address below.] 21 Aug 1997

Another wonderful song about domestic violence can be found on Janis Ian's 1992 CD, Breaking Silence, particularly the song "His Hands"; for example, the verse, "His hands, they never hit me sober / His hands, they
never marked my face / [...] I would rather be deaf / than hear that sound / Like a pistol cracking / as the spirit breaks /and love comes tumbling down". Also, on Tracy Chapman's self-titled album (1988), "Behind the Wall".


Kathleen L. Kellett-Betsos              PHONE: (416)-979-5000, xt. 6152
French Department                       FAX: (416)-979-5273
Ryerson Polytechnic University          E-MAIL:

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Responses on 22 Aug 1997:

From Larisa Kofman lkofman@inform.umd.edu

I think the name of the woman who sings "Independence Day" is Martina McBride.

From Amy Elaine Wakeland awakeland@aol.com Hi all. The song "Independence Day" that Amy Speer mentions is performed by
Martina McBride (and written by Gretchen Peters). You can find it on McBride's _The Way That I Am_ CD.

From Bud Burkhard bud@qis.net

Unless we are thinking of different songs, Independence Day is a song by Bruce Springsteen...

From Amy Sara Clark clark@qbert.rs.itd.umich.edu

On the popular music representations of domestic violence there is also Suzanne Vega's "My Name is Luka" and I think Paula Cole's *1st* album, "Harbinger" has a song about it.

From Heather Tanner hjtanner@oregon.uoregon.edu

There is also Suzanne Vega's song, the title of which I believe is "My name is Lucca".

Responses on 25 Aug 1997

From Katie Holmes kho;mes@latrobe.edu.au Another song on domestic violence is Toni Childs' 'I've got to go now'.

From Lucinda McGinn pmcginnl@maine.rr.com

Toni Childs has the song "I've Got to Go Now" on her album "House of Hope."

The lyrics start out

'This man I married is buried deep,
And the more I try to wake him, the more he sleeps I used to think I knew this man
With tenderness, not the back of his hand.'

And the song is about leaving and making it a finality -

'I can't come back here anymore,
And I know it and I know it'

From Allison Helper ahelper@maine.ma$

There is also a country/western song by a woman singer called "Independence
Day" about domestic violence and the accompanying video is very good about a multitude of issues around domestic vioence.

Responses from August 29, 1997:

From Miguel Juarez mjuarez@acsu.buffalo.edu

On the subject of Teaching/Poetry About Domestic Violence, I would include Catie Curtis' song "The Wolf," off the Women's Work compilation (Putumayo World Music). The Wolf is from Curtis' "Truth About Lies" (Guardian Records). The song is about violence against women from a child's perspective. Putumayo World Music's site is: http://www.putumayo.com

From Elaine S. Caldbeck eca792@lulu.acns.nwu.edu

Canadian Folk/Rock singer Connie Kaldor has a CD, "Gentle of Heart," with several songs that have domestic violence as the theme. Directly on the subject is the song "One Hit Leads to Another." Lines from it include: "Well I got a baby growing inside me now ... We're gonna run till we get somewhere, That the door don't get kicked in ..."

Also pertinent to women's pain on that CD are the title song "Gentle of Heart" which is about loving someone who doesn't love you back. "I go out Walking" is about being "...in love with a pack of lies." Likewise, "Rage Inside" seems to be about a woman being stuck in the rage that comes from being so deeply hurt - an outcome that is not helpful for her either.

Just as interesting is that mixed in with these angry songs are one or two songs with themes of successful passionate love!