Labour History Review

Representations and Counter-Representations of Domestic Violence on Clydeside Between the Two World Wars

Labour History Review (2004), 69, (2), 169–184.

Abstract

This article looks at representations in relation to the actual incidence of domestic violence between the wars on Clydeside. It argues that representations of domestic violence used by the law-enforcement and social work agencies were, and still largely are, class and gender based and do not fully depict the experience of violence. Violence was assumed to be aggression by men against women, was signified as working class and was associated with aspects of working-class male popular culture, especially gambling, alcohol consumption and football mania. Absolving middle-class men from complicity in such behaviour, these representations also collectivized men's violence and distracted attention from individual abusers: domestic violence was not seen as assault rather as an unfortunate cultural problem. This gave abusers a self-justification. However, male popular culture did not cause men to beat their wives, nor were women the only sex to be beaten. In fact, the dominant representations of domestic violence were inadequate not only because they laid the blame on male popular culture but because they excluded consideration of middle-class men and women, women whose partners did not take part in male popular culture and the fact that victims were male as well as female.

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Author details

Hughes, Annmarie