Friday, July 03, 2009

Feminists + Male Feminists in Canada

In researching the recent report from RADAR, Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting entitled "50 Domestic Violence Myths" I came across some of the Canadian actors in the tragedy.

Dr. Andrea O’Reilly is a professor of Women's Studies at York and has been the founder and Executive Director of The Association for Research on Mothering Centre (ARM) at York University, Toronto ON. The Association’s mandate is to promote feminist maternal scholarship by building and sustaining a community of researchers interested in the topic of mothering-motherhood. She and her common-law spouse are the parents of three children, a son, 24 and two daughters, 22 and 19. Her most recent book was Rocking the Cradle: Thoughts on Motherhood, Feminism and the Possibility of Empowered Mothering (Demeter Press, 2006).

I made comment rather humorously about O'Reilly's ARM sponsored a conference on "Feminist Aspects of Mothering" in Oct 2008 in Toronto at the same time as a Fatherhood Conference sponsored by FIRA, the Fatherhood Involvement Research Alliance.

I find it interesting to note that ARM keeps track of comments made by other academics who criticize their work. Here are some comments from their April 2008 Newsletter.

The work of psychologist Don Dutton (and a considerable number of others who think like him) provides a clear and present example of the rising threat to feminist feminist (and less visibly but no less so anticolonial) antiviolence work both in Canada and the US. Dutton uses piles of so called evidence to support his argument that feminist antiviolence practice is unethical and that it may even be a form of malpractice. Yes, he says this in those very words! Dutton argues that ~feminist accounts of violence against women don't deserve to be called social theory since feminism is an ideology that doesn't account for much that we might ask about violence, and overgeneralizes based on what is he claims are only a minority of cases of violence against women. Dutton's appeals to those in psychology to overturn feminist "ideology" with a revival of psychology and science are apparently starting to work on some of those who have been feminist allies in the past. This is alarming.

This all spells bigger trouble. Dutton got a lot of airtime with his 2007 book Rethinking Domestic Violence, but he's been producing work of this kind for years. The timing on this should be a concern because in Canada we have a government that may actually be willing to be convinced by this stuff. In Canada, Dutton's findings are being used by REAL Women of Canada to lobby government to withdraw funding from feminist antiviolence work and from the Status of Women (one of the usual targets of REAL Women).

It may interest those in law to learn that Dutton's work also questions legal practice in this area. One can only guess that he may begin working on (and turning the heads of) some of those in law, as he appears to be doing elsewhere, certainly he is making very obvious efforts to turn the heads of those in psychology.

Dutton buries his readers under mountains of evidence that he uses to argue among other things that most intimate partner violence is bilateral and that in most cases women are aggressive themselves and choose aggressive partners (i.e. they ask for it). Dutton also draws on data and evidence from a number of official Canadian and US social surveys to argue that most violence is bilateral, that only a minority of couples (about 10%) in which violence occurs are male dominant, that extreme violence occurs in an smaller percentage of couples, and that women are responsible for a good proportion of that extreme violence.

Molly Dragiewicz at UOIT is one of the feminists who has taken the fight on in the last few years. She and Walter Keseredy and a handful of others have taken up the fight and are continuing to push back. Ed Gondolf ~published an article recently presenting the evidence for Duluth against Dutton; Gondolf has been working in this area for years.

The Duluth Model is being targeted for attack as a very visible example of feminist community-based practice in violence against women. Dutton argues that Duluth is only a relevant model for work with a small minority of women and that since psychological factors account for most violence, psychotherapy other psychological couple/family interventions are indicated.
I couldn't have made a better case.

Dr. Peter Jaffe PhD, C. Psych. is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario and the Academic Director of the Centre for Research on Violence Against Women & Children. He is the Director Emeritus for the Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System, which is a children's mental health centre specializing in issues which bring children and families into the justice system in London, Ontario.

He has co-authored nine books, 24 chapters and over 70 articles related to children, families and the justice system including Children of Battered Women and Working Together to End Domestic Violence. He has presented workshops across the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and Europe to various groups including judges, lawyers, mental health professionals and educators.

Both of these individuals are strongly funded and very active internationally having written, lectured and presented a number of research articles and papers in support of feminism. Jaffe is a regular speaker about DV and Child Custody in the media and has authored innumerable opinions on these issues many of which are still acted upon.

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