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Producing gender through storytelling about violence: an exploration of teenagers understandings of violence Vanita Sundaram Department of Education, University.

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Presentation on theme: "Producing gender through storytelling about violence: an exploration of teenagers understandings of violence Vanita Sundaram Department of Education, University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Producing gender through storytelling about violence: an exploration of teenagers understandings of violence Vanita Sundaram Department of Education, University of York

2 Outline of paper Context – social, political and methodological Aims and methodology of study Findings - Understandings of violence - Acceptability of violence - Deserved and undeserved violence - Contradictory discourses Moving forward: implications for schools and educators

3 Increasing prevalence of violence among young people (13-21 year-olds) Extreme acts of violence e.g. murder are on the rise, as intimate partner violence Violence research indicates that young men are primary perpetrators of violence in all contexts (macro) Historically, youth violence research in UK conducted from criminological perspective e.g. with at-risk youth, homeless youth, offenders Social class, ethnicity, religion, disaffection have historically been prioritised over gender in explaining youth (male) violence In US context, a similarly gender-neutral perspective has been adopted to analysing youth (male) violence Context

4 Recent UK work has explored the role of gender in relation to young peoples use/understandings of violence - Role of normative masculinity in normalising violence within intimate relationships (heterosexual) (McCarry, 2010) - Construction of women as vulnerable and men as dangerous impacts on womens fear of violence (Hollander, 2001) - Role of conservative gender attitudes in acceptance of violence (Lacasse & Mendelson, 2007)

5 Context Zero Tolerance Campaign (1998) Survey of >2000 young people (14-21 year-olds) 20% of boys/men and 10% of girls/women think violence is acceptable in some circumstances e.g. nagging, infidelity 75% of boys/men and over 50% of girls/women thought the woman was often or sometimes to blame for violence NSPCC (2009) 25% of girls and 20% of boys aged have experienced violence from a partner Girls more likely to experience violence from partner as harmful than boys and girls feel less empowered to reject violence than boys

6 Context Less knowledge about why young people accept and justify the use of violence (McCarry, 2010) This is Abuse campaign (2009) sought to raise awareness among young people but resistance to campaign was apparent Young people on discussion boards resisted depiction of intimate partner violence as male- female; debated definitions of certain acts as violent; discussed whether some forms of violence are deserved Violence prevention/awareness-raising tends to be premised on experts understanding of what constitutes (interpersonal) violence

7 Aims Need to understand how young people themselves view violence - What factors shape/influence these understandings? Targeted prevention could seek to challenge these underlying influences on views of violence - Including (especially) gender identities Increasing recognition of role of schools in disrupting gender norms, including those which promote, encourage and justify violence

8 Aims A whole-school approach [is needed to] tackle attitudes that normalise violence and abuse by exploring gender stereotypes [with young people] Higgs, 23 rd June 2011

9 Aims What do young people characterise as violence? What factors influence young peoples views on different behaviours as violent (or not)? Do young people view some forms of violence as more or less acceptable and/or inevitable than others? What are the underlying reasons for differential perceptions of acceptability? Specific focus here on how gender is produced (gender stereotypes and norms) through young peoples talk about violence

10 Methodology Regional study comprising 6 schools in Yorkshire Schools were purposively sampled from sampling frame of all schools in Yorkshire on the basis of: - Gender composition - Faith - Selectiveness Small groups (5-6) of Year 10 pupils were randomly selected in each school Yielded total sample of ~ 70 pupils Written consent obtained from parents of all participating pupils and pupils themselves Variations in school ethos

11 Methods Combination of open-ended questions, photographs, vignettes, statements about violence Each vignette, photograph and statement depicted mixed-sex encounters Every vignette and statement was presented with a female perpetrator and a male perpetrator Photographs were presented with male-female and male-male encounters Materials shuffled ahead of presentation so no clustering by type of material, gender of perpetrator or type of violence

12 Vignette Based on Prospero (2006) and This is Abuse campaign Steve is playing around with his girlfriends phone and sees that she has received many texts from another boy in their year. When Steve asks his girlfriend about this, she says that she should be allowed to have male friends and he should stop getting upset about nothing. Steve pushes his girlfriend and calls her a slut.

13 Statement Based on Zero Tolerance (1998) answers Physical It is acceptable for a woman to hit a man if she knows he has been cheating on her Sexual When a man and a woman are married, it is acceptable for him to make her have sex with him Verbal It is acceptable for a woman to yell at her partner if he has done something to make her jealous

14 Photographs

15 What is violence? Violence associated with a range of behaviours - pushing, shouting, screaming, jealousy, name- calling - murder, shooting, kidnapping, rape, child abuse Girls equally as likely as boys to name emotional/verbal acts of aggression, and fighting, use of weapons and sexual assault as violence Behaviours associated with violence were stereotypical and similar in comparison with previous studies of youth violence

16 Who is violent? Violence associated primarily with young men – individuals or gangs Classed assumptions made about violence e.g. chavs, young men with aggressive dogs and young alcoholics Some differences in perceptions across schools - in schools with 95%+ minority ethnic pupils, discussions around stereotypes of certain ethnic groups as violent Some recognition that women can be violent and emotional violence e.g. jealousy, name-calling, put-downs was frequently associated with women

17 Acceptability of violence In vignettes and statements in which the perpetrator was male the violence was judged to be unacceptable and was identified as wrong M: Its naughty [to hit a woman] M: He should leave her alone [..] wait until shes ready (in response to vignette about sexual aggression) M: The man should be the bigger man, he should just leave it Where perpetrator was a woman, behaviour was also defined as violent but was seen as more acceptable

18 Acceptability of violence When female was perpetrator, the violence was viewed as deserved, understandable and as less serious M: It was the right thing to do, to slap him F: I think she has a good reason to slap him M: He deserves it, well yeah, you cant go kissing other girls when you are going out with another girl F: Its like, your immediate reaction, because youre so mad at him you just go straight to slap him

19 Acceptability of violence The male participants invoked narratives about a feeling or sense that perpetrating violence against women was wrong Yassin: Its a thing that we know but we cant put into words Particular attention was paid to the perceived danger of mens bodies and their ability to cause harm Womens bodies were perceived as less capable of causing harm – their violence primarily conceptualised in terms of emotional/verbal aggression

20 Deserved and undeserved violence Perceived acceptability of violence closely linked to what was considered deserved or undeserved violence Assumptions made about context of violence in vignettes and photographs - dynamic, relationship between perpetrator and victim, events leading up to violence Where violence was narrated as deserved it was less likely to be named as violence or justifications were provided

21 Deserved and undeserved violence Violence by a man towards a woman in vignettes/statements was unanimously considered to be undeserved However, in photographs, stories were produced to explain, rationalise and justify use of violence towards men and women M: She must have done something wrong F: Maybe they was in an argument…yeah..and shed done something wrong M: Hes been offended [..] you wouldnt hit someone just for no reason

22 Deserved and undeserved violence Justifications of violence (naming of violence as deserved or not) reflected normative expectations of gender behaviour - expectations of a womans role within heterosexual relationship - expected punishment for transgression of role - fidelity, chivalry and emotion as gendered behaviours - men as protectors of daughters and wives - vulnerability and helplessness of women

23 Deserved and undeserved violence Some young people did construct stories in which actions of female victim explained violence against them (deserved) Actions of female victim implicitly and explicitly narrated as going against normative gender behaviour F: Shes probably done something to hurt him [like] lied to him about something F: He might be asking her to do something again and again which she does not want to do F: If she turns him away and he is, like, a violent person and he feels rejected and embarrassed it could turn into a violent situation

24 Contradictory discourses Contradictions between non-acceptability of all forms of violence expressed by majority of young people and internalised knowledge Male-on-male violence was justified using essentialist argument about male bodies - testosterone, male pride and toughness Men viewed as naturally more inclined to use violence M: Its all in nature, isnt it like. I mean, throughout the animal kingdom [..] its just, you know, its inside us Contradictions in attitudes towards violence in photographs as compared with vignettes and statements

25 Moving forward: the role of schools Findings suggest that young people do understand violence in relatively conventional terms (despite resistance expressed in previous contexts) Key role of gender norms and expectations in shaping young peoples views of violence as acceptable, deserved or undeserved If schools are spaces in which gender norms are produced (Reay, 2001) then schools have an important role to play in challenging these behaviours in young people Anti-violence education must focus on the production of gender identities and challenge the norms which are used to explain and even defend violence among young people

26 References Burton, S., Kitzinger, J., with Kelly, L. & Regan, L. (1998). Young peoples attitudes towards violence, sex and relationships. A survey and focus group study. Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust. Barter, C., McCarry, M., Berridge, D., Evans, K. (2009). Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships. University of Bristol/NSPCC. Renold, E., & Barter, C. (2003). Hi, Im Ramon and I run this place: challenging the normalisation of peer violence in childrens homes. In: E. Stanko (ed.), The Meaning of Violence. London: Routledge. British Educational Research Association. (2009). BERA Insights Tender Specification. ( insights-tender.pdf) insights-tender.pdf Prospero, M. (2006). The Role of Perceptions in Dating Violence Among Young Adolescents. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(4),

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