"The truth is somewhere outside the circle."
The pervasiveness of spousal abuse is traceable from culture to
culture. Every culture has a its unique way of dealing with spousal
abuse. The fact that spousal abuse is rampant among certain societies
and is completely oblivious to others indicates that spousal abuse is politically,
socially, and culturally determined. However, common sense validity
would imply that male-dominance is the cause of spousal abuse. This
is not always true. For instance, in some cultures there is not a
clear-cut gender differentiation between males and females. For those
cultures, the binary gender line that exists in the Western culture does
not apply to them. Incidentally, this raises the question of whether
or not there is a "third gender." To delve into the topic of male
dominance as attributed to spousal abuse in its comprehensiveness is beyond
the scope of this paper; rather, our purpose here is to show how male-dominance
affects spousal abuse by taking the cross-cultural approach.
Perhaps it is worthwhile to note that the husband-wife relationship is not a linear relationship for all societies. There are some societies where females were forced to take on the role of the husband. Because the husbands were usually away from their homes, the wives became 'heads of the household.' Furthermore, the wives were allowed to beat their husbands at will if they were found of wrongdoing. It absolutely violates and contradicts the husband and wife relationship, which permeates the Western culture. Interestingly, this reversal of gender role between husband and wife proves that the husband-wife relationship is different from region to region. There is no universal acceptance to how a husband or a wife should act. In summary, the husband-wife relationship is culturally and regionally specific.
While it is true that women can be as aggressive as their men counterpart, the aggression is usually committed between women and group of women; as oppose to aggression committed by women against men. This is especially true in societies where men are allowed to have multiple wives. As Levinson cites, "Women aggressing against other women is especially common in societies with polygymous marriage (where a man may have two or more wives at the same time.)" Consequently, most aggressions are triggered by jealousy among the wives over sexual attention and economic resources of the husband . Collectively, a typical cross-cultural study indicates, as offered by Levinson, that women are responsible for 82% of verbal aggression, 61% for physical aggression, and 12% for property damage . Up until now, the gap between the aggressive behaviors between males and females remains an unsolved mystery. Some social scientists attribute the sex differences in aggression as deeply grounded in biology; others see it as a cultural and social phenomenon. For an anthropologist, the environment in which the boys and girls were raised plays a significant role in the outcome of their aggressive behaviors into adulthood. Of course, this also takes into account the social-economic cross-cultural differences.
First and foremost, how a child (boy or girl) was brought up mirrors how he/she would likely to act (aggression). Because most cultures tend to adopt the girl/compliance and boy/dominance approach in raising a child, there is little difference in aggression between males and females. Generally speaking, men are more aggressive than women. This is self-evident because "cross-culturally, it is clear that men are far more violent than women." Moreover, Levinson goes on to quote:
"All types of the most violently aggressive acts--warfare,
homicide spouse killing, rape, feuding, drunken brawling
violent crimes--are almost exclusively male activities"
In summary, it can be conclusively deduced that men's aggravated assaults
by mean of physical and emotional aggression toward their wives are the
root cause of spousal abuse.
Yet, despite my findings, which have been consistent with the hypothesis, some cases in cross-cultures deserve to be mentioned. Through a conservation with a colleague of mine, I found out that the Hijras cultures have no gender. Because a Hijra individual is classified as neither male nor female, the sex differences in aggression do not apply to them. Hence the Hijras' undistinguishable sex not only problematizes the determination of gender, it is virtually impossible to do so. However, these does not shunned away the hypothesis that male aggression is responsible for spousal abuse. The Hijras' cases do not disprove the hypothesis; it simply shows that there are exceptions.
Last but not least, I like to suggest that there are a clear distinction between causes and agents. While it remains true that the cause of spousal abuse is attributed to male aggression, there are many agents for the cause. These agents are not readily visible at first glance. For example, one way a child could be affected by his/her growing up process is sometime dependent on whether the family is rich or poor. A more affluent family obviously has the resources and the means to provide the child with proper schooling and education whereby that child could learn social behaviors. On the other hand, a lesser financially stable family may resort to violence as the norm, due to circumstances beyond their control. At this point, I feel compelled to say that this is not a universal truth. What it merely implies is that there are many constants (agents), not just one cause. As demonstrated above, through a process of anthropological veto there are instances where a cross-cultural study will inevitably disagree with the postulate.
As the chart below suggests, there is a direct correlation between wife-beating and frequency of divorce. By looking at the diagram, it can be interpreted women are more opt to file for divorce in a wife beating situation (husband beats wife). However, the reverse is not necessary true; when wife beats the husband, the husband simply leaves the wife to stay with his mistress. Because the wives, due to fear of public humiliation in certain societies, have a tendency to tolerate and put up with the abuse by their husbands, a lot of the cases go unreported. Thus, it compensates for the negative correlation. Additionally, a quick glance at the significance figure reveals that the connection between spousal abuse does not happen by chance. More often than not, it is the husbands who abuse (beating, etc.) their wives.
V744 Frequency of Divorce V754 Wife-Beating
V744 Frequency of Divorce Pearson Correlation 1.000 -.325
Sig. (2-tailed) . .065
N 85 33
V754 Wife-Beating Pearson Correlation -.325 1.000
Sig. (2-tailed) .065 .
N 33 70
Different societies also have different ways of dealing with spousal
abuse cases. As the table below implies, there is not a strong correlation
for flexible marriages in a wife beating case. Cross-culturally,
a more restrictive form of punishment is imposed on the wives for committing
adulterous acts. For the men, it is usually the opposite (especially
in societies where polygamous is practice.) The chart also
shows that, in a wife-beating situation, the significance of remarriage
is not rampant. In most societies, the wives could not see other
men until the peacemaker of the community reaches some form of settlement
in their dispute. This is a result of complaints initiated by the
wives to the community counsel. In most instances, the wives could
file their complaints (mistreatment by their husbands, etc.) to the leader
in their local community. The leader, in turn acts as a court to
oversee the complaints. If the individuals (usually the wives)
are not satisfied with the decision, they can appeal to a higher court
V657 Flexible Marriage Mores (Divorce for both men and women: or mild punishment for adultery) V754 Wife-Beating
V657 Flexible Marriage Mores (Divorce for both men and women: or mild punishment for adultery) Pearson Correlation 1.000 .032
Sig. (2-tailed) . .801
N 142 63
V754 Wife-Beating Pearson Correlation .032 1.000
Sig. (2-tailed) .801 .
N 63 70
To be continued…