Gender Identity/Identification in the Context of a Batterers' Treatment Program

Susan Ehrlich, Susan Levesque

York University, Toronto, Canada

WS130: Re-casting Language and Masculinities

This paper examines data from interviews with six men who were completing a 16-week batterers’ treatment program and from field notes compiled during group sessions that form an integral part of the program. The program aims to provide men who have been convicted or pled guilty to domestic assault with new understandings of their violent and controlling behaviour and with strategies that will allow them to make choices that are non-violent. The program facilitators seek to interrupt the clients' discursive strategies that display a minimizing or denying of their violent behaviour or a blaming of others.

In this paper, we examine the way that certain men attempted to diminish their responsibility for acts of violence by distancing themselves from a ‘hyper-masculine’ identity. That is, while the program's curriculum explicitly makes a connection between violence and male power and privilege, certain men invoked their class position as middle-class, educated men in order to deny their associations with working-class masculinity and, by extension, with a certain stereotype of males who are violent towards women. We consider these data in relation to Cameron’s (2005) claim that gender is often constituted ‘less by contrast with the other gender and more by contrast with other versions of the same gender’ (Cameron 2005: 487, emphasis in original). The men under discussion in this paper claimed a masculinity for themselves that protected their self-conceptions as non-violent men. We examine such explicit ‘claims of identity’ in light of Cameron’s and Kulick’s (2003) distinction between ‘identity’ and ‘identification’ and the idea that ‘identifications’ can manifest themselves through refusals and disavowals.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Re-casting language and masculinities
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 05