Patriarchal Terrorism


patterrI like words. Well, yeah… I write, so…you’d think. But not just any words; I like the right words. I like words (and phrases) that make you perk up and take notice. More specifically, I like descriptors that are so narrow, so specific, that when you read them you think, “Yes! That’s it! That’s exactly the right way to phrase that!”

I first saw the words “Patriarchal Terrorism” a couple of weeks ago; I was reading a paper written in the mid-nineties by Michael P. Johnson. Immediately upon seeing those two words pushed together on the page, I literally got up, went my computer and started Googling the phrase to see what other articles and information might be associated with it.

Terrorism. It’s a word that’s all too common in our post 9/11 world, but in 1995, “Terrorism” wasn’t a word that was thrown around lightly. It wasn’t a part of our daily vernacular. And yet here was this paper written twenty years ago, using it in regard to domestic violence. The paper was published a month before my older daughter was born, just a few short months before my ex-husband put his hands on me for the first time, nearly killing me.

“Patriarchal terrorism, a product of patriarchal traditions of men’s right to control ‘their’ women, is a form of terroristic control of wives by their husbands that involves the systematic use of not only violence, but economic subordination, threats, isolation and other control tactics….The terminology ‘battered wife’ is objectionable on the grounds that it shifts the focus to the victim, seeming to imply that the pattern in question adheres to the woman rather than to the man who is in fact behaviorally and morally responsible (sic) The term ‘patriarchal terrorism’ has the advantage of keeping the focus on the perpetrator and of keeping our attention on the systematic, intentional nature of this form of violence.”*

Patriarchal Terrorism. Yes, those are just the right words to describe what I lived through. That is domestic violence.

*Excerpted from “Patriarchal Terrorism and Common Couple Violence: Two Forms of Violence Against Women” by Michael P. Johnson, Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 57, No.2, (May 1995),283-294

3 thoughts on “Patriarchal Terrorism

  1. fighting for mei

    Hey, thank you for this post! I, also, live for coming across (or creating) those words or phrases that are so skillfully crafted that they resound for hours in your heart, and make you just think, Yes, perfect!!! Terrorism is such an appropriate word for describing domestic violence. I think it should be called “domestic terrorism”, because you’re right, the emphasis is too much on the physical violence and not enough on the equally debilitating emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, spiritual, etc tactics employed by abusers.

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