U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Gender, Violence, Race, and Criminal Justice

NCJ Number
Stanford Law Review Volume: 52 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2000 Pages: 777-807
Angela P. Harris
Date Published
April 2000
31 pages
This analysis of the connection between violence and masculinity suggests that studies of violence and community, including studies of racial violence, are incomplete unless they give attention to gender violence among men.
The discussion uses literature in sociology to argue that the cultural structures of masculinity divide men along familiar lines of race and class. However, the result is not simply that some men are more powerful than others. Instead, men disempowered by race or class status develop alternative rebellious ways of providing their manhood. At the same time, dominant men may envy subordinate men, and rebellious men may long to be accepted into the mainstream. In addition, all men also experience pressure not to be women or homosexuals. Therefore, violence in defense of self-identity becomes a constant possibility. Literature in criminology suggests that violent acts committed by men to break the law or to uphold the law are often a way of demonstrating the perpetrator's manhood. This gender violence can make both males and females its victims. Traditional police practices incorporate or facilitate this gender violence, whether police direct it against women, sexual minorities, or racial-ethnic minorities. However, this police violence has not received an effective challenge. The complicity of the criminal justice system with gender violence is wrong, because it causes unnecessary suffering and blocks society from exploring possibly more effective ways of developing a truly safe society. Efforts to address this issue might include replacement of punitive justice with restorative justice while placing attention on the dynamics of gender violence, together with thoroughgoing practical changes to disrupt the entire gendered culture of policing, as has taken place in New Haven, Conn. Footnotes