Buffalo Law Review

Article Title

Patriarchal Violence

First Page


Document Type



For over a century, feminist theorists and activists have sought equality for women. They have aimed their efforts at the many distinct and related causes of women’s inequality, among them gendered violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, and violence against women. Recognizing the need to understand problems in order to solve them, feminist theorists have devoted decades to conceptualizing various manifestations of such violence, ranging from private acts, such as sexual assault and intimate partner abuse, to public acts, such as the incarceration of mothers and the criminalization of pregnancy. In this article, I argue in favor of conceptualizing the many discrete types of violence that subjugate girls, women, and all gender-oppressed people as part of one comprehensive system of “patriarchal violence.” Further, I introduce an organizational framework that will allow scholars, teachers, and activists to more effectively and efficiently theorize, teach, and eradicate patriarchal violence. Through this framework, various manifestations of patriarchal violence can be better identified, organized, and understood at micro and macro levels.

My patriarchal violence framework is modeled upon the violence framework established by the World Health Organization and it is grounded in, and inspired by, the work of feminist theorists who have been naming and theorizing various forms of patriarchal violence for over a century. It allows for the organization of all patriarchal violence according to two important considerations: (1) the nature of the relationship between the perpetrator and victim; and (2) the identity of the perpetrator.

At a micro level, the framework provides a means of understanding how individual victims experience cycles of patriarchal violence by identifying a particular act of patriarchal violence and then tracing each and every related preceding and subsequent manifestation. At a macro level, it serves as a tool to illuminate the many connections between seemingly isolated acts of violence so as to easily reveal the larger ideologically-driven phenomenon that perpetuates the systemic oppression of women.

Application of this framework to the patriarchal violence experienced by girls, women, and other gender-oppressed people will assist scholars, teachers, and activists in: (1) characterizing, naming, organizing, and understanding discrete manifestations of patriarchal violence; (2) recognizing and demonstrating how seemingly discrete manifestations of patriarchal violence merge in a single victim’s experience to create a cycle of patriarchal violence; (3) realizing the depth and interconnectedness of the harms experienced by patriarchal violence victims; (4) acknowledging the powerful role played by intersecting social, legal, and governmental forces in perpetuating patriarchal violence; and (5) understanding the ubiquitous nature of patriarchal violence. This article is the first in a series of articles. It provides the historical and theoretical foundation for forthcoming articles that will apply the patriarchal violence framework to the many discrete and interconnected manifestations of patriarchal violence perpetrated and experienced by victims.