“I've Slept in Clothes Long Enough”: Excavating the Sounds of Domestic Violence Among Women in the White Working Class

Abstract

Here we listen to and analyze the voices of poor and working-class white women in Buffalo and Jersey City as they chronicle histories related to domestic violence. Although it was initially quite easy to distinguish between women living in what others have called “hard living” and “settled living” domestic scenes, we found that the amount of violence in these homes did not differ appreciably. Rather almost all of the poor and working-class white women and their families were negotiating lives disrupted by an inhospitable economy, and almost all of the women interviewed were also surviving within scenes of domestic violence that spanned generations. The distinction between the “settled lives” women and the “hard living” women may only be determined by whether or not the woman has exited from her violent home. School-related programs designed to promote discussion of these issues are considered.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

REFERENCES

  1. Afulayan, J. (1993). Consequences of domestic violence on elementary school education. Child and family therapy 15(3): 55-58.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bluestone, B., and Harris, B. (1982). The Deindustrialization of America. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Campbell, J., Poland, M., Waller, and J., Ager, J. (1992). Correlates of battering during pregnancy. Research on Nursing Health 15: 219-26.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Coley, S. M., and Beckett, J. O. (1988). Black battered women: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Counseling and Development 66(6): 266-270.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Davis, A. (1981). Women, race, and class. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Dobash, R. E. (1979). Violence against Wives: A Case Study against the Patriarchy. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Downs, W. R., Miller, B. A., and Panek, D. D. (1993). Differential patterns of partner to woman violence: A comparison of samples of community, alcohol abusing, and battered women. Journal of Family Violence 8(2): 113-35.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Elkind, P. (1984). All Grown Up and No Place to Go. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Fine, M., and MacPherson, P. (1995). Hungry for an Us: Adolescent girls and adult women nego-tiating territories of race, class, and gender difference. Feminism and Psychology 5(2): 181-200.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fineman, M. A., and Mykitiuk, R. (eds.) (1994). The Public Nature of Private Violence: The Dis-covery of Domestic Abuse. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Frankenberg, R. (1993). White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness. Min-neapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Gelles, R. (1988). Violence and pregnancy: Are pregnant women at greater risk of abuse? Journal of Marriage and Family 50: 841-847.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Giddings, P. (1984). When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. New York: Morrow.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Halle, D. (1984). America's Working Man: Work, Home, and Politics among Blue-Collar Property Owners. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hanmer, J., and Maynard, M. (eds.) (1987). Women, Violence, and Social Control. Atlantic High-lands, NJ: Humanities Press International.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Helton, A., McFarlane, J., and Anderson, E. (1987). Battered and pregnant: A prevalence study. American Journal of Public Health 77: 1337-1339.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hoff, L. A. (1990). Battered Women as Survivors. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  18. hooks, b. (1981). Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Boston: South End Press.

  19. hooks, b. (1989). Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Boston: South End Press.

  20. Howell, J. (1972). Hard Living on Clay Street: Portraits of Blue Collar Families. New York: Anchor Books.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Hughes, H. (1988). Psychological and behavioral correlates of family violence in child witnesses and victims. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 58: 77-90.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Jaffe, P., Wolfe, D., and Wilson, S. (1990). Children of Battered Women. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Jones, A. (1994). Next Time She'll Be Dead. Boston: Beacon Press.

  24. Kidder, L., LaFleur, R., and Wells, C. (1995). Recalling harassment, reconstructing experience. Journal of Social Issues 51(1): 53-67.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kurz, D. (1995). For Richer for Poorer: Mothers Confront Divorce. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Marsh, C. E. (1993). Sexual assault and domestic violence in the African-American community. Western Journal of Black Studies 17(3): 149-155.

    Google Scholar 

  27. May, M. (1987). The historical problem of the family wage: The Ford Motor Company and the five dollar day. In N. Gerstel and H. E. Gross (eds.), Families and Work. Philadelphia: Temple Uni-versity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Morrison, T. (1992). Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Nicarthy, G. (1989). From the sounds of silence to the roar of a global movement: Notes on the movement against violence against women. Response to the Victimization of Women and Chil-dren 12(2): 3-10.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Oliver, M., and Shapiro, T. (1995). Black Wealth, White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Parker, B., and McFarlane, J. (1991). Identifying and helping battered pregnant women. Maternal and Child Nursing 16: 161-164.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Roy, M. (ed.) (1977). Battered Women: A Psychosociological Study of Domestic Violence. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Schechter, S. (1982). Women and Male Violence: The Visions and Struggles of the Battered Women's Movement. Boston: South End Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Sennett, R., and Cobb, J. (1972). The Hidden Injuries of Class. New York: Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Sidel, R. (1990). On Her Own. New York: Viking.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Smith, D. (1987). Women's inequality and the family. In M. F. Katzebstein and C. M. Mueller (eds.), The Women's Movements of the United States and Europe. Philadelphia: Temple Univer-sity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Spivak, G. C. (1984). The Rani of Sirmur. In F. Barker (ed. ), Europe and Its Others, Colchester, UK: University of Essex Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Stack, C. (1972). All Our Kin. New York: Anchor Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Steinmetz, S., and Strauss, M. (eds.) (1974). Violence in the Family. New York: Dodd Mead.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Straus, M. (1983). Ordinary violence, child abuse and wife-beating: What do they have in common and why? In D. Finkelhor, R. Gelles, G. Hotaling, and M. Straus (eds.), The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Thompson, B. (1994). A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: American Women Speak Out on Eating Problems. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Valentine, B. Hustling and Other Hard Work: Lifestyles in the Ghetto. New York: Free Press.

  44. Walker, L. A. (1984). Battered women, psychology, and public policy. American Psychologist 39(10): 1178-1182.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Weis, L. (1985). Without dependence on welfare for life: The experience of Black women in the urban community college. The Urban Review 17(4): 233-256.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Weis, L. (1990). Working-class without Work: High School Students in a De-Industrializing Econ-omy. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Weis, L., Proweller, A., and Centrie, C. (1997). Re-examining a moment in history: Loss of privi-lege inside white, working class masculinity in the 1990s. In M. Fine, L. Weis, L. Powell, and M. Wong, (eds.), Off White. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Weis, L., and Fine, M. (1996). Narrating the 1980's and 1990's: Voices of poor and working class white and African-American men. In Anthropology and Education Quarterly

  49. White, E. (1985). The psychology of abuse. In Chain chain change for Black women dealing with physical and emotional abuse. Seattle: South End Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Wilson, W. J. (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Woodcock Tentler, L. W. (1979). Wage Earning Women: Industrial Work and Family Life in the US, 1900-1930. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Wright Mills, C. W. (1959). The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Weis, L., Fine, M., Proweller, A. et al. “I've Slept in Clothes Long Enough”: Excavating the Sounds of Domestic Violence Among Women in the White Working Class. The Urban Review 30, 1–27 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023225712124

Download citation

Keywords

  • Domestic Violence
  • White Woman
  • Education Research
  • Working Class
  • White Working