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Feminist Dilemmas in Researching Women’s Violence: Issues of Allegiance, Representation, Ambivalence, and Compromise

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Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences
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Abstract

This chapter explores feminist dilemmas in researching women’s violence. It suggests that women’s use of violence is a sensitive topic for feminist researchers because feminists have sought to delineate the role of male violence in continuing women’s subordination. Highlighting women’s violence potentially detracts from this. Feminists also wish to avoid lending credence to misogynistic and antifeminist stereotypes, which inaccurately claim that women are equally as violent as men. Researching women’s violence using feminist methodologies, which place value on creating knowledge from women’s experiences, hearing marginalized voices, and democratizing the research process, raises dilemmas. The chapter considers these dilemmas across three areas – questions of allegiance, questions of representation, and questions of ambivalence and compromise. Allegiance refers whether researchers are “on the side” of their research participants, which can be a complex issue if their research participants have harmed others. The politics of representation are significant to how data are interpreted and how research participants and their actions are portrayed when writing up sensitive data. Researchers may experience feelings of ambivalence when they find their research participants difficult to empathize with and this can compromise researchers by making them in some sense vulnerable. The chapter discusses a range of examples in order to highlight these issues. Due to the limited methodological literature specifically on women’s violence, it also draws on insights from other relevant feminist and criminological studies.

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Correspondence to Lizzie Seal .

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Seal, L. (2019). Feminist Dilemmas in Researching Women’s Violence: Issues of Allegiance, Representation, Ambivalence, and Compromise. In: Liamputtong, P. (eds) Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-5251-4_132

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