Leigh Goodmark Examines Problematic Rhetoric in Domestic Violence Discussions

Leigh Goodmark (’95), Marjorie Cook Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Maryland Frances King Carey School of Law, was quoted by USA TODAY addressing why it’s harmful to use rhetoric about “real men” in discussing domestic violence (“Cassie Supporters Say Diddy Isn’t a ‘Real Man.’ Experts Say That Response Isn’t Helpful.” May 28). “Masculinity involves the entitlement to use violence. And so to say that ‘real men’ don’t do that is untrue. … real men do use violence all the time.” Leigh explained, “If you say, ‘People shouldn’t hurt people,’ absolutely. . . . But using these outdated binary, really problematic notions that there is a masculinity that we should all be looking for people to adhere to that is based on really outdated tropes is problematic, and we see it most often in the context of domestic violence because it’s such a stark binary.” Leigh pointed to broader consequences of how we characterize person(s) who commit abuse: “If we just write him off as ‘he’s not a real man,’ then we’ve also written off our responsibility as a society to help him change in any way. Ultimately for every partner that that person will have, and for society generally, what we need is for that person to stop being violent.” A better approach is “to say that we condemn anyone’s use of violence against anyone, that the use of violence, no matter what gender it’s done by, and not what gender it’s done against, is wrong, but also to say that we should do something to work with that person to change,” she said.