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89 In this chapter, I argue that one of the problems with seeing violence against women as “domestic violence” is its implicitly heterosexual frame of reference. Such a frame obscures institutionalized homophobia. I focus on how to view violence against women while calling that domestic heteronormative frame into question (Knauer 1999, 333). This will require not only attention to institutionalized homophobia (Knauer 1999; Robson 1990; Jablow 2000), but also how institutionalized homophobia affects white women and women of color differently (Richie 2005; Garcia 1999). It will also provide for a framework in which to question heterosexual assumptions at the core of much discourse on violence against women (Eaton 1994). I am particularly interested in how to form coalitions among women, given the differences in experiences of violence and in the communities they come from. To illustrate some of the difficulties, I take up one case of a woman who brings her lover up on charges of abuse. Lesbians who have been subjected to violence are in an awkward position with respect to the law (Knauer 1999; Robson 1992; Jablow 2000). They are often rendered nonexistent within the law as well as in other parts of social life (cf. Hoagland 1988; Frye 1983). As of this writing, the legal right of lesbians to marry, or even to form a legally recognized domestic partnership, remains contested in the United States; lacking a marriage contract, lesbians who are battered by lesbians similarly fit uncomfortably within the standard understanding of battering as occurring within the home.1 This chapter has two parts. In the first part, I analyze the complicated rhetorical strategy a white lesbian employs in court and in her written account. This strategy catches her in a contradiction: she claims her experience is the same as heterosexual women who have experienced violence even while what she says underscores how different her experience is from those of heterosexual women. Homophobia, Structural Violence, and Coalition Building CHAPTER FOUR 90 structural viole nce Attention to context is key to perceiving the inner logic of the fluid way she positions herself. Her account of her identity changes from context to context in a way that forestalls easy comparison with straight women. Attention to context includes attention to how she is perceived, including how she portrays herself, betrays herself, dissimulates, tries to conceal, claims solidarity, lays out challenges, or identifies herself. In her work on violence in lesbian relationships, Janice Ristock emphasizes the need to pay attention to specifics:“We need a much more adaptive, context-sensitive analysis to figure out what is going on. This makes life harder for service providers, and challenges some feminist theorizing, but it offers a much better chance of seeing what is there and responding appropriately” (Ristock, 2002, xi). In the second part of this chapter, I try to take Ristock’s caution for adaptive, context-sensitive analysis to heart. I take up the question of coalition against violence given the differences among lesbians who face violence. White lesbians who face violence may identify with other battered women on some occasions, and for some purposes, just as some women in sex work do, as we saw in the previous chapter. But in so doing, they may not perceive how institutional and structural violence (such as homophobia and racism) adversely affect some lesbians more than others. Perhaps because they are harder hit by structural violence, lesbians of color find this strategy of claiming “‘sameness” much more fraught, and much more costly, to the extent of threatening to rupture (or revealing a rupture in) the movement to stop violence against women. In this second part of the chapter, I briefly review how several lesbian of color theorists have thought of the question of solidarity across race and sexuality in building a coalition to stop violence. A Rural Woman’s Own Space In an essay written for lesbians on violence in lesbian relationships, Mary Lou Dietrich discusses bringing her former lover up on charges of assault after she was attacked in her home. She comments on the implications in her community of her decision to press charges against the woman who abused her. “Now, six months after the attack and three months after the trial, I have no regrets about going to court. I am angry and bitter that the local lesbian community doubled my victimization and continues to tolerate my former lover while it shuns me. Naming lesbian violence for what it is seems to be a taboo among us, the great breakers...


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