Book Review: Disloyal to Feminism
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There is not very much literature on the dynamics of the domestic violence shelter system; or, as Emi Koyama puts it, the “domestic violence industrial complex.” Since the domestic violence (or “battered women’s”) movement has it’s roots in second-wave feminism back in the 1970′s, it should come as no surprise to those knowledgeable about the evolution of feminism in the United States that the early movement was not particularly interested in being inclusive of survivors of color, those in same-sex relationships, or survivors that did not identify as women. Fortunately, feminism itself has evolved quite a bit in the last thirty years, and intersectionality is a huge component of third-wave feminism. The domestic violence shelters have not exactly followed suit.
Koyama points out that many shelters operate similar to prisons; there are strict and oftentimes arbitrary rules on where you can go, when and where you can eat, and who you are allowed to talk to. The isolationist aspect of the shelters can be especially hard on survivors who are close with their community. (Not every “battered woman” is a [white] housewife from the suburbs, after all.) Koyama also shows that shelter staff can be especially judgmental of survivors that have been deemed “difficult” – queer folks (including trans survivors), sex workers, non-English speakers and/or immigrants, and those who use drugs or alcohol.