Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain! Power, Privacy, and the Legal Regulation of Violence Against Women

Document Type


Publication Date



Gender and Women's Studies


This paper considers issues of violence against women through the conceptual lens of public/private ideology, exploring numerous ways that the public/private dichotomy is reinforced in the law and public policy of rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. We argue that the power of this ideology continues into the contemporary law of gendered violence, as evidenced most recently by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Morrison (2000). We find that public/private ideology offers men a “violence shield”: freedom from scrutiny that enables gendered violence to thrive. Although gendered violence is now on the public agenda, these crimes remain shielded from scrutiny because they are associated with the private sphere. We suggest that feminist activists concentrate on undermining these ideological roots when crafting strategies to combat violence against women.

Publication Title

Women & Politics