The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Still a Feminist Movement? A Quantitative Content Analysis of Mission Statements of State Domestic Violence Coalitions

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Betty Jo Barrett, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
Background and Purpose: Although feminist ideologies and activism have widely been established by researchers as providing the catalyst for the founding of the contemporary battered women’s movement, feminist scholars have expressed growing concerns about the perceived diminished presence of feminist politics in battered women’s service organizations today. This paper investigates these concerns by assessing the frequency with which feminist ideologies and constructs are evident in the mission and/or vision statements of state domestic violence coalitions in the United States.   

Methods: A quantitative content analysis of state domestic violence coalitions’ mission and/or vision statements was conducted using the procedures outlined by Krippendorf (2004).  A complete list of all coalitions (one per state plus the District of Columbia, N =51) and links to their official websites was obtained through the federal United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) Office on Violence against Women (OVW) website (USDOJ, OVW, n.d.).  Document analysis was conducted on each coalition's website to obtain the organization's mission and/or vision statements for inclusion in the study.  A list of valid indicators of feminist constructs to guide the analysis was compiled using the recommendations of Rourke and Anderson (2004) through two processes: 1) an extensive review of the feminist battered women’s organizing literature 2) a preliminary qualitative content analysis to derived indicators from the data itself using grounded theory methods (Strauss, 1987). The final coding scheme for the quantitative analysis, derived from the aforementioned processes, included the creation of a word frequency list (with each word indicative of a construct of interest). Frequency counts were then tabulated for each word, and the corresponding categories, and presented as descriptive statistics (percentages).

Results: Findings from the analysis yielded low frequencies of feminist constructs present in the documents analyzed. Less than 10% of coalitions explicitly self-identified as feminist organizations in their materials, while fewer than 10% of coalitions acknowledged the relationship between patriarchy (9.8%) and gender inequality (7.8%) with violence against women. Coalitions more frequently employed the de-gendered language of empowerment and anti-oppressive frameworks rather than explicitly feminist perspectives.

Conclusions and Implications: As “gatekeepers” in providing leadership, technical support, training, and funding to local battered women’s service organizations, state domestic violence coalitions play a powerful role in shaping local responses to violence against women. Given social work’s professional mandate to promote social justice and to advocate on behalf of socially oppressed and marginalized populations, the failure to explicitly acknowledge the role of structural gender inequality in promoting violence against women threatens to dilute the social change potential of battered women’s organizing.  Implications for the development of feminist informed advocacy are provided.