You're On The Floor, I'm The Roof And I Will Cover You: Social Representations Of Intimate Partner Violence In Two Cape Town Communities
The act of intimate partner violence (IPV) is a social event, shaped by a complex web of social conditions and intersections. Consequently, a theory that is sensitive to the socio-historical context in which IPV occurs is necessary, as well as recognition that a man who perpetrates violence against a woman partner, does so in relationship to other men and women, to a family, community and society. In this paper, we employ the theory of social representations to gain new insight into this multifaceted phenomenon, and to unearth representations of partner violence against women amongst male perpetrators and their social networks in Cape Town, South Africa. Individual interviews were conducted with eleven men, recruited from a men’s programme at an NGO, and focus group discussions were conducted with the men’s social networks. The findings shed light on the polarity of human thought in defining gender-appropriate performances for men and women, whilst excluding the ‘other’ who fails to conform to such ‘gendered laws’. Gender role norms were represented as static categories confining men to violent performances of masculinity, and women to subordinate positions in relation to men. The findings also demonstrated the extent to which men’s representations about violence were influenced by an audience of networks and community representations that make violence permissible. The value of studying the community, relationships and individuals as inseparable spheres is a key outcome of this paper, and the contextualised analysis of power and oppression is shown to open possibilities for social change.