#FEAS Cite Club: Contesting family-based violence

Cite Club: Contesting family-based violence
by Kate Marston, GEA Social Media Intern

Feminist Educators Against Sexism (#FEAS) are an Australian-based, international feminist collective committed to developing interventions into sexism in the academy and other educational spaces. One of their most recent interventions is Cite Club, an e-mail group where #FEAS send their works to one another and cite one another where possible. Last month we introduced GEA’s collaboration with #FEAS whereby each month we’ll be profiling a Cite Club publication on this blog. June’s Cite Club blog profiles a paper by Dr Genine Hook, an early career academic from The University of New England, Armidale, Australia who recently presented as part of #GEAconf2017.

Contesting family-based violence: sole parenting possibilities and alternatives

To cite this article:

Genine Hook (2017): Contesting family-based violence: sole parenting possibilities and alternatives, Journal of Family Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13229400.2017.1327881

Sole parent families have a long history of being subject to stigmatization and negative social discourses for their ‘deviance’ from the two-parent ‘norm’. In particular, ‘single mothers’ have been positioned by policy-makers, the media and academics as disadvantaged, deficit and a driving force behind crime, low educational attainment and alienation amongst teenagers. In an effort to counter these problematic legacies Genine Hook employs the term ‘sole parent families’ and considers how problematic recognisability and deficit constructions of such families contribute to the perpetuation of family-based violence.

Discussing family-based violence beyond notions of individualized choices and responses, Hook critiques the ways in which the institution of the family reproduces gender-based inequalities such as family-based violence. She employs a feminist approach that focuses on the (re)production of gender within family arrangements, how these arrangements are socially created and the ways they result in conditions of disadvantage for women. The term family-based violence is understood to include ‘physical, sexual, financial, emotional or psychological abuse…includ[ing] a range of controlling behaviours such as the use of verbal threats, enforced isolation from family and friends, restrictions on finances and public or private humiliation’ (Phillips & Vandenbroek, 2014, p. 6).

Drawing on media narratives and participant accounts from her prior research on sole parents negotiating postgraduate education, Hook’s paper explores the sociological implications of coupledom and the perceived illegitimacy of sole-parent families. She notes the reinforcement of deficit constructions of alternative familial arrangements as untenable and un-liveable and argues that such discourses are critical in influencing how a person can remove themselves and their children from domestic violence. The more hetero-coupledom families are privileged and equated with the promise of happiness the less imaginable alternative familial arrangements are: resulting in fewer options with which to remove oneself from unacceptable relationship conditions.

Consequently, Hook argues that reframing and recognising sole parenting families as ‘agentic’ and joyful is critical in refusing compulsory heteronormative family bias’ and mitigating family-based violence through opening up the possibilities of ‘thriving familial alternatives’ (p. 8). Over eleven pages, this paper offers a productive critique of sole parenting deficit discourses and heteronormative family structures as well as highlights an area of family-based violence worthy of further exploration. For more information about Genine Hook’s research click here.


Phillips, J., & Vandenbroek, P. (2014). Domestic, family and sexual violence in Australia: An over- view of the issues. Research Paper Series 2014–15. Department of Parliamentary Services, Australian Parliamen.

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