By Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett
WeNews guest authors
Sunday, December 4, 2011
It's not just boys and men who are aggressive, say Caryl Rivers and Rosalind C. Barnett in "The Truth About Girls and Boys." But in this excerpt from their new book, they note that women are far more often seriously hurt or killed.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- Times are changing. Girls aren't so "girly" anymore.
Perhaps it began with early female action figures. Perhaps with "Charlie's Angels." Or maybe with scores of elementary girls playing soccer, or with older girls playing contact sports at elite levels.
Most likely we will never know exactly how or when it became okay to talk about female aggression--female-to-female aggression and female-to-male aggression. Whatever its origins, this new narrative is challenging the once omnipresent scenario of the male violent aggressor–passive female victim scenario. It is now increasingly acceptable to talk openly about female aggression and to conduct serious research on this topic.
We now know that women-on-women aggression is far from rare and that women are often the initiators of male-female aggression. Surveys of U.S. households have found rates of wife-to-husband violence "remarkably similar" to those of husband-to-wife violence. And an early cross-cultural survey did not find that men were significantly more aggressive than women.
Aggression, as opposed to anger, conveys an intent to hurt or harm and can be expressed physically, verbally or by withdrawing. There is general agreement that men exhibit higher levels of physical aggression than women, but the differences are small to moderate. After a thorough review of the literature on who initiates violence in couples, Murray Straus, of the University of New Hampshire, reports: "It is painful to have to recognize the high rate of domestic assaults by women. All six major studies which have investigated this topic found that women initiate violence in a large proportion of the cases."