1st Edition

Vigilante Gender Violence Social Class, the Gender Bargain, and Mob Attacks on Women Worldwide

By Rebecca Álvarez Copyright 2021
    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    162 Pages
    by Routledge

    In recent years, mob attacks on women by men have drawn public attention to an emerging social phenomenon. This book draws upon concepts from critical race theory and sociocultural evolutionary theory to examine this specific form of gender violence, which takes place outside the law and is a vigilante form of enforcing traditional gender norms. The author positions vigilante gender violence as a global issue produced during specific periods of sociocultural change in conditions marked by intensified social stratification.

    The catalyst for vigilante gender violence is the formal state’s breaching of the "gender bargain," the tacit psychological wage even non-elite men earn by at least not being female. When the state threatens to end the gender bargain by promoting women’s rights, the die is cast for low-status men to enforce this bargain themselves in mob attacks against women who are perceived to be violating the patriarchal order.

    Seen through independent case studies in different national settings, this book provides empirical evidence that demonstrates the existence of vigilante gender violence in times when societies are shifting from one phase to another and the social hierarchies present within are disrupted. With greater understanding of when and how to predict the occurrence of this phenomenon, the author posits notable ways to prevent it from happening altogether.


    Part I: Vigilante Gender Violence

    Chapter 1: Defining the Problem: Vigilante Gender Violence and its Global Reach

    Chapter 2: Explaining the Problem: Social Change, Class Inequality, and the Gender Bargain

    Part II: Case Studies

    Chapter 3: Papua New Guinea: Hunter-Gatherers, Witch Burning, and the Implications of Colonization for Vigilante Gender Violence

    Chapter 4: Afghanistan: Horticulturalists, Pastoralists, and Social Change at the Point of a Gun

    Chapter 5: Kenya: #MyDressMyChoice as an Agrarian Nation Urbanizes

    Chapter 6: South Africa: ‘Corrective Rape’ Amid Extreme Income Inequality

    Chapter 7: The United States: Incels, Social Stratification, and Virtual Vigilante Gender Violence in the Postindustrial Present

    Part III: Where We Go From Here: Possible Solutions for a Global Problem

    Chapter 8: Predicting Vigilante Gender Violence: Can We See the Problem Coming?

    Chapter 9: Preventing Vigilante Gender Violence: What Can We Do?



    Rebecca Álvarez is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at New Mexico Highlands University. This is her first book.

    Rebecca Álvarez has written an extremely important book. Vigilante-mob violence against women is a growing problem worldwide. It is now fed by social media. Dr. Álvarez provides a broad, thoroughly contexted analysis of the problem. She shows how rapid change leads to social tensions, which in turn can make some males feel threatened and vulnerable. Some of those men will take out their fear and anger on women, often deploying a weaponized form of traditional patriarchal values. Dr. Álvarez has developed a predictive model of male vigilante violence, applying it in several countries where local situations create significant differences. This is a highly original book, innovative and exciting. It is sociologically sophisticated, yet written in an accessible style that will give it wide appeal. This book is a major contribution to the literature on violence and to the literature on oppression of women worldwide.  

    E. N. Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, University of California

    Rebecca Alvarez’s study of vigilante gender violence helps us to understand the causes of contemporary tragedies in several countries, but also sheds light on the role of physical force in gender relations in history and prehistory. Her analysis of the stresses produced when status characteristics are changing sheds light on contemporary patterns of violence, and as she notes, reveals similarities between the dynamics of race and gender relations. Alvarez’s book shows how structural contexts are important for understanding the causes of frequent vigilante gender violence events and she thoughtfully formulates possible policy solutions for reducing the frequency of these deplorable tragedies.

    Christopher Chase-Dunn, author of Social Change: Globalization from the Stone Age to the Present (2014)