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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Sociology Department Staff

Publication details for Dr Stephen Burrell

Burrell, S.R. (2016). The invisibility of men's practices: Problem representations in British and Finnish social policy on men's violences against women. Graduate Journal of Social Science 12(3): 69-93.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper investigates British and Finnish government policy discourses around men’s violence against women. Finland and the UK were selected for comparison because of the historically contrasting relationships between the women’s movements and the state in the two countries. Two government policy documents from each country, published between 2008 and 2011, have been analysed using Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ approach. The main finding of this analysis is that despite men being the perpetrators of the vast majority of different forms of violence towards women, in all four texts men’s practices are almost entirely invisible. This concealment is carried out through six core problematisations of men’s violence against women: as a problem of women; as a problem without perpetrators; as a problem without context; as a ‘gender-neutral’ problem; as an ‘agentless’ problem; and as a problem of the Other(s). With the policy focus restricted to victim-survivors, responsibility is placed on women for both causing and stopping men’s violence. The commonalities among the four texts suggest that there may be some convergence in contemporary problematisations of men’s violence against women by British and Finnish policymakers, where its systemic and gendered nature are recognised at a superficial level only.