When reading Angela Davis’ “Public Imprisonment and Private Violence: Reflections on the Hidden Punishment of Women”, I was blown away by the idea of “gender entrapment”. The term was presented by sociologist Beth Richie as a supporting argument to Davis. Davis argues in this article that there is a correlation between the state’s treatment of women and societal violence that happens in private. “Gender entrapment” was presented as a connection because “black women are, in many instances, “compelled to crime” and subsequently, imprisoned by the same conditions that inform their subjection to violence within their personal relationships.” (Richie 1996) “Entrapment” works as a legal term that embodies the intersectionality of a gendered experience. The word acknowledges the tiers of violence that stem from having intersecting identities and puts many women at odds with the state. In this article, I hope to unpack the full meaning of “gender entrapment” by defining the significance of gender and the complexity of entrapment.
“Gender” is used within “gender entrapment” as a means to afford exclusivity to women in their oppression. Women makeup half of the world and therefore incur all of the gendered oppression due to systems of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a system in which men hold power over women and families. In a system where men are told they are inherently born with dominance, men develop insecurities in comparing the man society wants them to be and the man that they are. The insecurity has rampaged our cultures by glorifying horrid images of hypermasculation. It has encouraged men to be aggressive, power-hungry, and disrespectful towards women. The more that patriarchy flourishes, the more women become victims of these power-hungry hypermasculine males filled with insecurities.
Due to this cultural mindset towards men, households have been violent. In private, many men release their insecurities through beating on the women in their lives, rather than themselves. Women of every color and background have incurred severe violence in their homes that reflect prisons. Victims of domestic abuse typically lead a very restrained life and lack control over their own minds in many ways. They’re often in a state of manipulation wherein their abuser controls their entire existence. Angela Davis offers historical examples in showing the constant correlation between the abuse of women in the house and their public punishments. Women often cannot escape the violence of their partners, so those with intersecting identities find themselves in entrapment of deeper crimes and state imprisonment while lacking control privately.
“Entrapment” is a theory brilliantly introduced to reflect the rabbit hole of state violence that women with intersectional identities are predisposed to. As a theoretical paradigm, entrapment “facilitates an understanding of the ways in which women who experience poverty and violence in their personal lives end up being punished for a web of social conditions over which they have no control.” Women, already victims of private violence, are at a disadvantage when overlapped with race and class. The state chooses to criminalize women that are victims and lack control in committing their crimes. A victim that comes to my mind is Shantonio Hunter. Shontonio is a victim of domestic violence who lost the life of her three-year-old son due to the fact that she could not control her abuser. She has taken a 28-year plea deal for the murder and neglect of her son. This woman lacked the resources to flee her abuser and lost her son in the process. She is not only a victim of domestic abuse but of a murderer and an unforgiving justice system. When looking at the state’s treatment of Hunter, it is clear that there is an endless path that comes to abuse in a private and disadvantaged position.
The public has continuously chastised women for their decisions, yet not acknowledged their inability to have control over their decisions in violent, private conditions. Our laws have enabled many women to be removed from society and given more disadvantages as second-class citizens without acknowledging their lack of responsibility. Domestic violence and violence against women are symptoms of patriarchy. However, “gender entrapment” is a tiered system wherein some women have no shot. Even Shontonio Hunter’s plea deal is a symbol of her helplessness against her charges. Women with intersectional identities are predisposed to punishment from the state and it is primarily due to the patriarchal private violence condoned culturally.
Here is an article that shows how COVID-19 may have a more severe impact on gender entrapment: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/01/us/domestic-violence-pandemic-trnd/index.html