Due to the growing awareness of issues related to discrimination against women, in recent years, some theories have emerged that explain the ways in which gender-based violence is perpetrated.
In this article we will see one of the most popular in recent times, the pyramid of gender-based violence, sometimes called the iceberg of gender-based violence. You will also find a summary of what it offers and its limitations and problems.
What is the pyramid of gender-based violence?
Social dynamics are always difficult to understand, and therefore, to understand their nature, we often resort to graphic representations that simplify it. Here is an example of how a triangular figure tries to capture different levels of aggression and violence.
The pyramid of gender-based violence, sometimes referred to simply as the pyramid of violence, is a graphic representation in which a relationship is established between extreme physical violence and other forms of violence that are more subtle, more symbolic and structural (In other words, it involves the functioning of the whole society).
In addition, it is generally applied to the explanation of gender-based violence against women, although it is sometimes also adapted to include violence and aggression that have to do with discrimination based on identity. gender and sexual orientation, or even with racism and xenophobia.
This is a very common concept from a graphic in which you see a triangle with several staggered levels, at the bottom are abstract and social phenomena that lead to uneven dynamics and the imposition of power on others, and at the superiors it is the definitive and concrete expression of this power over the other: physical violence and murder.
Levels of violence
In short, these are the levels of violence presented in the pyramid, ranked from bottom to top. However, since there are variations of this graphical representation, some intermediate elements may appear in categories other than those listed here. For example, sexist jokes can appear both at the level of micro-masculinities and at the level of harmful verbal expressions.
1. Attitudes and beliefs
At this level, beliefs are represented which legitimize certain forms of inequality and discrimination to the detriment of the rights of certain groups.
2. Microaggressions or micromachismos
These are actions (including speaking) that they take for granted the inferiority of women or of a historically discriminated minority.
3. Harmful verbal expressions
These are verbalizations in which there is already an intention to denigrate or hurt someone because of their social status. too much understands threats, defamation, insults…
4. Physical assault
As the name suggests, in this part of the pyramid of violence there are attacks that compromise the physical integrity of people. This can happen through beatings and beatings, or even rape.
In the last category, the person attacked is definitively annulled by the murder; whoever commits the attack kills her.
His influences: the iceberg of the unconscious and the triangle of violence
The pyramid of gender-based violence is not part of a sociological or psychological theory developed in detail by researchers, but rather part of the memes disseminated on the Internet and pieces of advocacy propaganda. So, it is not included in a scientific theory, But represents a theory in the broadest and most general sense of the term: explanations of a phenomenon that do not have to be empirically contrasted or have strong theoretical backing.
Perhaps this is why the pyramid of gender-based violence borrows explanatory elements that already existed before.
For example, Amnesty International has published a variation of the pyramid called “The Iceberg of Gender Violence” in infographic format, which divides the visible and the invisible part of this phenomenon, on the one hand, and the explicit and subtle forms, on the other hand. This representation necessarily makes one think of the psychological instances proposed by Sigmund Freud, although in this case all the elements are part of the social sphere, and not of what happens hypothetically in the mind of each individual.
On the other hand, another influence of the pyramid of violence is the triangle of violence by sociologist Johan Galtung. This researcher established a relationship between direct violence, cultural violence and structural violence. Let’s see what each one consists of.
This type of violence causes objective damage to one or more individuals. In other words, easily visible in specific acts, and unequivocally underlines the existence of a conflict.
It belongs to the psychological and behavioral propensities of people, which are socially disseminated and reproduced in a given culture.
Structural violence is what is explained not by psychological constructions, but by social, political and economic dynamics. In other words, that is to say material provisions generating imbalances and power asymmetries. For example, a parliament in which women are hardly represented can be defined by some theorists as structural violence.
Problems and limitations
The main problem with the Pyramid of Violence is ambiguity, as it is usually presented simply in the form of an infographic with no further explanation.
This means that it can sometimes be understood as a way of classifying forms of violence from the most concrete to the most abstract, and at other times, as a model that explains how violence escalates in intensity. In the latter case, a causal relationship is established from the lower layers to the upper layers, A relationship that has no scientific studies to back it up.
In contrast, defining violence as something so diffuse that it spreads throughout society creates many problems in delimiting the scope of these phenomena.
- Calderón Concha, P. (2008). Johan Galtung’s theory of conflicts. Journal of Peace and Conflict. ISSN: 1988-7221
- Marbre, C. (2016). Until Ever: A History of the Iceberg of Violence. 20 minutes. Accessed 03/28/2019.