So America Now Wants To Have A Conversation About Domestic Violence—Or Do They?
The insensitive airing of the elevator video in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident, that occurred last February, is just another in expose` gossip journalism that has deep and meaningful implications. Outlets, like TMZ, who break such stuff under the guise of news, exploit society on so many levels. Public curiosity, and its thirst for dirt, shouldn’t drive the sensational and the irrelevant for consumption sake. We will be served up garbage for as long as we demonstrate an appetite for it. Yet, there are those that play to the lowest common denominator—that play to the gutter. That’s where the pigeons eat.
There are people that make a living feeding the pigeons—including other pigeons. TMZ is pigeon journalism, feeding pigeon mentalities. And they don’t care about the pigeon poop they leave behind. TMZ pooped out this video for the world to discuss, and has walked off…like pigeons do. But since it’s at our feet, we might as well discuss it.
Domestic Violence in America is a national shame and it has been for a hundred years.
It has been, and still is, part of the cultural fabric of this hierarchical society where men run the culture and women are expected to reflect cultural subservience. If men are the “protectors of the society” and women are the “nurturers in the society,” the historical expectations have been that men and women abide to traditional hierarchical roles, and that women submit to her role in the society—one that is subordinate to men.
For centuries, if not millennia, men’s unquestioned paternalism drove cultural interaction between men and women in a way in which women were forced to subjugate themselves to men. Regardless of what type of man he was, social standing dictated women “stay in their place,” .
The culture condoned men “manhandling” women that stepped “out of their place,” in the same way society reinforced racial hierarchies when people of color (regardless of what color) exerted any sense of equality. Slapping women, beating women and now punching women was seen as necessary forms of social control, which were not to be discussed in public and exacted behind closed doors. What became an accepted form of discipline of man/wife, bread-winner/housekeeper dynamic, has now become more commonplace than the culture is prepared to acknowledge. What was once behind closed doors is now out in America’s streets. Implicit domestic violence is now confronting complicit consent.
Just as open expressions of racism were once frowned upon, so were demonstrations of domestic violence. Private expressions of racism have persisted since slavery, and are still widely pervasive. We know this. And so are private expressions of domestic violence. Society is complicit in the pervasiveness of both. We will talk about racism—but we won’t talk about domestic violence, until a very public demonstration of it—or somebody famous gets killed (because hundreds of women lose their lives every year and nobody says anything). Domestic violence is so commonplace that when we hear about it, we wave it off as a couple’s quarrel. Or some one time encounter. That’s not the case.
It’s not uncommon in some circles to hear about someone “checking their woman,” at a party, at a club, at a family gathering when a woman interacts in a way her man feels is inappropriate or emasculating. “Mouthing off” to some men is often women expressing opinions—but certain insecure men see it as a challenge to hierarchical power, and the conflict begins. Men know they can get away with hitting women because of the conflict of emotion and communal complicity. We have hundreds of batterers walking around our communities—RIGHT NOW, some in very visible positions. And yet, society turns its head.
The Ray Rice domestic abuse incident was not new news.
We’d heard it all before.
What was new was that we hadn’t seen it all before.
Because domestic violence is not in our faces, we are not as enraged when we hear about it as when we see it. America forgot what domestic violence looked like. To watch a woman get punched out unconscious—which happens with some degree of frequency (just watch Atlanta Love & Hip Hop) with certain segments of this generation of men—put a new visual reality on today’s domestic violence.
ESPN football commentator, Herm Edwards, said it best; “This is what domestic violence looks like.”
For some, “controlling your woman” is entrenched in the cultural nomenclature—so much so that it is and has been tolerated in movies and song, by men of all races and economic standing. In prior generations, domestic violence was considered a slap. Hell, it was commonplace in movies fifty years ago to check a “mouthy” women. See this clip of Ronald Reagan in 1964.
Three years later, he was elected Governor of California.
As President of the United States, Reagan was known as a “Man’s man.” He was also known for abusing women (not just in movies either). It never was a political issue in his public career. Fifty years later, reality show and rap misogyny actually promotes violence against women.
Pop culture icons like, Snoop Dogg, have songs entitled, “Can You Control Your Ho?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGF_vRuXo5w&future=youtu.be . The song implores the slapping of women to keep her “in check.” The beef between T.I and Floyd Mayweather escalated when one implored the other (on Twitter) to “control your *itch.” The misogyny is now part of the cultural machismo whereby these men also believe women should be treated as men when they consider them disrespectful.
This is further complicated by many women who are willing to physically confront men.
There are many who unabashedly acknowledge that they fight men and call them emasculating names (you know them) to provoke them. And there are many men who say, “if a woman wants to act like a man, I’ma treat her like a man.”
The old cultural norm, “Never hit a woman,” doesn’t take into consideration America’s “new” non-subordinate woman, nor does it consider the nation’s sexuality culture shift, where many of these bi-sexual and lesbian women think they’re men (and act like men) and many transgender people were men (at one time), still fight like men. It’s a different reality out there in the 21st Century, and one too sensitive to raise in public on such a taboo subject.
ESPN First Take Co-Host, Stephen A. Smith, was suspended for a week for trying to address this dynamic on air. Women are every bit as “gangsta” on the abuse tip as men, in many of these circles, yet society wants to reinforce a cultural norm from an outdated cultural paradigm.
Domestic Violence is a problem for both men and women as society has become more aggressive, irreverent, rude and combative. Was Rice wrong? It appears that he was—and I only say “appears” because it seems it was an on-going fight and only the two of them know what the fight was about and how the two of them deal with each other in confrontational situations. He was definitely wrong for spitting on her. Inside the elevator, he was wrong for knocking her out cold. But I refuse to acknowledge that his now wife was without fault. She refused to defuse the situation. Both are at fault.
Yet society doesn’t look at it that way. The man (Rice) is wrong, but now we are reminded what domestic violence looks like in the 21st Century.
Today, as women are on the verge of running the world (a majority of the labor force), more educated (in many instances, more educated than their men) and are the “breadwinners” in many households where men choose subordinate roles (“house-husbands” and “nanny dads” or just unemployed or unemployable), traditional paternalism has shifted and the traditional hierarchal paradigm is crumbling—yet societal views on domestic violence, while more aware, are not keeping up with the culture shift. In traditional gender roles, a man should never put his hand on a woman. But what about in non-traditional gender roles, where women think they’re men—and act like men—and step to you like a man?
That’s a discussion this society has never had.
And really doesn’t want to.
I don’t think America is ready to have a new conversation around domestic violence.
Everybody can weigh in on what Ray Rice did (or didn’t do). It was ugly and he’s an easy target—but it was real. America needed to see “real” so it can have a real conversation about what it constantly runs from, today’s domestic violence. Ray Rice (and his wife) shouldn’t be the only two to be publicly outed. They shouldn’t be the only two to pay the price. People are running from Ray Rice right now, but they really should be running to this issue. We’ll see. Domestic violence is not just an NFL problem.
We’re going to need to have one…very soon.
And we can’t feed the pigeons on this one.
Anthony Asadullah Samad,