The Tale of Two Videos
Posted on September 12, 2014
I’ve been watching with interest the Ray Rice domestic violence incident unfold this week. For many of us in the helping profession, the reality of relational violence is all too familiar. As this reality filters through the National Football League (NFL), and the culture at large, there seem to be teaching moments that those of us in the field might not want to let pass by. In this post, I want to explore these in detail because, like so many traumatic events, this too will not have a long life in our nation’s consciousness. I also want to provide the opportunity for us to have a conversation around this issue, so please put your own reactions in the comment section of this post.
“Hitting a women is not something a real man does…” – White House
“…a woman is lesser than you and can’t fight back. If that’s my sister or my daughter, then we have another issue…” – Ray Lewis, former teammate of Ray Rice
What is a “real man?” And why do so many men feel the need to retain our machismo, even when denouncing a terrible act of violence? It seems that in order to judge Rice, we must first affirm that we are strong and he is weak, flawed, and less than a “real man.” This response worries me, as it seems as if we need to establish that the act of hitting a woman is wrong, but also leave plenty of room for “real men” to commit other violent acts.
This distinction of hitting a woman from other violent acts was never more evident than in the distinction made by the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens (Rice’s former employer) between dragging an unconscious woman out of an elevator, and the actual act that led to her being unconscious. The first act earned Rice a two game suspension from the NFL, actual praise from the Ravens organization, and a huge ovation from Raven’s fans during a pre-season game. A peek inside the elevator changed Rice from a good “real man” who knocked out his wife, to an “evil man” who needs to be removed from football.
There is plenty of blame to pass along in this situation. How could the New Jersey authorities not press assault charges? How could the NFL not punish domestic violence to the degree they punish marijuana use? How could the Ravens organization and fans cheer for someone who could commit such an act? As we push those we blame off the plank of public opinion, we might feel better, but we also fall into our old pattern of not looking in the mirror, addressing our collective role in creating a society where domestic violence is so prevalent.