Janay Rice: Men shouldn’t hit women

Ok here we go I finally got up enough courage and have done enough thinking on this subject that I feel that I can speak on this issue without saying something thoroughly ignorant which I will regret having ever put in print.

The first point to this post is men just shouldn’t hit women. In writing about this issue my first thought was how or why should I write a post that would basically be a very long winded way of expressing this simple fact. But the more I thought on it the more I realized that it’s just something I have a responsibility to speak on if I ever hope to be a man of conscience.

It was pointed out to me that whenever there is a racial issue of great consequence I always have something to say about it. However, on an issue like domestic violence which is of equal import I haven’t said anything until now. I realize that silence is deafening. It makes a statement without making one. It leads to the implication that maybe I don’t care about the fact that violence against women happens on a daily basis and that it has been as enduring in our culture as any other injustice.

Over the past three weeks or so I have been thinking about this issue and discussing it with friends and coworkers. I was unsurprised but dismayed at how quickly those conversations I had with groups of men veered from the wrongness of the assault to a conversation about the surrounding circumstances. Otherwise intelligent men would say things like “we gotta see what she did.” But the main idea is that men shouldn’t hit women. It seems to me that even though it sounds crazy, we have to explain why this is a rule.

The fact of the matter is that a marker of maturity is the ability to avoid physical confrontation. We treat ourselves with respect and ideally that leads to others treating us with respect. Even in the case that we are in an area where we are not likely to be treated with respect we learn to quickly recognize that situation and remove ourselves from it. This principle applies doubly when a man is interacting with a woman. If a man is with a woman who can incite him to physical violence it is his responsibility to recognize that she is not the woman for him and remove himself from the situation (and probably seek out some kind of anger management class.)

Second, a mature person is tasked with the responsibility to only engage in physical confrontation when they are faced with an imminent threat and there is no other possible recourse but self-defense. It is a very rare circumstance when an unarmed woman poses an imminent threat to a man and he has to respond in self-defense. Usually, the man is the aggressor and if the man is the aggressor due to his size and strength almost any physical action against a woman would result in an endangerment of her life. By comparison any physical action an unarmed woman could take against a man is likely to be trivial. Most likely the only thing that would really be hurt is the man’s ego. In any case it is the man’s responsibility to remove himself from that situation.

By the way a parallel argument to this lately has been that somehow men restraining themselves from hitting women in a case where they might strike a man somehow undermines feminism. I thought about this for a while and I have to say this is among the dumbest arguments I have ever heard in my life. Just because one individual is stronger than another does not mean that the stronger individual is superior. If that concept were applied across the board then athletes such as Ray Rice would be running the world and the rest of us (weaker men and women) would be their slaves. Instead they entertain us and intelligent women such as Condoleeza Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Susan Rice have made contributions to world governance. The only time men ever actually believe this stupid argument is when it applies to them exerting their strength over women. In our society it is our belief and ideal that the strong should protect the weak. It is the role of men to protect women, not assault them. This isn’t about gender roles either it is simply an ideal which is taught in every aspect of our society. The physically strong protect those who are weaker than them whether they are men or women. It is morally reprehensible to do the opposite.

This brings me to point three. This is the point which should have been obvious to me, but for some reason escaped me and probably escapes other men as well when they make ignorant statements about this situation. It is a fact that there is a history of domestic assault not only in this country but throughout the world. Historically, men looked at women as their property and somehow less than human, just because they were women. This led to a situation within our society where men thought it was right and proper to “put women in their place” and their place was somewhere subservient a man. I know it may be hard for some guys to remember but it wasn’t too long ago that it was deemed perfectly acceptable for a man to be in a position to “discipline” his woman by beating her. Not only was domestic violence acceptable it was actually considered “manly” to be able to subjugate or “control your woman.” In the same way that racism persists, these sexist attitudes persist in our society. They infect us with an inability to see male privilege for what it is. It allows us to turn a blind eye or to try to rationalize and act that is both villainous and immoral. It causes us to minimize something like this as a “rare” occurrence. I even used that argument myself, even though most of the women I know have been subject to violence from a man and if they haven’t their best female friend has. Just anecdotally that should tell us that men inflicting violence against women is widespread and a woman doesn’t have to do anything to be subjected to it. Just engaging in that type of conversation is offensive.

Many people draw parallels between racism and sexism. Let me just speak on how they are alike and what the danger is. Men profit from a level of privilege that it is very difficult for us to see. The only way we will truly see it is if we engage the women we profess to love in honest conversations about it and actually regard their description of reality as at least equal (preferably superior) to ours. If we can’t do that then we can’t confront and eradicate the sexist behaviors and attitudes that run rampant throughout society. If we cannot do this, then we run the risk of women coming to the conclusion that we are either unwilling or unable to come to their aid in the most crucial of situations. It might be difficult for men who consider themselves “good men” to hear, but we need to be kinder to women.

Finally, we have to understand that when people are subjected to constant abuse they respond in a variety of ways, some people resign themselves to the abuse, and others rail against it in ways that may seem unreasonable or irrational to us. Often times we can take these relatively rare responses, such as the rare woman who actually is abusive and use it to try to rationalize our own preconceived sexist ideas. We need to make the attempt and put the shoe on the other foot and try to imagine what life is like in society as a woman before we presume that “she must have done something to deserve it.”

Trust me, when you really think about it critically, there is nothing she could have done to deserve that.