Like many people, I’ve been thinking a lot about the domestic violence tragedies involving Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and the women in their lives. Not to mention the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and his disciplinary switch.
While doing this thinking, I also thought about how I cannot remember when domestic violence received so much deserved, reasoned attention. And, pleasantly shockingly enough, much of it coming from MEN who are publicly saying it is not a man’s inherent right to physically and/or emotionally abuse women and children.
Then I thought about the mostly female victims of domestic violence. The ones not getting punched out in elevators by their professional football player fiancés. The ones who are not the subject of countless news stories or recipients of mass sympathy and/or criticism.
For instance, there’s the factory worker’s wife who prays until her knees blister that her husband’s team doesn’t lose the game he watched while getting blotto with the grocery money. Because if the team loses, or if his friends told him he throws darts like a girl, or if she cooks the roast beef she got on a big sale and not roast chicken, his fists will once again blur the distinctions between her nose and eyes. And she has no money in the budget he dictates to buy concealing makeup so her co-workers won’t see her husband is still beating her up.
Or perhaps the girlfriend of an investment banker who tells her friends her guy is so incredibly stressed out from his mental job that he does things like slamming her against the wall if she’s wearing Armani instead of Gucci. Her friends’ husbands know he’s openly chasing other women on Facebook and at clubs selling champagne for thousands per bottle. He’s told some of these men he does what he does because the allegedly money-hungry, Armani-clad girlfriend just makes him so damn angry that he cannot help himself. If these women are following the Rice and Hardy stories, I pray they are doing so in ways that might even stump the NSA.
A welcome disapproval
Because as unwelcome as it is to learn about yet more famous, influential men abusing women, it is welcome to learn that lots of people (including many famous, influential people) don’t think this sort of behavior is manly or acceptable. No matter if the perpetrator is a famous football player or a frustrated factory worker.
Which brings us to the question of how this burst of outrage might benefit society. For any of the women being abused in this country at any time (U.S. Department of Justice figures indicate some 665,000 mostly non-celebrity American women were affected by domestic violence in 2012 alone, with about 1,000 of them dying at the hands of such violence during that year), it may not matter much if the NFL’s commissioner is forced to resign or if Ray Rice’s career is over. Unless their husbands or boyfriends care a great deal about the commissioner or Ray Rice.
But what may matter a great deal is if, for example, people were to move beyond temporary outrage and actually do something about domestic violence. For one thing, it might be useful if the careers of abusers who are not professional athletes could be at risk. Maybe Hollywood could embrace domestic violence as a worthy cause, perhaps with black and blue ribbons in the style of those used to demonstrate support for AIDS or breast cancer. We know about how much influence Hollywood can muster when it decides to put its glitter behind a cause. Of course, there is the tiny matter of the films and television shows that glamorize domestic violence. And the stars who have been properly accused of domestic violence.
NFL: sincere or lame?
All the same, even the dimmest among us know the NFL and other organizations are likely to do something about domestic violence within the current news cycle. It remains to be seen whether the NFL’s actions will be sincere and helpful or will represent the lamest sort of public relations balms meant to mollify the many women who are football fans or are representatives of major sponsors. Although many women and men were massively encouraged when the famous James Brown, host of “The NFL Today” on CBS, made a forceful statement on the matter. “Wouldn’t it be productive,” Brown asked, “if this collective outrage, as my colleagues have said, could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women?”
Indeed it would be productive if this rage could be channeled to hear and address the cries for help. Because even as I write, women involved with men famous and ordinary are being beaten in elevators, bedrooms and just about anywhere you can imagine — beyond the help of the best concealing makeup.
But perhaps not beyond the collective help from men and women who care beyond a temporary burst of collective rage.
Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lives in Minneapolis. She is the author of the novel “Life Erupted.”
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