Stop Domestic Violence Against Women, Teach Boys to be Allies

Here I am giving a short speech on ending domestic violence, slut shaming, and violence against women (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)
Here I am giving a short speech on ending domestic violence, slut shaming, and violence against women (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)

Domestic violence is an issue that continues to rally feminists across the world.

In the United States, domestic violence is something that has seemingly made headlines for the past few months.

Due to certain cultural norms, domestic violence is not only condoned but also encouraged in some countries. This is one of the many cases where the intersection of oppressions comes into play in that race, class, gender, and sexuality are all important when examining violence against women. No matter how you look at it, domestic violence is wrong and something that should never be accepted.

Looking at some of the most recent cases involving NFL players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, as well as MMA fighter War Machine, we begin to see a pattern in which professional athletes are given a lot of attention by the media when they are accused of abuse or domestic violence.

These topics tend to be controversial, especially in the case of Ray Rice, because most men in the country believe that players should not be punished by the league for their personal issues. The Ray Rice case involved him being allegedly aggravated with his wife, who stands at almost half his size, to which he retaliated with a single punch that knocked her out.

This footage was all caught on an elevator camera and he proceeded to drag her unconscious body out of the elevator. Despite the brutality of this scenario, many people believe his punishment was too harsh.

For feminists, the notion that his punishment was too harsh is outrageous. Our society needs to realize how much of an issue gender inequality truly is and that we will never achieve equality if we are hindered by trivialities such as saying goodbye to a favorite athlete. This ties into the patriarchal belief instilled within us by the media that tells us men are more important than women. Once we realized how primitive and unjust this way of living truly is we can finally begin moving forward as a nation on gender justice for all.

Only someone with privilege who is unaware or uninformed about the injustice toward women could be so simple-minded in refusing to give up watching their favorite player.

The people who agree with the opinion that Ray Rice was punished too harshly simply don’t see the bigger picture. Unless we punish injustices against women, violence against women will continue and never receive any real pushback.

After the Ray Rice story broke out, men with the privilege of never facing oppression because of their gender took to social media to complain about not seeing their favorite player on TV anymore. With comments on the ESPN article regarding the case such as, “she provoked him first and should also take blame” and “Ray Rice shouldn’t be suspended from the NFL for his own personal issues.” When put into perspective, however, not seeing your favorite player on television is minuscule compared to the fight against domestic violence.

I think the NFL took the correct route in banning Ray Rice from the league in order to portray his actions as both immoral and something that is not condoned by the league and should not be condoned by society.

The Ray Rice scenario seemed to set off a chain of similar domestic violence cases which the media ate up and fired up the public with. Another NFL player, Adrian Peterson, had charges pressed against him shortly afterward for abusing his 4-year-old son. In regards to both cases from these NFL players I found it interesting that our media hyper-masculinized both of these African-American men and portrayed them as thugs. This again plays into the master narrative in which both parties are losers in this case.

In Ray Rice’s case, the media portrays his wife as a simple casualty and she is objectified due to the fact that she is a woman while Ray Rice himself is seen as dangerous and extremely violent since he is a black male. Notions like these are what attribute to a divide in our culture that deems it okay to treat women harshly and to fear black men which results in oppression for both of these groups. Another extremely severe case of domestic violence involved James Rhodes, aka War Machine, beating his girlfriend. Christy Mack, a pornography actress, was allegedly spending time with her close friend when Rhodes came home and was enraged to find them together. He attacked her friend and after he fled, Rhodes continued to pummel Mack and attempted to rape her before she fled to their neighbor’s house.

This case was extremely brutal and Mack suffered numerous fractured and broken bones including numerous injuries to the head and bruises scattered across her body. Despite the severity of this incident some people took to social media to say that “she deserved it” and “people in her industry should be treated this way,” yet the people who make these comments don’t realize how sexist and unjust these notions are. This only builds upon a culture in which violence against women is okay because of how we continuously sexualize them in the media. Stopping the sexualization and objectification of women is actually key in reducing violence against women as pointed out by the American Psychological Association.

It is due to our own portrayal of women in the media that people can make comments like these in supposedly good conscience and it is yet another aspect in the struggle to abolish oppression against women. Once women are objectified and portrayed as less than human within our society it becomes justified for individuals to condone violence against women who are not even acknowledged as human.

I also found it interesting how all of these cases revolved around professional athletes. While our culture teaches that women must be submissive to men, we are also teaching the athletes of our country that it is okay to be violent and to use their physical power to express themselves against women in violent ways.

However, there is a movement against the hyper-masculinity of our sports world and the violent culture fostered by professional sports. One such movement is led by a former NFL quarterback, Don McPherson. A Hall of Famer, Don now spends his time addressing issues of social justice and is a self-proclaimed feminist.

Don is one example of an athlete who understands that the social constructs of our society are wrong and are typically geared against women. This is one reason why domestic violence is so common and often deemed okay.

While these are not the only cases involving domestic violence, these cases often get the spotlight because of the media’s role in broadcasting this information, especially when it comes to professional athletes and violence.

Globally, domestic violence is a an issue as well. Because of this, activist movements such as Ring the Bell (Bell Bajao) created by Breakthrough is a vital part of changing men’s behavior in India.

My high school feminism class presents a clip from the #bethatguy campaign created by Breakthrough to our school during our International Day of the Girl Assembly to raise awareness and encourage boys and men to be allies. (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)

Supporting the hashtags #bethatguy, #heforshe ,#itsonus, and #whywecantwait are important steps in raising awareness on the role men must play in the demolition of gender inequality.

As a nation, we have to begin teaching boys how to be allies and support the feminist movement. This will reduce the cases of domestic violence once men begin to see women as more than objects and hopefully, we can one day live in a world where we are all equal, men and women alike because we are all human.

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