Friday, September 12, 2014

Ray Rice

I am very confused about the whole Ray Rice thing and it concerns me. I usually find myself taking one side or the other in a cultural conflict like this but in this case I feel as if there is no one out there taking my side, that there are a bunch of things being said out there that every one seems to agree with and to regard as so self-evident that if you don't agree with them you are some kind of monster or reprobate.

I hear men solemnly say that you must never hit a woman, period. Well, that is what I was always told. On the other hand, I am sure that women were also not supposed to spit in men's faces. I can't imagine hitting my wife, but then I can't imagine my wife spitting in my face.

I must say I have been struck by the dignity and strength of Mrs. Rice and I am really astounded at the way she is dismissed by the very people who present themselves as standing up for women and demanding that women be respected for their intelligence and ability to make their own decisions. No one seems to be concerned with respecting Mrs. Rice's decisions.

One that that has struck me is that the only voices that I have heard (and I have not been systematic at all in focusing my attention) raising the question of reciprocal violence in domestic violence situation has been from the left. I feel that the issue is so toxic and that the right feels so intimidated that they are unwilling to raise any issues that could at all be interpreted as being less than zealous true believers in the presents line, that they are anything less than fully committed members of the chorus of condemnation.

I remember my Grandmother more or less training me to open doors for ladies. I also remember some years later women rolling their eyes or forgiving me for stepping ahead of them to open doors for them. I thought that the whole reason we have an absolute prohibition on violence against women is that they are on average weaker than men. I am sure that if I came at Ray Rice and spit in his face he would hit me and I would garner no sympathy. I would no more be capable of fighting Ray Rice than his future wife was, but I am sure that he would be considered within his rights to retaliate against me or any man that came at him and spit in his face.

Is it not at least somewhat incongruous that the very people that tell us that women can do anything men can do, that any apparent differences in the abilities of men and women are solely the result of the culture indoctrination and truncated opportunities that our sexist society imposes on women? This is why we are supposed to want to have women in the military in combat roles, no? How does this fit with the absolute prohibition against violence against women regardless of the provocation? When men train with women are they not going to use violence against them? Is the 'you don't hit women, period' going to hold when the women are wearing a uniform, when they are on the other side or have a gun?

Perhaps part of the strength of the reaction against the video is the way it she looks so helpless, the way her efforts look so instantly futile, is due to the way it mocks the conceit that the differences between men and women are due solely to social construction? We have movies full of Amazon women beating up men and decking them with a single blow while cracking wise, but when we see an actual example of a fight between a man and a women these cultural delusions are exposed for the puerile fantasies that they are. And yet is the un-apologetically masculine sport of Football that is blamed for violence against women and Hollywood's fantasies which actively portray women as fully capable of holding their own against men in a fight and actively encouraging (can this be denied?) women to exercise their right to compete with men in the realms of violence are ignored?

I heard Jim Brown sermonizing (I don't think you could describe it any other way) against men telling other men that they 'throw like girls' is demeaning to women and that making such remarks makes men complicit in the wave of violence against women. But isn't the whole prohibition on using any sort of physical force against women based on the very fact which such remarks presuppose, namely, that women are not as strong or as physically capable of deploying or withstanding violence? The reason that it is 'wrong to hit women, period,' is that they are not able to defend themselves, at least typically, just as they are not able to--again, typically--defend themselves, no? Shouldn't he be saying, 'Guys, remember when you told a guy he throws like a girl? That is why you can't hit girls, because it is not fair, because they can't effectively hit back just as they can't throw,'?

Another thing that seems to have been excluded from this discussion is  the common law norm of not having a penalty imposed or invented after the fact, the visceral revulsion that one would have thought all English Speakers had to procedures that smack of ex post facto laws. Should we wait until the offense is committed and then determine the penalty? It is one thing to say that hence forward we will have a so-called 'zero tolerance' policy toward domestic violence and permanently end the career of any player found guilty of domestic violence, but what about the propriety of imposing such a penalty after the fact? If we are going to have a penalty so severe as to end a man's livelihood for the rest of his life shouldn't that be set out before hand? Shouldn't the exceptions or the lack of and explicit irrelevance of common exceptions, excuses and extenuating circumstances (which one might think mutual drinking, being assaulted and being forgiven by the victim must at the very least be considered), be spelled out before hand? Especially in the case of such a severe penalty shouldn't we expect it to be spelled out before hand?

All of the norms shaped by common law thinking seem to have been abandoned in this public discussion. The victim's discretion over whether to press charges, the prohibition on ex post facto laws or the prohibition against bills of attainder, the double jeopardy prohibition, all of this is dismissed with explanation.

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