This week, the entire country erupted with outrage after watching the video of (former) Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator. I won’t link to it here. I’m sure you’ve already seen it. If you’ve watched ESPN for any five minute span in the last 48 hours, you’ve likely been treated to the footage 17 times or so.
As you’re probably aware, when the incident happened several months ago, the league, the Ravens, and the New Jersey criminal justice system initially determined that it was minor enough to warrant either a light punishment or none at all.
Then on Monday something changed, and now Rice has been fired from the team, indefinitely suspended by the league, and admonished by every famous athlete, media member, celebrity, and politician in the hemisphere. As usual, a giant game of “I’m More Outraged Than You!” has broken out all around us, with Keith Olbermann taking the prize by calling for the ‘expulsion’ or resignation of the NFL commissioner, the senior vice president of the NFL, the chief counsel of the NFL, the GM of the Ravens, the president of the Ravens, the judge who presided over the case, the prosecutor, and the assistant prosecutor. Next, presumably, we’d go after the prosecutor’s secretary, the secretary’s housecleaner, and the housecleaner’s pet gerbil.
So, what changed, you ask? Well, to be specific, nothing. Nothing at all. We already knew that Rice struck a woman so hard that she lost consciousness. We’ve known that for months. The only difference is that today we can see it happen on video. The footage is disturbing, but it’s also exactly what anyone with five functioning brain cells would expect it to look like. If you weren’t calling for the NFL to be disbanded, Atlantic City to be demolished, and Ray Rice to be publicly flogged before this video leaked, I’m not sure why you’d be calling for it now. Unless, of course, you’re the type who looks at the trending topics on Twitter and calibrates your ‘outrage’ accordingly.
In any case, put the media’s theatrics and the NFL’s incompetence aside, and you’re left with, perhaps, some reason to be encouraged by the reaction to the Ray Rice drama.
The public at large has been pretty well ticked off about all of this from the very beginning. Go back to February or March of this year and you probably heard your coworkers, neighbors, friends — basically any normal person, anywhere in the country — insisting that Rice ought to face swift and harsh punishment for his heinous crime. Sure, a few knuckle draggers here and there might have defended his actions, claiming that his fiancée ‘had it coming’ or some such nonsense, but the majority view was, is, and always has been extremely opposed to Ray Rice and his shameful deed.
It seems like a stupid question, I know — but why?
Is it because Rice is a famous athlete and should be a better role model? Yes, but athletes quite frequently do things unbefitting their alleged role model status, so why the shock and exasperation over this? Is it because Rice is a strong, physically imposing football player and his victim was so completely outmatched? Yes, but sports stars get into fights in bars and clubs relatively regularly, and nobody ever stops to compare the weight classes of those involved. Is it because Rice and his victim were supposed to be in a loving relationship? Yes, but a man is also in a loving relationship with his brother (though not in the same way, one would hope), yet I doubt Rice would be enduring this degree of backlash had he punched his male sibling in the head.
So what is primarily driving this storm of righteous and wholly warranted indignation? Simple: Ray Rice is a man and his victim is a woman. Take away that one detail, and nobody would be talking about any of this.
There is a clear double standard — or at least a different standard — applied to men in these situations, and there should be. We all, or most of us, seem to have arrived at a consensus on this.
Why do the genders matter here?
In this day and age, when we can’t seem to come to an agreement on any ethical question at all, why do we remain so predominantly enraged at the idea of a man beating a woman? With all of our progressive sensibilities and our ‘evolved’ understanding that there aren’t any inherent differences between the sexes, why do we explode with so much ire when a man lays his hands on a person who is not a man?
I suppose if you ask the average Joe or Jane to explain their feelings, they might offer up some vague sermon about how no human being should ever hit another human being, and all violence against anyone is unacceptable.
It’s true, of course, that unjustified violence against an innocent person is always wrong and never excusable, but why do we all feel such a particularly strong disgust at this kind of violence?
We speak so fervently of the equality of the sexes; we talk about how men and women are the same and chivalry is outdated, but we still see something exceptionally disordered and perverse about a man striking a woman. We can tell that it’s different from a man hitting a man, or a woman hitting a man, and we treat it differently, just as we should. That’s not to say that these other forms of violence are acceptable — just that they’re different. We all know it.
Why is the situation worse because he’s a man and she’s a woman? Why does that make it more despicable, more brutal, and more intolerable? Violence should always be discouraged, but we do so with much more urgency in cases like these.
Keep in mind: the fury directed at Rice isn’t rooted solely in the fact that he knocked her out. Had she emerged from that elevator conscious and uninjured, Rice would still be persona non grata, and deservedly so. We are repulsed at the very idea of a man beating a woman. We loathe it on principle. We say we are equally as appalled by all other forms of violence, but that’s a lie. After all, by my reading of that video, Rice’s fiancée did attack him first. She walked by him on the way to the elevator and smacked him. Then she appeared to have possibly struck him again inside the elevator.
[**Update: according to a few reports I’ve read, Rice spit on his fiancée twice, provoking her to hit him. He’s an abusive, violent bully either way, but this detail just makes the whole thing all the more despicable.]
Any honest person must admit that if the gender composition had been different, but everything else about the incident remained the same, we would not be nearly as upset about it. What if a man had slapped Ray Rice, then got into an elevator with him, hit him once more, then, after Rice retreated to the other side of the elevator, the man aggressively came after him again? Would Rice still be Public Enemy #1 if he knocked the guy to the ground?
No, of course not.
What if Rice and his fiancée switched sides in this? Unlikely, I realize, but follow the hypothetical. What if Janay spat on Rice and he smacked her in retaliation, and then, after some kind of altercation in the elevator, Janay leveled Rice and left him unconscious on the floor? Would we be equally as furious at the woman in that situation?
Not a chance. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it.
So if men and women are equal and everything is exactly the same, why would the reaction to this scenario be dramatically different if we changed the sexes of those involved?
There’s no use pretending that our reaction wouldn’t be different. You won’t fool yourself, or me, or anyone. There is a double standard. A different standard. Why?
We might as well just confront this question. It’s a scary thing to do, I realize. We don’t want to look any closer at this because know that the answer will devastate nearly all of our egalitarian leftwing feminist principles.
Why? Well, finally, I’ll propose an answer to the riddle: when we heap extra scorn on the abusers of women, we acknowledge that men and women are separate, distinct, and unique creatures. And we know that to acknowledge our separateness and distinctiveness is to contemplate the possibility that men and women have different roles in society, different duties, different responsibilities, and different purposes.
And, though few will say it anymore, we know that among a man’s duties is that ever-important charge to protect and honor women. Men are meant to use their strength to defend women against harm. When a man betrays this responsibility, we act as though he’s turned the world upside down, because he has. The man is not just a generic ‘aggressor’; he is a traitor. He has deserted his post. He was given his strength for a reason. It is supposed to be a shield for the women and children in his life, but he has used it as a weapon against them.
To use what is uniquely masculine in a humble, serving, and protective way — that is the essence of chivalry. We become this expressly furious and impassioned about a man’s abuse of a woman because he has so shirked and abandoned his manly, chivalrous duty. That is what drives our response to this kind of thing, no matter how progressive we otherwise pretend to be.
Dig to the bottom of everything — ignore most of the modern liberal “gender theory” rhetoric — and you will still find the remnants of chivalry. And if not the remnants of chivalry itself, then the remnants of a desire for it. Despite all of our academic arguments to the contrary, still most of us know, at a deep and visceral level, that men and women are different and this difference means something.
That’s why men should not hit women. It’s more than just ‘they’re people.’ It’s also that ‘they’re women,’ and that distinction is as significant as most of us already treat it.
And then comes the inevitable retort: “But women shouldn’t hit men!”
Nobody is condoning violence against men just by condemning violence against women. Not everything is a competition. It’s just particularly and specially important that we instill in our men the commandment that he should never physically abuse a woman. We must plant in him a code of honor that propels him to defend the women in his life.
If men were ever to collectively determine that they can and should use their physical advantages to oppress and subjugate women and children, our civilization (or what’s left of it) would collapse. Barbarism and brutality would reign supreme, and our society would eat itself from the inside. Just look at some of the countries in the Middle East and you’ll have a good idea as to where things can go when the males in a culture decide to act like brutes and tyrants rather than gentlemen.
Still, plenty of people will contend that the anti-violence message should be more broad and inclusive. We shouldn’t specifically and categorically instruct men to keep their hands off of women; we should instead universally tell people to keep their hands off of people. All violence is the same and all people are the same, they’ll argue. But let this even-handed pragmatist get a call from the principal informing him that his son punched Susie in the face and broke her nose, and we’ll see if he feels exactly the same as he would if the victim’s name was Johnny or Billy or Steve.
If he does, then there’s something wrong. But he probably won’t, because no amount of liberal feminist brainwashing can ever really erase our instinctual and innate understanding that men are not women and women are not men. And whatever else that means, it certainly at least means that it is the man’s job to be the protector.
So in the end it seems that chivalry is not quite dead, no matter how hard we try to kill it.
And thank God for that.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, please seek help. Here is the number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 800 799 7233