This Week in Misogyny: On Ray Rice, the NFL, and Domestic Violence

Let’s talk about the Ray Rice situation. (Trigger warning: domestic violence. The actual elevator footage is not included in the post, but can be found at many of the links.)

First the basics, in case you missed them. In February of this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Lewis and then-fiancée Janay Palmer (now Janay Rice) got into an altercation in an elevator, during which he punched her unconscious and dragged her body out into a hallway. Rice was able to make a plea deal to avoid going to trial, and in July the NFL announced that he would be suspended for only two games. On Monday, TMZ released the surveillance footage from inside the elevator, which showed Rice punching Janay so hard she fell and hit her head on a railing, at which point the Ravens fired him and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.

The NFL has been desperately claiming that they had no prior knowledge of the elevator video (video had already been released from the hallway), because people were already furious about the light punishment and they’d look worse if it came out that they’d seen footage of him punching her… except that the Associated Press has proof that they did have the video. NOW has called for the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (which led ESPN’s Steven Smith the flip the fuck out), while Keith Olbermann wants everyone involved in the coverup fired and/or investigated and called for a boycott of Ravens games until that happens and they’re all gone. Sounds good to me. (TW: The video includes still images from the elevator surveillance footage.)

Reactions

On Fox and Friends on Monday, Brian Kilmeade said that Janay sent a “terrible message” to other women by staying with Rice, then joked that, “I think the message is, take the stairs.” Steve Doocey then declared that, “The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.” The network promised that they would apologize on Tuesday, but they could only be bothered to have Kilmeade make a 12-second statement:

Comments that we made during this story yesterday made some feel like we were taking the situation too lightly. We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.

CNN’s Carol Costello had strong words for them and all the other victim blamers.

Of course, Fox News couldn’t stop there. Tamara Holder thinks it’s not fair that Rice got fired, saying “I think it’s interesting that the anti-testicular police are coming out and just taking this guy’s balls and ripping them off and not paying attention to the fact that there is a family here.” Andrea Tantaros complained that Pres. Obama and other Democratic leaders hadn’t said enough to condemn Rice, and therefore were “apologist[s] for domestic violence.” And then there was Sean Hannity’s response, which I’ll let Jessica Valenti handle because there’s not much I can add:

Not to be left out, Rush Limbaugh somehow tried to say the response proves that feminism is “artificial.” Of course it makes no sense; it’s Rush fucking Limbaugh.

Plenty of ordinary people also tried to defend Rice before the video came out (and some still do defend him, because they are fucking terrible). Damon Young addresses the people whose response was, “Well actually, (insert nonsensical bullshit here), so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions” at Very Smart Brothas, and also points out at EBONY that black people who defend Ray Rice sound a hell of a lot like the racists who defend killers like George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson.

Of course, it’s absolutely fucking ridiculous that it took a public release of the video for the Ravens and NFL to take action and for the public to actually believe the reports of what happened (and it also took until this week for the Ravens to delete a tweet from May that placed part of the responsibility on Janay). Jamison Hensley at ESPN points out that while the Ravens did the right thing by releasing Lewis, the decision was more about saving face; they stood by him and praised him as “a heck of a guy” when he was initially suspended, even though the report detailed exactly what he did.

Meanwhile, Slate’s Josh Levin goes the satire route: “Until we see a clear video of an NFL executive watching the Ray Rice elevator video, how can we know what really happened?”

On Domestic Violence Victims

First of all, if you haven’t already seen the video, don’t watch it. Dave Zirin argues that releasing the video revictimizes Janay Rice, since she didn’t consent to having the whole world watch her get beaten and we shouldn’t have needed video evidence to be on her side. As Hannah Giorgis points out at The Guardian:

That we feel entitled (and excited) to access gut-wrenching images of a woman being abused – to be entranced by the looks of domestic violence – speaks volumes not only about the man who battered her, but also about we who gaze in parasitic rapture. We click and consume, comment and carry on. What are we saying about ourselves when we place (black) women’s pain under a microscope only to better consume the full kaleidoscope of their suffering?

It’s also completely unfair to ask why she still married him after he hit her, since there are all kinds of well-documented reasons that people stay with abusers. All you have to do is check out #WhyIStayed on Twitter to see thousands of abuse victims explaining why they were afraid to leave or thought their situation would get better. (The person running DiGiornio’s Twitter account massively fucked up and tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” without checking out the context of the trending hashtag, but they handled the mistake much better than most people do, tweeting individual apologies to pretty much every single user who called them out.)

Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan called on the NFL to dump the Pinktober crap and do a campaign to recognize domestic violence instead.

Sad but True

Finally, it’s ridiculous that some of the most concise commentary comes courtesy of The Onion and their spinoff sites, but damn if they don’t sum up the situation pretty concisely.

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

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