I don’t spend a lot of time at A Voice for Men these days (I really meant what I said about not wanting to write about the so-called Mens Rights movement any more), but my curiosity got the better of me and I checked in to see what the party line on Ray Rice is. As I suspected, it’s that he is a battered husband, who, to add insult to his already substantial injuries, is being institutionally victimized as well.
As Paul Elam puts it, in colorful language that he wouldn’t have tolerated for a moment at his International Conference on Mens Issues at the Claire Shores VFW earlier this summer:
In response to Ray Rice tagging his then fiancé as a matter of self-defense, major sports media like ESPN and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have gone to MuffCon1, opening the door for feminist ideologues and handing them a jar of Vaseline on the way in to ideological control of the National Football League.
Effective pretty much right fucking now, Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Take that back about the Vaseline. They won’t be using it.
I don’t know the Rices personally; it’s likely that their relationship is more complex than what meets the eye (marriages, like icebergs, hide more than they reveal). I think it’s quite probable that Rice’s then-fiance had aggravated him on more than one prior occasion; from the elevator video, anyway, it’s pretty clear that she lunged at him and possibly threw a punch. If it connected, it might have even hurt him a little.
So here’s the question: Should any man, including a professional athlete, have the right to defend himself when he’s being physically threatened–even when his attacker is his intimate partner?
You don’t have to be a misogynist or a “Stand Your Ground” extremist to answer in the affirmative, though you don’t have to be a bleeding heart pacifist either or, God help us, a feminist to suggest that proportionality is also a real consideration. Otherwise you’d have to defend him if he’d killed her.
It’s a slippery slope. If you don’t think that Rice did anything wrong, then maybe you think it’s reasonable to shoot a woman dead who rings your doorbell seeking help after she’s been in a car accident. Maybe you’d give Israel a green light to kill 2000-plus Gazans after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by criminals with ties to Hamas. There’s self-defense and there’s “shock and awe.” One is instinctive; the other is either strategic or psychotic, take your pick.
Elam famously posted a piece on his site whose title posed the provocative question: “When is it OK to Punch Your Wife?” Of course he wasn’t justifying any and all cases of wife battering. He was reacting, he wrote, to the “pussy pass” that allowed sadistic, domineering women to abuse their partners with impunity.
Does the concept of self defense even apply to men who are the victims of violent females? Technically, the law says yes. But the people around you, especially the ones with guns, regard the pussy pass as a higher authority.
You hit a woman, even in self defense; indeed if you even call the cops on one that is beating the crap out you, the beta thugs we have come to call police will come round to your house and deliver some fucking law and order–on you.
The anecdote Elam used to clinch his argument, about a man who was handcuffed for giving his wife a fat lip after she tried to stab him with a kitchen knife (their dispute began after he’d argued with her about nearly freezing their two daughters to death), isn’t quite as open and shut as he might have liked it to be (neither party was ultimately arrested), but he does make an undeniable point: men can be victims too.
But was Ray Rice a victim? Of the NFL maybe, which first protected him and then threw him under a bus. But does what his fiance did to him rise to the level of assault? Was she “beating the crap out of him” or was she just pissing him off?
Nobody can be more provoking than a small child in mid-tantrum; if they’re sufficiently hysterical, they might even hit you. Is a parent justified in hitting back with all they’ve got? No one, not even a spare-the-rod fundamentalist, would say yes. No matter how pissed off someone makes you, civilization expects you to show some restraint. A line from a Richard Thompson song pops into my head: “But I killed a man in a Brazzaville street fight/I tried to hold back, but he taunted me so.”
In the wider world, the first thing most people see in the elevator video is the asymmetry: Ray Rice is big and strong, Janay Rice is petite. He stayed on his feet; she went down like the proverbial sack of potatoes. But MRAs see what they see, and from their perspective, Ray Rice was a helpless victim, first of a violent woman, and then of a feminist juggernaut and the cowardly White Knight* institutions that it has co-opted. Janay Rice didn’t just attack her husband–she assaulted all men, especially themselves. They outrage they feel on his behalf is deeply personal.
Many of the comments under the Elam post that I opened with underline this feeling of identification:
I’m personally pushing back against the ray rice lynching, by a women that was clearly lunging after him in an elevator. Im pushing back, and am not afraid of being lynched by main stream media!!
We aren’t far from the day we’ll see female coaches, referees, and a job for Condi Rice…..I won’t be watching. I have no interest in seeing receivers wearing pink gloves as the League bows to the breast cancer awareness goddess, nor can I stand the inclusive (i.e. dumbed-down, audience-broadening) chatter that now passes for game coverage. I don’t want to tune in on Sunday and have my social consciousness raised by progressivist indoctrination blended into the discussion.
Pack of manginas. Biiggg tough muscly men, macho man’s men, scared shitless of losing the approval of women by standing up to feminists.
Guys, give up following football. Why worship a pack of grown men who play with a ball for a living and partake in the destruction of men’s rights and kiss up to our enemies for a pay check. Fuck em. Don’t put one cent in their pockets…..They are propping up man hating ideologues with NFL money. Your financial support of football, is funding radical feminist propaganda that is taking away your rights.
People in the Mens Rights community have accused me of denying that men can ever be victims; the blogger Toy Soldier commented that my writings about MRAs and male victimhood reminded him of what he has “witnessed when people who support abusive priests are confronted with the reality of the abuse and the cover up that follows. Rather than support the victim, they blame the victim for having the temerity to feel victimized and double down on their support of the priest and the institution.”
In this one case it’s true: I don’t believe that Ray Rice was a victim of a vicious assault in that elevator, but frankly that’s all that I can say about him with any certainty. He might have had a terrible childhood; he and Janay might torture each other no less than Martha and George did in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For their kids’ and for their own sakes, I hope they get some help and either separate peacefully or learn to live together more amicably.
But I have no doubt that the corporate conviction of victimhood that animates the MRA community is real–and that their view of the world is distorted by the intimate hurts they have suffered. Like all extremists, they are hammers who see the nails of misandry everywhere they look; like all conspiracists who have a monological explanation for the world’s and especially their own woes, they see things through a distorting lens of confirmation bias. Give a man a strong enough personal agenda and sufficient cognitive dissonance and he will see what he sees. He might even mistake a wife beater for a victim.
*The MRA John Hembling defines a White Knight as a man “who defend[s] women, but not because women are people – which might be noble. Rather, they defend women only because they are women. This almost always encompasses a willful blindness to the behavior and utterance of the women so defended.”