Let’s be honest here, guys. It has been a really crappy month for those of us who give a shit about women’s rights. First, there was the huge leak of celebrity photos. Then there was the release of the Ray Rice video by TMZ. And then there was the Oscar Pistorius verdict. It’s been, disheartening, to say the least. And I, of course, have a few things to say about it. But before I do, I want to share something that one of my friends from high school wrote on Facebook the other day because, really, it’s almost as if she pulled this right out of my brain, made it better, more relatable, less ranty, and certainly significantly more hopeful. And all this from across the pond. From Rebecca Holmes, who works for an amazing UK-based women’s advocacy organization:
Today I was distracted at work. Today I watched and waited and watched again as a live feed of the Oscar Pistorius verdict streamed on my screen. Now, after he was found not guilty of both pre-meditated murder and murder…I feel shocked. Disappointed. Disheartened. Angry. There really aren’t words. All I am left with today are questions.
Would the verdict have been different if he wasn’t a high profile athlete, an Olympian, a symbol of overcoming obstacles? Would it have been different if Reeva seemed less capable, less desirable? Will the legal system ever catch up with what we know to be true? Will the media still care about this next week?
Those of us who work in the sector devote our lives to this issue. We campaign, and we educate, and we try to get the world talking…we talk about it with our partners over dinner and with shopkeepers at the local market. Then something like this happens. It feels as though sometimes, the law is dragging its feet, trying to cling on to the horrific days of yore, the days when if a man shot his wife three times, it wasn’t murder but ‘negligence’ and ‘excessive force’.
I am grasping at straws today, trying to find a positive in this outcome. And I hope, I think, I have found one. People are outraged. And outraged people talk…they talk about Oscar Pistorius, about Ray Rice, about the 1.2 million women who were victims of domestic abuse in the UK last year. The media is covering the story, people are posting on Facebook, and I am sitting at my desk hoping that they take the next step. Will they research the terrifying prevalence of domestic violence (1 in 4 women) or the statistics around murder (38% of all women who were murdered were murdered by their partner/ex-partner)? Will they take time out of their busy lives to explore the incredible gender inequality that underlies the Pistorius case? Will they make the connection that gender inequality lives in our homes, our businesses, and our schools? Or will they go back to calling out the feminists, the angry women who make a big issue out of childrens’ toys and books? Will they turn around and say ‘boys will be boys’.
I am desperately hoping that these outraged people will take the time to learn about the issue and support organisations that challenge these inequalities. I am hoping that more people will hear what we are saying and realise that ‘why doesn’t she just leave’ is a useless and victim blaming question. I am hoping that this story helps to ignite a spark that finally turns into a blaze. It is easy to be angry at a verdict…to bang our fists on our desks…shake our heads and tut. It seems to me, that the best way to respond to the Pistorius verdict, isn’t just in the courts. It is in the schools. It is in the streets. In our families. Change the story. Change the message we send. Call out gender inequality and by all means, stay outraged.
I really hope that people do stay outraged and that it isn’t just the usual suspects. I mean, I for one am outraged as fuck. It has actually been one of those situations, especially with the Ray Rice case because I worked all day Tuesday at a sports bar with about a million televisions all tuned in to everything Rice, where right when I think I can’t possibly get more angry, I do. It’s as if my anger about this knows absolutely no bounds. I actually wish I had live-blogged the thoughts that went through my head over the past week or so. It was truly something to behold. Here, though, are some of the things. Stick with me here.
When the initial video was released that showed only the view from the outside of the elevator, what we saw was horrific. A woman, clearly unconscious, being dragged like a rag doll by a man who easily could have lifted her up. And the NFL suspended him for two games, saying that Ray Rice was a “heck of a guy” and that they could not determine what had happened inside the elevator from the video they were giving. I am calling bullshit. First of all, a good man does not beat his wife. Not only that, but I would bet all the money I have, which admittedly is not much, that this was not the first time this happened. It was the first time it was caught on tape. Violence escalates. The first punch isn’t usually a knock out. Second of all, what the fuck did the NFL think happened inside that elevator? Two people walk into an elevator of their own power, and then only a few moments later one drags the other one, completely callously, out of that same elevator and leaves her lying unconscious on the floor of an Atlantic City casino hotel. I don’t think we need to be geniuses to figure out what the fuck happened inside that elevator. I don’t think we needed to wait the months to see that absolutely horrific and nauseating attack. I don’t think we ever needed to see that. I don’t think that Janay Rice needed to endure the knowledge that one of the lowest moments of her life was captured on video and that millions of people were watching it, talking about it and judging her relationship.
So this is the thing. The other day I received a message accusing me of writing “whiny Feminazi hairy armpit gibberish.” At the time I was like, whatever, fuck you, man. But the reality is that a lot of people think what I say and think and write about is a load of crap. The reality is that it simply is not. The reality is that women are considered public property and we are undervalued. You think what Ray Rice does away from football doesn’t matter? Fuck you. Being an athlete does not preclude you from also being a descent fucking human being. And do you know what descent human beings do not do? They do not knock their fiancees out in elevators, or anywhere else.
I don’t know how to say this next thing other than to say that reassessing the way we think about things matters. Because changes start at the micro level. There will not be a change in the law until their is a change in the way we understand, and think about, intimate partner violence. And yes, this includes violence not only against women but against men as well. And there won’t be a change in the way we talk about intimate partner violence unless we start rethinking our ideas about victimhood, and the stigmas attached to that label. And while we’re at it, let’s think about the way we talk about people, value them. I understand that Ray Rice and Oscar Pistorius are fantastic athletes. The also were lucky enough to be born with penises, and therefore given extra chances. But they are also shitty human beings. You know who else is a fantastic athlete? McKayla Maroney. But you’d better believe that the majority of comments surrounding the release of naked photos of her said that maybe if she didn’t want those photos released, she shouldn’t have taken them. People are saying her career is now over. All because someone hacked into her private accounts and released, without consent, photographs of her. As many people have said, that is a sex crime. So here we have Ray Rice, who acted violently upon someone else, and McKayla Maroney who was acted violently upon. And yet some of his fans think he deserves a second chance while many of her former fans are calling her career finished and saying they are glad that her life has been destroyed.
Oh, and by the way, there is a petition circulating to try and get the Obama Administration to charge McKayla Maroney with production or possession of child pornography because the nude photos of her that were stolen and then leaked were taken, by herself mind you, when she was underage.
Whiny Feminazi hairy armpit gibberish my ass.