Although it's been a while since anyone has talked about it, I'm bringing this conversation up again in lieu of Ray Rice's reinstatement by the NFL and his difficulty in finding a new contract months later. I'm sure that you have heard about the video, the one that captures Rice horribly abusing his fiancé and now wife on an elevator. And I want to say that when a tragedy like this happens, or rather, when the world finally decides to speak about it, it is important to observe the way people react. The things people say on social media, specifically, represent issues in our society that often go unnoticed.
A big revelation for me is always the amount of people I know who perpetuate anti-feminism and abuse against women by sharing their ignorance through horrific status updates: "She was being aggressive towards him first, so she must be used to getting her a** beat" and "I'm sure she said something to make him so mad." People spread their contagious idiocy and demonstrate that the problem is all around us. The status I want to focus on for this piece, however, is the following: "Ray Rice = Solange Knowles and we should be equally as upset by the violence in both circumstances."
Well... I disagree with this statement and I will give you a few of the reasons why, but let me first acknowledge the similarities: Both instances happened on an elevator, both involved one person hitting another, both came as results of violence and anger, both have details that cannot be seen or completely understood by outsiders to the circumstances. And that's really where the list ends.
Now for two of the major differences, which fall under the categories of statistics and dependence/choice.
Here are just a few:
Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women -- more than car accidents, muggings and rapes [by strangers] combined. Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion. (Domestic Violence Statistics)
Furthermore, these problems are worsened for black women, "who comprise 8 percent of the U.S. population but 22 percent of intimate partner homicide victims and 29 percent of all female victims of intimate partner homicide..." (IDVAAC) If the statistics are not enough for you, or if you aren't seeing what I'm saying with them, let's dive a little deeper into a matter of subordination because it is not always just about this gender divide.
In one instance the person being hit has dependence on the person delivering the blows. Can you guess which instance this applies to? I'll give you a hint -- I very much doubt Jay Z depends on Solange in any kind of way. Why does dependence matter? Because it is related to power dynamics and control, control over a person's actions, decisions and emotions. It is related to the position more women than men are forced to be in when they do not receive equal pay or opportunities, for example. When dependence and control are being evaluated we must then think of the choice the individuals in each case have to change their situation. Many critics have blamed Janay for staying in her very apparent abusive relationship. But what exactly do you think her choices were in the elevator? And what do you think her choices are now? Don't forget that she also has a child to think of. Now, I'm not saying that there aren't other options for Janay Rice nor that there is not hope, but I am highlighting the immense challenges she faces just like other victims of abuse have faced when attempting to change their circumstances (remember the statistics); challenges that Jay Z will never have to even consider. Don't get me wrong, there are many male victims of domestic abuse who exist in the same kinds of dependent relationships as Janay and who are also limited on options, all I'm saying is that Jay Z is most definitely not one of them.
To close, in response to the Rice controversy, the White House issued this statement: "Hitting a woman is not what a real man does [...] Stopping domestic violence is something that's bigger than football -- and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it." Well, according to statistics and current constructions of the male gender, hitting women is what a lot of men choose to do, so maybe we should take more steps to redefine what a "real man" is first; or rather, move away from gender and focus on what real humanity can be. But, the White House is right that all of us have a responsibility to stop it and we can all start by educating ourselves, knowing the facts, redefining gender roles and supporting all victims so that when people say: "Solange Knowles=Ray Rice" we can acknowledge some similarities and then correct them.