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Words Matter

Posted: 09/19/2012 9:55 pm

The 700 Club, a live television show hosted by Pat Robertson, is watched daily by approximately one million viewers, many who turn to the show for guidance, advice and support.

After a broadcast last week, Robertson's millions of viewers now think it is acceptable to beat their wives. You heard that right. Pat Robertson suggested that one of his viewers, having some challenges in his marriage, should beat his wife.

Here are his comments, as summarized by the Huffington Post:

On Monday's broadcast of Robertson's television show "The 700 Club," he answered a question from a viewer named Michael about how to repair his marriage to a woman who "has no respect for me as the head of the house."

Robertson's response: "Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her."

...Unfortunately, Robertson didn't stop there.

"I don't think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done to make her."

Robertson quickly attracted criticism from the Muslim community, and rightfully so. Suggesting that it is commonplace and accepted in the Muslim community to beat your wife is incredibly offensive and simply not true. In response to their outrage, CNB (the network that airs Robertson's show) quickly edited out the offensive comments and released a statements saying they "regret these comments." While it is nice to see they took action, we are saddened to see their response did not match just how offensive and dangerous Robertson's comments were.


As a feminists and women's rights activists, we see Robertson's comments through the lens of women who are frequently reminded how far we have to go toward gender equality. With all of the recent attacks on women's health and choice, we are discouraged by the regression our country has made in our slow march toward full equality for women. We speak out about the issues with our friends, at women's events and have written about the importance of gender equality in politics. But these comments feel different than other offensive headlines that have motivated us to act out in the past. These comments are horribly dangerous.


Statistics paint a terrifying picture. Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds. Almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, and less than half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. Not only is violence against women by an intimate partner much more common than most know, but it is also severely underreported, so most women who go through that terrible experience never get the help they so desperately need, which often leads to violence again in the future.


The progress toward solving this epidemic of violence against women is a large task. We must create a society where women who are victims of violence feel supported, are able to detect the signs and know where to turn for help. But when a popular talk-show host, considered by many to be a moral leader and watched by millions for advice, sends the message that violence is a solution to relationship problems, the task seems almost impossible.


We appreciate CBN for coming out in opposition to Pat Robertson's comments. However, it was not a faceless broadcasting corporation that recommended a man harm his wife to demand respect -- it was Pat Robertson. The apology should have come from Robertson. The appropriate action for CBN to take would be to suspend his program to demonstrate that they do not tolerate that sort of dangerous ignorance on a program proudly bearing their network logo. Pat Robertson should not be back on the air unless it is to offer a heartfelt apology and to host a program exclusively about violence against women, including ways women who are in violent relationships can get help.


That is what we ask of CBN today. We hope the network realizes that tolerating violence against any woman creates a society where every woman is at greater risk. Words matter. Robertson's words are inexcusable. It is time to change the conversation and protect millions of women.

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