12/02/2014 09:36 am ET Updated Feb 01, 2015

What do Ray Rice and Norman Mailer Have in Common?

Baltimore Sun via Getty Images

After being suspended for knocking out his then-fiancé, now wife, Janay Palmer, Ray Rice has been reinstated by the NFL. There will no doubt be a phalanx of demonstrators when the star running back returns to the field. Rice's wife forgave and defended him in public. Though it seems patronizing and presumptuous to me, many feminists dismissed her act of forgiveness as the behavior of a woman destroyed, of a woman who has had her sense of personal agency punched out of her. Maybe. But there is no "maybe" about this -- the American public holds professional athletes to a different standard than literary and cinematic artists.

To take just a small sample of transgressors from the arts: Norman Mailer stabbed his spouse. William S. Burroughs shot his wife. Picasso was a serial abuser who said, "For me there are only two kids of women, goddesses and doormats." Woody Allen married his adopted daughter. After trying to choke his wife, Charlie Sheen was arrested for domestic violence. James Brown was a repeat domestic violence offender. Mel Gibson pleaded no-contest to a domestic battery charge. Sean Penn was arrested for domestic violence and spent time in the clink for assaulting a photographer. The list goes on... and on. Do artists and entertainers have a poetic license denied to gridiron artists?

Where is the public outrage and demonstrations against bullies who happen to have a flair with words or the brush? Consistency can be overrated, but if the public is inclined to crush the career of an athlete who beats his wife, it should also be willing to ignore Mailer's books and turn a blind eye to Picasso paintings.