Men and Women and Violence

This post contains references to abuse. 

I left my ex-husband before he hit me, but just barely. There was one time in the week before I left that he raised his fist and I wildly dared him, “Go ahead and do it. Make it easy for me to leave you!” It was hard to admit that the things he did in our marriage counted abuse. After all, he didn’t hit me.

The next three girlfriends he had after our split each filed a domestic violence charge against him when he physically assaulted them. I was the last woman he didn’t beat. My ten year wedding anniversary will occur later this month. I can’t help but think of him and what my life would be like, both if I’d stayed with him and if I’d never married him at all.

On a recent episode of Fox and Friends, while discussing a recent assault against a woman by Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, guest Dr. Keith Ablow stated that modern erasure of gender roles is to blame.

Listen if you’re saying that it’s just fine to flip a girl onto her back in a wrestling match, and pin her to the ground and take some joy in that — well then I guess if you’re in a bar and she slaps you, you punch her in the face.

I’ve heard similar “equality means men can hit women” claims before. Three inescapable observations come to me when I see them. The first is the realization that even men who hate women and the struggle for women’s equality can’t think of a single real right women have that men don’t so they have to make something up. The second is how very much they clesrly desire to assault women. The third is merely exasperation: They’ve been hitting us forever. 

Men abuse women in cultures with rigid gender roles. Men sexually harass women on the street,  whether we’re wearing shorts and a tank top or a burqa.  Men commit rape in every society,  most often against women and children who love them. Men are not docile creatures forced to hit women by the existence of co-ed sports or education or military enrollment. 

Obviously there exist men who don’t hit women or who, like my ex-husband ten years ago, don’t hit women yet. But there also exist men like De’Andre Johnson and like Keith Ablow who eagerly look for any excuse they can find to blame gendered violence on the victims.

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