“So I guess that means that Roger can take a shot at you now and then, right, Jessica?”
As if we didn’t have enough Ethics Train Wrecks whizzing around—let’s see, there’s Ferguson, the I.R.S. cover-up, the Redskins, plus oldies like Penn State and Trayvon Martin still gathering riders, and the spectacular Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck, which is guaranteed at least another six years of track—the Ray Rice Express is gather speed and passengers. It appears feminist, especially abused feminists, are leaping on board as the cars rumble by, and woe to him who is foolish enough to point it out.
Like me, I guess. Today the Washington Post opinion section carried a jaw-dropping essay by Leslie Morgan Steiner, the former Post editor and current author, the lesson of which, as I read it, is that no matter what a woman’s spouse of partner does to her, says to her, threatens her with, or hits her with, she is absolutely absolved of any responsibility or accountability for the harm that comes to her.This, we are told, is because, as Carol Costello (a fellow passenger) said regarding domestic abuse victims like Janay Rice, currently defending her abuser-husband, “It’s complicated.”
To show just how complicated, Steiner presents a long list of the various hints she got from her lover-man that he might well just kill her some day, including…
Three months into our relationship, the night he choked me during sex and I wrote it off as weird but somehow erotic (for him; not for me).
The morning five days before our wedding when he first physically attacked me, because, he said with his hands around my neck, “you remind me of my mother.”
During our honeymoon, when he punched me so hard my head hit the window in our car…
The first time he threatened to kill our dog.
The first time he pushed me down a flight of stairs.
The first time he threatened to pull the trigger of the loaded gun he held at my head.
Steiner makes certain that she lets us know that she’s a Harvard grad, apparently believing that this eliminates the obvious response, “What an idiot!“ She also makes a point of noting that yes, once she too derided women who stay with abusive partners, as if this fact inoculates her against well-founded criticism. It doesn’t, and while I’m sure it’s complicated, she’s an idiot, at least in this critical matter.
Her reasons for staying in the relationship do not rebut these conclusions. They are..
- “No one in my life had ever made me feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated as he did during the early months of our relationship.” And do we keep, say, automobiles that we loved to drive in the early months that we owned them, after they prove themselves to be unreliable, expensive lemons? Is this a rational reason to do so?
- “I thought I was the only woman who could help him face his demons.” Well, she might be the only woman willing to help him face his demons while regularly being abused by him.
- “I confused pity with love, feeling sorry for him because he had been beaten and starved by his stepfather as a child.” This is so nonsensical that it defies argument. Would she feel similarly sorry for her rapist, her child’s molester? In what universe does pity excuse abuse? They taught her that at Harvard?
- “In between the terrible times, he still made me laugh.” Gag me with a spoon.
- “I loved him.” God, read “Oliver Twist.” See the musical “Oliver!.” if Harvard didn’t cover English fiction. You love people who beat you up? Or is it pity, like you said three sentences ago?
These aren’t reasons. These are delusions, self-destructive rationalizations, and lame excuses.
Yet somehow, the author thinks they are ennobling, and that anyone who dares to call this conduct what it is—idiotic, reckless, and irresponsible, and thus entailing some accountability for the results of making terrible and irrational choices, as with every other terrible and irrational choices all of us make—is missing some grand truth. No, we really aren’t. She writes,
I wish the world could give Janay Rice, and other victims of relationship violence, the dignity they deserve.
Instead of condemning her for loving a troubled man, let’s educate ourselves about the twisted psychology of abusive love, so that we can be there for her if she decides to leave. Firing Roger Goodell and blaming the NFL won’t do Janay Rice, or any other domestic violence victims, any good.
Rather, we should hold abusers — and no one else — responsible for the damage they inflict.
Wait, what? What’s dignified about letting a man dominate you, threaten you, abuse you and dehumanize you? Does the victim’s terrible reasons for putting up with abuse matter at all? Steiner’s are bad enough: I’m sorry, but I do not respect an intelligent woman who allows herself to be brutalized because “He makes me laugh.” Ah, how we chortled in that afterglow when he knocked in my teeth with that pogo stick! But I can imagine reasons that are less respectable: what if she likes it? What if she endures it because she likes the money more than she minds the pain? What if she wants to hit him at will,, even knowing that she will get the worse of the exchange? All of these reasons earn dignity? Nonsense. This is pure a “war against women” war against logic: women can do no wrong. Sure they can.
I think the question of why men hurt the women they think they love is at least as bewildering as why their women stay with them. Doesn’t everybody wonder about this, including the abusers themselves? I’m sure the reasons for their conduct is also “complicated,” full of pain, self-esteem issues, childhood traumas, and more. Do the abusers deserve dignity too? Why not? Because they are men? Because they are the aggressors? Not necessarily, as we saw in the Rice Knock-Out Tap. Because holding a loaded gun to your lover’s head is crazier than staying with someone who hold a loaded gun to your head? Is it? I judge that competition a tie.
Steiner’s position isn’t just a self-excusing cop-out, it’s dangerous. It is exactly what abused women do not need to hear. “Just leave him on your own time, dear, when you are ready, and he no longer makes you laugh. Nobody will judge you. Just keep your fingers crossed that you don’t end up on a slab first.”
Alcoholics are in the grip of an illness, but they are told that they, and they alone, are responsible for saving themselves, and that if they don’t, they are responsible for that too. If someone refuses to leave a burning house because “she loves that house,” and “No house had ever made her feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated ” and burns to death, is she absolved from responsibility for her foolish choice?
Ray Rice has no excuses, no mitigating circumstances, nothing, including his demons, that should shield him from legal punishment and societal condemnation. But Janay Rice, at this point, has no excuses either. We all are accountable for our choices. Women get no dispensation, and there is no dignity in a woman allowing a man to harm her.
Sources: Washington Post