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How about People Don’t Hit People?!

How about People Don’t Hit People?! August 8, 2014

Let’s hear from Jason Edwards over at Grove City College’s Vision and Values:

The public outcry over Roger Goodell’s failure to adequately punish NFL running back Ray Rice for knocking out his girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel elevator is an encouraging sign that some vestige of civilization remains. It has been heartening to hear from talking heads that even in 2014 some things are still not tolerable. And, that one of those intolerable things is a man hitting a woman.

. . .

Of course, some of the barbarians at the ticket booth give reason to be worried. And so, Baltimore Ravens fans shamefully welcomed Ray Rice back to practice with a standing ovation. Likewise, what must be the most tone-deaf (and morality deaf) public relations department in the country proudly pasted this fact on the Ravens’ website.

Still, civilizations are more likely to crumble from within. The reaction from those that know men must not hit women may bode worse than the reaction of the small group of yahoos that do not. For instance, in perusing just a few comments generated from an ESPN column condemning Rice’s action, one reader opined that this type of incident will continue to happen “until men see females as truly equals.” It is hard to imagine a worse reading of the situation. While equality is a precious political principle, culturally, equality is fraught with problems.

Men do not hit women because women are fundamentally different than men. If men are taught that women are not different but equal, or worse yet, the same, then the compunction not to hit them is removed.

Wait. What? If men believe that women are their equals, they can go around hitting them? Do men go around hitting other men? Wait. Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

The irony here is that Jason appears to be suggesting that feminism actually leads to an increase in domestic violence. This is both historically false (there was plenty of domestic violence hundreds of years ago when patriarchy reigned supreme and women were quite literally possessions, thank you very much) but also logically twisted. It rests on the premise that men treat other men terribly, and that therefore if they see women as their equals they will treat them the way they treat other men—terribly. Are men really such terrible creatures as all that?

I get tired of saying this, but if men were really as horrid as supporters of patriarchy make them out to be, I’d be all for getting the hell out of Dodge and investing in an all-female commune. Maybe we could take our sons with us too, those of us that have them, and make an experiment in instilling in them compassion and basic human decency. If men are really this broken, they need fixing. Fortunately, I think supporters of patriarchy are lying when they they talk about men. I think that because the men in my life are nothing like they describe. Sean does not hit me not because I am a woman but because he believes that hitting people—of whatever gender—is wrong.

Richard Weaver explained this over 60 years ago in his magisterial book “Ideas Have Consequences.” He wrote, “the refusal to see distinction between babe and adult, between the sexes, between combatant and noncombatant—distinctions which lay at the core of chivalry … this is the destruction of society through brutality.” Weaver further noted that if “we say that woman is identical with man … there is no reason why she should not be bombed along with him.”

Weaver’s comparison of babe and adult, man and woman, and combatant and noncombatant is a false one. Children are less able to care for themselves than adults. This is simple fact. Similarly, combatants (ideally) volunteer and train for war while noncombatants do not. This is a difference. There is not a similar difference between men and women in our modern era.

Personally, I tend to agree with Weaver’s conclusion—I dislike the “women and children first” adage because I do not believe women should have special privileges—privileges that traditionally have come with the price of limited autonomy. In a wartime situation—and I should clarify that I hate war with a vengeance—the distinction should be drawn not between men on the one hand and women and children on the other but between combatants on the one hand and noncombatants on the other. I don’t want to hear how many women and children were killed. I want to hear how many civilians are killed. We are all people.

But then, given Jason’s lack of understanding of why someone would say gender-based domestic violence will continue until men view women as people, I doubt my position on this is something he’s ever considered.

In fact, the comment section responding to the ESPN column relayed this point exactly, as some miscreant pugnaciously asked, “Why does a man have to tolerate a woman insulting or hitting him?” While perhaps coming from a knuckle-dragging brute, this statement actually captures perfectly the spirit of enlightened equality—among equals, some actions merit a punch in the nose.

Men should not have to tolerate women hitting them—or insulting them. Seriously, who exactly is saying men should let women hit them and insult them? I think the problem is that those positing this question see only one solution to being insulted or hit—hit back. But why? We don’t live in a Wild West where might makes right and violence reigns supreme. There are other ways to handle this kind of thing—including reporting domestic violence to the police, or walking away from insults. The choice is not between letting a woman insult or hit you on the one hand, and knocking them out on the other.

Yes, there is self defense. Absolutely. The problem is that it does not seem to apply in the situation being discussed. That a quarterback would need to knock out his much-smaller girlfriend to protect himself seems unlikely. And besides, I don’t believe in the concept behind stand-your-ground laws. I believe you should use the least amount of force sufficient to protect yourself, not any amount of force you want.

Boys need it instilled in them that real men never hit women. All agree on that, but frustratingly for many is the fact that this makes sense only because women are fundamentally different than men, not because they are the same.

And exactly why can’t we instill in boys that real men never hit people? Why should it be okay for men to hit other men? I am not okay with that being okay. And yet, Jason’s entire premise is based on it being okay. It’s okay to hit other men, Jason says. Just not women. Seriously, where is this coming from? I don’t want my son Bobby growing up in Jason’s world. Please no.

As a feminist, I don’t just want a world where men and women are treated equally. I also want a world where people are treated with compassion and kindness. I don’t just want an equal world. I want a good world.

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