Recently, a video went viral — Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens assaulting a woman. The film has no finesse – no clever camera angles, no state-of-the-art lens, no background music. Just raw, primal violence. It’s hard to watch, and we all have to choose whether to look away.
As the video aired on national television, circulated in the tabloids, careened around the internet, I imagine The Ravens had several frantic “damage control” meetings. I’d guess that conference rooms were crowded with lawyers, publicists, investors, and accountants crunching the numbers. I hope at least some of the discussions focused on decency, but I’m doubtful. I imagine that the decision to cut Ray Rice had more to do with the economics of public image than a stand for women’s rights.
We live in a strange culture. We call ourselves The Free World. We’re told we all have Inalienable Rights. We feel outrage when we hear about countries which block girls from an education, dictate dress codes for women, have different standards of sexual behavior for males and females. Yet, any woman (and sadly, at a certain point, any girl) can tell you that we have serious problems right here in our Land Of The Free And Home Of The Brave.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a car dealership where we were greeted by a salesman at least 20 years our junior, who addressed my husband as “Mr. Burk”, and addressed me as “Honey” (that’s Dr. Honey, for the record). Time Magazine recently ran a cover story including the statistic that one in five women will be raped during college. Salaries are unequal for women and men doing the same work. A girl who sleeps with a lot of boys is a “slut”; a boy who sleeps with a lot of girls is a “player”. Ray Rice beat a woman unconscious. Violence against girls and women is a pervasive, prevalent problem – an issue that shows itself verbally and physically, in subtle and overt ways, which range from harmful to damaging to dangerous to deadly.
Each of us must choose whether or not we watch the video of Ray Rice assaulting a woman. Either decision – watching the tape or looking away — is a valid choice. Looking away from the issue, however, is not an option.