Feminists have gotten a lot of mileage out of the Ray Rice NFL scandal. To be certain, the NFL’s attempted cover-up is embarrassing. Rice’s assault on his now wife was horrible. However, none of that justifies the baffling response several feminists had when other journalists mention Hope Solo.
For those unaware, Hope Solo is a United States soccer star who assaulted her 17-year-old nephew and her sister. Solo faces fourth-degree misdemeanor charges, yet continues to play while the case is pending. In contrast, Rice was fired by the Ravens and indefinitely suspended from the NFL. Several sports journalists noted the imbalance, which appears to annoy some feminist journalists.
Katie McDonough offered the most recent complaint:
[…] A conversation about whether or not Solo should be on the field right now does not require smug finger wagging about inconsistently applied standards of outrage, it requires a grappling with how sports leagues handle violent offenses. (That’s a far more complicated conversation to have than many of us are willing to concede.) Condemning what Solo is alleged to have done does not require erasing a history in which men have systematically used manipulation and physical violence to dominate, humiliate and kill women. And scrutinizing the top brass within women’s national soccer for their calculus around Solo does not require us to insincerely argue that women’s soccer and men’s football are sports that receive equal attention in the media — that somehow it’s just this one time that the public has fallen silent in an otherwise robust conversation about the women’s national soccer team.
Let us look at the two journalists, Juliet Macur and Cindy Boren, to see what they wrote. Macur wrote:
The glaring contrast in Solo’s case is that while several football players recently accused of assaults have been removed from the field, she has been held up for praise by the national team. On Thursday she was even given the honor of wearing the captain’s armband in celebration of her setting the team’s career record for shutouts in its previous game.
The question is why. Celebrating Solo’s achievement right now is like allowing running back Adrian Peterson, who has been accused of child abuse, to continue to play for the Minnesota Vikings — and then awarding him the game ball for his next 100-yard game.
If that wouldn’t happen in the N.F.L., it shouldn’t happen in women’s sports, either.
That does not look like Macur erased men’s violence against women or claimed the men’s football and women’s soccer are equivalent. The closest Macur comes to the latter is this:
At the same time, U.S. Soccer and the Seattle Reign, her team in the National Women’s Soccer League, have put on blinders. Solo played on as Seattle advanced to the league’s title game last month, and she played on this week as the national team continued preparations for next month’s qualifiers for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
The Reign rationalized their decision to keep her on the field by saying they were gathering evidence on the case. U.S. Soccer is apparently following suit.
How convenient for Solo, and for them, that her trial will not start until after the United States has claimed its place in the World Cup. If she were a marginal player, though, I bet both organizations would have benched her without a second thought.
It’s possible to understand the team’s cowardice: A league trying to sustain itself has an incentive to protect its stars.
That sounds more like Macur acknowledges the position the U.S. women’s soccer league is in: namely that they have little notoriety in the country and may want to maintain what interest they do have by ignoring Solo’s violence. That sounds plausible, particularly given how difficult it was to garner national support for the men’s team this summer.
Let us look at Boren’s comments:
Unlike some of the biggest NFL stars, Solo, who is their counterpart in women’s soccer and someone touted as a role model, quietly goes about her business of keeping soccer balls from going into the net. NFL stars like Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer and Adrian Peterson were banished after massive sponsor, political and fan pressure, but Nike, for instance, has remained silent on Solo.
Correction: Nike continues to support Solo, issuing a statement that the company will maintain its endorsement with her.
What of comparing the two sports leagues as equivalent? Boren does the opposite:
While U.S. Soccer doesn’t have the same high profile as the NFL, how do the cases differ? Aren’t women’s soccer players just as much role models as male football players? The goalkeeping record is an an important one, both for Solo and for women’s soccer, but does it really trump an accusation of domestic violence? Why is the notion of awaiting due process so inconsistently applied? And why aren’t more people talking about the fact that domestic violence isn’t simply an issue of men against women?
Neither Boren or Macur do anything that McDonough suggests. They simply point out the clear double standard at play: Hope Solo appears to get a pass (and even gets to represent her country) while Ray Rice is punished by the media, the league, and the nation. All the journalists ask is why this double standard should be considered acceptable. Why should Solo receive special treatment when she is just as much a role model as Rice and other football players?
McDonough has no answer for that, although she does have this:
We are often asked to divert our attention from the systemic violence that women face with cries of “women do it, too” or “sometimes women lie about abuse.” When this happens, we are asked to take these claims — statistically and historically different — as the same. These are derailing tactics, more often than not. When we read about sexual assault, we are asked again and again to consider the incidence of false allegations. When we learned each new detail of Ray Rice’s brutal assault, we were asked to remember that Janay Rice hit him too. And now that we are using the NFL as the lens through which we can view our culture’s deadly domestic violence problem, we are being accused of unjustly focusing our anger. It seems that the only time people want to talk about the violence that women commit is when we seem to, for once, be talking about the violence that women experience.
McDonough, we get it. Feminists do not think men can be victims of rape or domestic violence. Feminists do not think women can commit rape or domestic violence, particularly not against men. Feminists do not want anyone stating otherwise, especially not any men or boys who were victims of female abusers.
We understand this. We have understood it for decades. You do not need to trot out the false dilemma of false equivalence every time someone mentions that women commit domestic violence too. None of the articles mentioning the double standard at play were directed at or intended for feminists.
You may continue ignoring them, just as you ignored that the CDC study reporting that 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime also reported that 1 in 7 men are victims of said violence in their lifetime (page 44 of the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey).
However, if you would like not to appear to tacitly condone Hope Solo’s actions or those of other violent women, perhaps you should not argue that we ought not mention them when talking about domestic violence.
Incidentally, no one mentioning Hope Solo’s violent assault on her nephew and sister argued that people should ignore men’s violence against women. All they asked is why no one is talking about this case and why Solo is allowed to play after the media and the nation spent weeks rightfully blasting the NFL for its delayed response. Complaining about those questions is akin to lambasting Iran for trying to acquire nuclear weapons and then complaining when someone mentions that North Korea is trying to get them too. If the idea is that no one with totalitarian views should have nuclear weapons, that should apply to every one, not just those who live in the Middle East.
Likewise, if domestic violence is always wrong, that should apply when women do it too, not just when men assault women.