Ray Rice: Conditioned to disrespect

Now that the spotlight for the Ray Rice issue has shifted to the National Football League administration, including league commissioner Roger Goodell, discussions about domestic abuse and its place in the home are now further underway. Domestic violence is a common occurrence for women. According to the recent global prevalence figures from the World Health Organization, 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

An interesting angle to study this phenomenon from is through gender-based lenses. According to United States Department of Justice, in a homicide trend report from 1980 to 2008, males represent 90% of the total number of offenders. In this way, violence becomes a male phenomena. In the same report, young adult black males had the highest homicide-offending rate compared to offenders in other racial and sex categories. Ray Rice is specifically a young adult black male, the king of the Baltimore Ravens, and has been caught on tape assaulting a woman.

Think about Rice’s position on the field. He is the alpha male of his arena. He holds all of the dominance, control, independence and recognition that both society and the media have deemed to represent masculinity. This is crystallized power in the form of a football. It is easy to believe that Rice would bring this mentality off the field and back home which is what landed Rice in the position he’s in now.

What is it that we attach to masculinity through the media? Sports fights, gunfights, knife fights, prison, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), boxing; lots of violence, lots of oiled up bulky muscles. Men are perceived through the media as tough, rough, independent, in control, powerful, and dominant. Fighting is way to express the most masculinity, and trains boys to become men.

How many school shootings have been committed by women? Not many. Looking at the most recent school massacre committed by gunman Elliot Rodger in Santa Barbara, much of his now infamous final retribution video concerns matters of gender. Rogers constantly notes how women have always rejected him, how he felt like a mouse in a jungle of predators. He determines his ability to kill and to threaten with a gun as his way of becoming a god among all of humanity. With the gun in his hand, he became the alpha male, with every inch of power in the tip of his index finger.

Masculinity is something learned from society and has transformed through the decades into what it is today. The media and society have given people like Ray Rice a winning ticket to power and, only until recent exposure, invincibility. This instills an understanding of masculinity as a point of invincibility that can go on unchecked because that is what society has made him to be.

Marie Antoinette’s famous words (whether they were said or not) “let them eat cake” make most people think of her as this fluffy idiot who used her power to buy shoes and masterful wigs. But what most people forget is the fact that Marie Antoinette was exactly the person she was raised to be. She was a duchess from Austria, raised to bear children. Nothing more.

Ray Rice is the result of what society and media have designed masculinity to be. And maybe, if society examines what it has assigned to our respective genders, then maybe the continuance of domestic violence against women could be better responded to and understood.