I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece in The Atlantic (No, Hope Solo is not like Ray Rice) with growing apprehension. Normally, I’m a fan. In this piece, though, he’s a bit off.
I’m not in the camp of people who say that Hope Solo and Ray Rice are the “same” (ESPN’s Kay Fagan for one). And, no attacking your sister and nephew is not “the same specimen of right and wrong,”. But violence in any form should not be condoned. Period. Dunque, I do believe Hope Solo should be sidelined, as Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson currently are.
Let’s acknowledge that Hope Solo gets a major pass on the violence she committed because she is a white woman. It’s white privilege alive and well. White women are never going to be as publicly condemned for any violence they commit as they might be if they were an African American male. It’s also always “worse” to knock out your wife than it is to hit your sister. Hitting your wife, the American public is slowly, slowly realizing, is wrong but hitting your sister is family stuff. It’s what siblings sometimes do. Again, it is not right but it is less publicly offensive than beating your wife.
But the real issue that I have with Coates’ article is that he seems to be grounding his argument about why Solo and Rice are different in a history of men’s violence against women. That feels like a bit specious to me. Is that history relevant in the context of looking at Ray Rice’s violence against his wife? Yes, absolutely. It not only puts his actions in better context but it also helps us understand how institutionalized violence affects everyday behavior and especially attitudes about women and race. This is crucial. But important as I believe it is for all of us to be more aware about the history of male violence against women, using men’s history of violence against women as evidence as to why Hope Solo and Ray Rice aren’t alike doesn’t wash.
It feels important here to recall that domestic violence includes family violence. Hitting your sister “counts”, intimidating your aging mother “counts”, threatening your brother “counts”, killing a family pet “counts”. Domestic violence is about power and control. Both Ray Rice and Hope Solo are likely the more powerful members of their family. When they use their power to physically or emotionally abuse someone in order to control them, that is domestic violence. (And yes, calling your nephew “too fat” can count as emotional abuse, just as hitting your sister does.) The definition of domestic violence is inclusive for many reasons not least of which is that abusers should be held accountable, regardless of how “bad” the abuse was or the gender of the abuser. And that goes for Hope Solo as well as Ray Rice.
Yes, violence against women remains a major issue but that doesn’t mean that a woman being violent isn’t. Hope Solo should be sidelined.
Note: after a useful dialogue via Twitter last night (10.1) related to his post, I thought it may be helpful to clarify something. Talking about Hope Solo in the context of domestic violence and the Ray Rice story does not diminish the issue of domestic violence is the way that the issue of rape is minimized when men jump into a dialogue about rape and say “men get raped too,”. Here’ why: we are all talking about domestic violence right now. If the conversation was about victim blaming or how abusers are sometimes abused also, then, yes, bringing Hope Solo & her alleged DV against her family would be wrong. But we are talking about it so I stand by what I said: Hope Solos should be sidelined.