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Thoughts on the media coverage of the Rice’s domestic argument/assault, and what’s missing from the conversation

Following TMZ’s release of footage showing NFL player Ray Rice rendering his then-fiance unconscious from a blow to the head, and the furious social commentary surrounding the incident, I’m having complex, analytical thought processes in multiple contexts on how to appropriately address this issue from a proactive, gender-egalitarian place. I ask for my die-hards to step forward and kindly discuss this with me.

The level of force used by Mr. Rice against his wife was unwarranted, and was used to violently disempower her in an unacceptable, unfair, and unjust way. Additionally, the Rices were physically fighting with one another prior to the assault. I am of the opinion that both issues need to be discussed within the greater conversation of how to put an end to domestic violence and prevent violent disagreements.

I’m aware of how sensitive this issue is, and that the language I use may be inappropriate. If this seems so, it is from a lack of education on domestic violence, and is not done with intention. I hope the two ideas that I’m trying to resolve have been communicated; that yes, the show of force against Mrs. Rice is unacceptable, but so too is the fact that the two people involved were addressing some disagreement by becoming physically violent with one another.

I feel that in all media coverage of the event, from each different camp with a social issues agenda, there has been little to no commentary on the proactive handling of disagreements, or anger, or violent feelings. There has been a wide array of coverage and discussion surrounding the incident, with some treating it as celebrity entertainment and others using it as an example in socio-political commentary and continuing ‘academic’ discussions. Additionally, there has been wide-spread calling out by oppositional media outlets.

Indeed, I am of the opinion that there has been a very good response to how the widespread media portrayal and coverage of the incident has been insensitive and dehumanizing to Mrs. Rice, and to a much lesser extent Mr. Rice, because the wrongfulness of his actions cannot be denied nor their severity misunderstood. Nor can the history of the oppression and abuse of women by men be ignored when discussing domestic violence, and I understand that. Unquestionably, this conversation does need to continue happening, in public forum, until the issue is understood inside and out. 

My grievance is that I have not seen one person step forward and discuss this event within a frame work for nonviolent communication practices for couples—-in the context of dismantling the patriarchal, hierarchical structures we’ve all been raised in—- and I really wish I would.

Do I think Janay Rice should stay with her husband after being treated so disrespectfully? Personally, no. But I’ve never been in love, I’ve never been married, I’ve never built a life with someone, and I’ve never been hit and physically overpowered by a significant other with such force. I do not understand her experience, neither the greater contexts nor the subtle nuances.

Is Mrs. Rice experiencing the so-called ‘honeymoon phase’ (and what a fucking term that is, Salon) in a cycle of domestic violence, where the victim is being pacified with positive, adoring attentions, and is reassured by their partner it will never happen again? Possibly, but I know nothing about their relationship, none of us do.

Rather than being in the ‘honeymoon phase’ or ‘unwilling to give up her quality of life,’ or being an example of a woman with Battered Women’s Syndrome, it is possible that Mrs. Rice and her husband have had a good relationship up until this incident, that they love one another, and their daughter, and honestly want to grow beyond this, have taken steps in their private life to seek mediation and remediation, and have chosen together to not have their relationship defined by this. Surely that is in the very least possible.

I know jack-shit about Ray Rice and his time as a player in the NFL. I see the actions taken by the NFL following the incident itself, and the media releases, and am disgusted. However after the revelations I’ve had recently about sexual abuse by high-level coaches in all sports, I’m no longer shocked by the high-level of moral corruption and the suspension of ethics for cash. Yet cash is only part of the problem, the problem being the mindset that permits all this, institutionalized in the system we call the patriarchy.

The struggle to evolve is everlasting, and today I am conflicted by the influence of the media on the discussion of this event. What I reflect on today is the ways in which the greater media, my social circles, and society at large are responding to and discussing this sad event, and how I’m definitely finding something lacking in the conversation.

If we’re to discuss this, then let’s actually take the time to discuss it, and discuss how not only how this incident exemplifies what is not okay and is not acceptable and why, but what is respectful and just, and how we can support universal, multi-cultural modes of nonviolent communication and conflict resolution.

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