A few weeks ago, I wrote about the controversy surrounding Stephen A. Smith and his comments about domestic abuse following the Ray Rice case. Since I did not know anything at the time about Rice’s issue (I don’t follow the NFL much anymore), I simply tackled Smith’s comments on their own and critiqued the media’s reaction to them. However, recently, with TMZ releasing the video of Ray Rice punching his girlfriend out, I went back and looked at the situation: Did the NFL really have no clue? I have a hard time believing that. Not only is it unbelievable that the NFL did not have access to this video, multiple reporters have said that they did and that the contents of the video were accurately described to them. Not to mention the fact that Ray Rice himself never lied about it. I’m not going to weigh in here further on Roger Goodell and the NFL, but let’s just say that the NFL’s excuses at the moment sound very fishy.
In any case, this is just one example of an athlete striking a woman recently. An Oklahoma football player, Joe Mixon, has also been caught on tape punching a small college girl and breaking her face in four places. Now, a Texas basketball player, Martez Walker, is being accused of beating up his girlfriend. Violence against women is obviously not new, but with the Ray Rice incident and NFL’s mishandling of it, the public spotlight on it is brighter than it has been for a while.
There are several ways to approach the issue. Matt Walsh does a great job pointing out that the gut reactions of most people to the Ray Rice video indicates the fact that we intuitively understand that men and women are different, and if anything, this means that men should be taught to use their general physical advantages to protect and not harm women. One could also possibly talk about the lack of strong, moral father figures for many athletes, though Mixon himself is not fatherless. Here, though, I’ll focus more on one issue: Self-defense, since it has been brought up many times in this discussion.
Believe it or not, many people came to the defense of Ray Rice, citing the fact that, according to reports, his then fiance slapped him first. Some OU fans have rushed to the defense of Mixon as well, citing the fact that the college girl attacked him first while she was drunk and possibly said something very insulting (one such fan is in the comment section of this article, going by the screenname Toby H). Walker as well was apparently slapped by his girlfriend first before he lost it. Aren’t men and women equal, and if so, can’t men defend themselves against a woman as if she were a man? Do we not have that right? If a man attacked them, wouldn’t this not even be a story?
I find it a bit absurd that I’m even writing on this, but let’s make this clear: A girl much smaller than you who is slapping you is not a significant threat, and should not be treated as such. Punching her in this case is not self-defense; it is retaliation. And no matter how much responsibility she bears for her sorry behavior, that does not excuse using your tremendous physical advantage to pummel her.
I’m a big believer in self-defense, but there is a great need for wisdom here. Granted, you can’t expect people to take tremendous time to survey every possibility before taking action in defending themselves. For example, let’s say that a group of guys think of a sick joke to break into an old lady’s house and give her a scare. They put on ski masks, get some toy guns, and pretend to try to knock down her door. Let’s then say that she, frightened, pulls a gun out and shoots one of them. Clearly, the threat wasn’t real; these hypothetical guys were just joking (as bad a joke as that would be), but I think most people would agree that her actions would be justified. She couldn’t know they were joking and legitimately had good reason to believe that she was in grave danger.
So let’s state that as a principle: “You can use great force to defend yourself or another person if you have good reason to believe that you or that person is in serious jeopardy.” In none of these cases were these men in significant peril. As Walsh pointed out, size, sex, and strength do matter; male athletes, and really most guys in general, are physically stronger than women. This is part of the reason why the Bible calls wives the weaker vessel and calls for husbands to be gentle and willing to lay down their lives for their wives. The “weaker vessel” stuff has had some negative reaction from some feminists, but it’s generally true: Unless a girl is somebody like Ronda Rousey, the chances are that a man will be much stronger and more dangerous than she is. Even Rousey herself would be in huge trouble against a man with the strength and athleticism of Ray Rice, no matter what macho things she says to the media.
For instance, when I was teaching English in Korea, a hyper little girl who was playing around wound up and punched me full on in the cheek. It shocked me more than it hurt, and I had to reprimand her. However, let’s say hypothetically that she was really angry with me and just wanted to attack me. I’m a small guy, but I’m certainly still much bigger and stronger than a little girl. How silly would it have been for me to use the “self-defense” excuse to punch her lights out? She would not be a threat to me.
This is why the “self-defense” defense here falls flat; one would be hard pressed to show that an average woman can physically threaten an elite athlete. Now, if she had a weapon such as a knife or baseball bat, the calculus shifts. I heard of a story of a man who knocked out a crazy woman (whom he didn’t know) who was charging at him with a knife. That makes sense; it’s a freaking knife, which is dangerous in anyone’s hands, no matter how many times Hollywood portrays protagonists who shrug off knife wounds, bullet holes, and crowbars to the face (seriously, Hollywood and comic books severely screw up people’s perceptions of the durability of the human body and how much martial arts makes up for vast differences in size and strength). However, in none of these cases did these women wield a dangerous weapon. Furthermore, these were all women that these men obviously knew, so it wasn’t like some random person came out of nowhere and attacked them and they would therefore have no idea what kind of weapon she may be hiding in her purse or pocket, if any weapon at all.
Instead, what it looks like is this: A man and woman got into a spat, some words were said, and then the man retaliated to slapping by punching the woman. That’s not self-defense. That’s more like the “He/she started it!” excuse of children. It also seemed like they perceived their manhood was being attacked, and therefore they resorted to using their manly strength in a very unmanly manner. No matter how big, strong, and fast these guys are, what they did was far from being a man in the eyes of Scripture, and people who are defaulting to the “self-defense” card really need a healthy injection of logic.