Here’s the real problem. Rice, whatever his issues, is but a minuscule part of a huge overall problem. Smith missed an opportunity, given the huge platform that he has on ESPN, to directly address the causes of most domestic violence – the men who perpetuate it. Though Smith acknowledged the persistence of domestic violence, he passed the buck from the men who perpetuate it onto the women victimized by it.
What Smith could have and should have done is address the men watching and acknowledge that there is a real problem AMONG MEN that allows domestic violence to continue. He could have said that there are men who think that hitting a woman is OK if she mouths off to you, or that spitting on someone is equivalent to punching them in the face, and that there are men who are not emotionally mature enough to handle conflict, disagreement or the end of a relationship without resorting to physical violence.
Even domestic violence advocates who once focused on getting women away from an abuser, have shifted their focus to include men. They have realized that a woman leaving an abusive man simply allows another unsuspecting woman to be abused or killed. And until we deal with the underlying issues that many men have in intimate relationships and we have other men willing to cosign it, these assaults and murders will continue.
Men need to make it clear that a man who hits a woman is not a man and is not welcomed or respected among men. Men want the approval and brotherhood of other men – there is a wealth of psychological research that confirms that. That is one of the reasons why football exists – because it’s a sport that men play exclusively (in the professional ranks) and bond over.
Smith lost a moment to imprint onto the men watching that abusers should earn nothing but scorn and ostracization from other men. Because if that were in fact, true, maybe at least one would have thought about it twice before he raised his fist to a woman. Maybe. But we’ll never know.
Instead, we’ll have to continue to raise a generation of girls who feel that they have to watch what they wear and say because men are not putting enough pressure on other men to stop making this behavior acceptable and stop praising and promoting men who are OK with it.
Maybe Rice will now become one of those men and use this moment for some good. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m just hoping that the continued assault and murder of mothers, sisters, aunties and daughters and the resultant impact of their loss to their families and community, influences as few good men to step up for them and for women everywhere.