Video was released Monday of a violent altercation allegedly between rapper Jay Z and his sister-in-law Solange Knowles.
By now, most people with access to WiFi have already seen it and maybe even joked about the way Solange launched herself at Jay Z, punching and kicking. The response elicited by the footage begs the question, however: is female to male violence really a laughing matter?
The hashtag #whatJayZsaidtoSolange is a trending topic on Twitter, garnering hundreds of thousands of tweets in a few hours. Users made attempts to one-up each other with speculation over what the rapper could have said to his sister-in-law to provoke such a sudden and vicious attack. Even some corporations saw fit to capitalize on the moment. Fast food chain Whataburger sent out, “I’m not sharing my Whataburger with you #WhatJayZsaidtoSolange.” “#WhatJayZsaidtoSolange It’s not DiGiorno, It’s Delivery,” tweeted the pizza maker. The tweet has since been deleted.
“Our society, certainly our media, treats attacks on men by women as a laughing matter,” says Phillip W. Cook, author of “Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence.”
Cook, who studies and writes on intimate-partner and family violence against men points to high-profile examples like a 2011 Super Bowl commercial from Pepsi. In the ad, a man is repeatedly assaulted by his female partner. She kicks him and pushes his head into a pie, among other things. The commercial ends with her violently hurling a can of Pepsi at his head but accidentally hitting another woman. The commercial was titled, “Love Hurts.”
“Do you think there wouldn’t be howls of protest if a man was doing that to a woman,” asks Cook of the commercial. “Those kinds of images, and there are more than we realize, diminish the seriousness of violence against men and make violence by women seem acceptable and funny. That ultimately has an effect on how we view all violence,” he says. “We need to be accurate about the information being supplied and treat it seriously.”
Family violence against men, perpetrated by women, is not near the epidemic that violence against women is, but it’s still frequent and significant, say experts. According to Cook, meta-analyses of domestic violence data have revealed that nearly half of all incidents are classified as “mutual combat.” More than a quarter of domestic violence incidents, he says however, are perpetrated by women against their male partners.
“Those attacks can be brutal,” says Cook. “Women often make up for the size and weight deferential by using objects and weapons, throwing things, attacking when a man is asleep. As the TMZ video shows, even though the bodyguard was there restraining [Solange,] she was still kicking — seemingly aiming for his groin. That’s not at all uncommon.”
Ultimately, Cooks says there is very little difference in the physical and psychological effects of violence whether women or men perpetrate it. “It looks and operates the same,” he says. “One big difference, however, is that there is very little consideration for violence against men and less resources.”
“If you want to look at how we view family violence against men, consider this: My research has shown there are more shelters that have a prohibition against women bringing their teenage sons into shelters than there are shelters for men who have been abused,” Cook says.
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey on Twitter at @idxr