Keyboard activism: that phenomenon that involves people becoming obsessed with current events and feigning indignation over topics they may (or may not) actually care about “IRL” — is at an all-time high.
Be it the death of Robin Williams, the latest episode of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, or the untimely demise of the Twinkie, these days, it doesn’t take much for people to grab their smartphones and start pontificating from atop virtual soap boxes.
I wont lie, I’ve been sucked into this tidal wave of self righteousness a few times myself, binging on emotionally charged debates with folks on Facebook and Twitter as if my life depended on it. And each time I’ve always walked away feeling the way you’re supposed to feel after a binge — nauseous and annoyed.
Which is why when the name Ray Rice started popping up on my timeline Monday afternoon — I raised a brow but willed myself not to click on any of the links. For the record, I am not a huge football fan and barely know the difference between RG3 and R2-D2. So until 48 hours ago, I had no idea who Mr. Rice was.
But on Tuesday morning, my curiosity kicked into overdrive when I noticed even the most private people on my timeline posting impassioned status updates about this man. By lunchtime, I took the bait and Googled his name, completely unprepared for what appeared on my screen.
In an elevator video obtained by TMZ, you can see a couple in the midst of a heated argument as they get on the elevator. Words are exchanged, and within moments, the man in the video has cold cocked this woman right to the ground. Seemingly unmoved by her condition, he then drags her unconscious body out of the elevator, standing limply to the side, as a security guard attempts to wake her up.
For a moment, I grappled to make sense of what I’d just seen. Who were these people? The story underneath identified the man as Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, citing the victim in the video as Janay Palmer, Ray’s then fiancée and now wife. As soon as the clip ended, I started reading the comments section.
I know, first rule of the Internet is: “Never read the comments section.” It’s where any sliver of hope in humanity quickly fades away … as you gloss over hateful rhetoric from people who barely leave the house. I’m not new to this. I knew better. I always know better. But just this once, I thought, “There’s no way anybody in their right mind could defend this man.”
I was wrong.
Everywhere I looked, fans were blindly supporting Rice even in the face of such blatant visual evidence. People wondered what they’d been arguing about (as if that matters). Conspiracy theorists claimed this was just another plot to “keep a black man down.” And even good old Fox News got in on the fun when contributor Ben Carson sympathized:
“Let’s not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy. He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him.”
Translation: An abused woman obviously deserves her abuse because she didn’t have the strength to leave. Obviously.
These are all classic examples of victim blaming, something that unfortunately happens quite often. But this isn’t just a simple case of big bad men attacking a helpless victim of domestic violence. That story has been told so many times it’s become a cliché.
What’s actually bothered me most about this ordeal is that Rice’s most vocal supports seemed to be WOMEN — black women in particular. In my not so humble opinion, these women are female misogynists — self-loathing sheep that have been brainwashed by generations of “stand by your man” propaganda.
I can always spot a “female misogynist” in the comments section because they tend to ask sideways questions focused on the flaws of the victim rather than the culpability of the abuser.
“He’s a good man though!”
“She shouldn’t have been talking to him like that.”
“I wonder what she did to make him go off.”
“That’s what her dumbass gets for staying with him.”
When I see statements like these, my feelings often oscillate between frustration and pity.
The ugly truth is: if you are a woman who defends Ray Rice (or any other man who abuses women), you have low self-esteem. I don’t care how many degrees you have, what car you drive, or how much your hair extensions cost — it is impossible to be a woman who truly understands her value and worth while sanctioning the abuse of your sisters. Period. She is you and you are her. If you live in a world where there is a justification for Janay Rice’s beat down, that means somewhere (deep down), you think there is a case for your own as well.
And that is just plain sad.
You know what else is sad? That Mrs. Rice doesn’t seem to be getting the support she so clearly needs right now. When I read her statement declaring, “We will continue to grow and show the world what real love is!” I felt nothing but compassion for someone who is clearly not in a good place.
However, many women on social media — again — did not seem to share my sentiments. Instead, I saw countless tweets taunting her for being an “idiot” and a “gold digger” for staying with her abuser — often including her Twitter handle in their responses as if they hoped she’d see their scathing remarks.
One woman was even bold enough to post, “Janay Rice is one sad bitch. Now I feel like hitting her.” Really sis? That’s how you feel? Who needs male chauvinists when we have other women so eager to do their work for them?
Contrary to what the media would have you believe, this isn’t just a headline about the possible end of a football player’s career. It’s also the story of a mother facing a nightmare that millions of others face every day. Ray Rice’s celebrity doesn’t shield his wife from the shame, fear and embarrassment that results from domestic abuse. It doesn’t help her wounds heal any faster or even guarantee that she’ll make it out of this alive. If anything, this spotlight is only magnifying her embarrassment and uncertainty about her safety. She now has so many naysayers to prove wrong — if God forbid he hits her again, she’s even less likely to seek help.
We don’t know what the future holds for Janay Rice, but one thing is for sure — the scrutiny (and scorn) that she’s received from some of you ladies is an epic fail. And I’m not here for it.
Author’s note: Please check out Beverly Gooden’s #WhyIStayed hashtag and its accompanying #WhyILeft hashtag on Twitter. She and the thousands of survivors who have started sharing their stories are a shining example of the kind of response we need to see more of.