Why All Men Should be Offended by Stephen A. Smith’s Comments on Violence Against Women

First, I saw Michelle Beadle’s masterful tweets…

…and then about a hundred more that made me disgusted with the status of men in the U.S.

Where did they all come from, though? What provoked (you see what I did there) her anger? Just a few moments earlier on the ESPN morning show First Take, fellow host Stephen A. Smith went on a rambling rant about Ray Rice’s suspension, saying:

But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen….But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying. No point of blame.

This is a long quote, and I cut out about 75% of it. safe_image

There are really two points Stephen tries to make in his ramble: (1) We all know violence is bad and domestic abuse shouldn’t happen and (2) women provoke the violence that happens against them.

So why should be men be as offended as Michelle? 

Well first, Michelle is an incredibly talented, insightful, and engaging host and ESPN commentator. She conducts herself with class but doesn’t allow the BS. SportsNation is by far my favorite original program to watch on any of the ESPN networks and that is mostly because of her presence.

I can’t imagine the anti-feminist, MRA drudge Michelle has been subjected to on Twitter following her tweets. She has retweeted some of it, but even she acknowledges that the majority of the backlash directed at her she is leaving alone.

Ellen Page recently made a comment about feminism that really resonated with me:

I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?

Let’s get one thing clear, folks: The patriarchy is real, we’re nowhere near a “post-feminist” world, and there are still very real implications of these facts in our daily lives. The fact that Michelle would have gotten backlash at all is evidence of that fact.

The second reason men should be as offended by this is a little more complicated, but stay with me. 

By suggesting that women need to not provoke the violence perpetrated against them, Stephen A. Smith suggests that men cannot control themselves or their emotions.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made it through several of Chickering’s vectors.There’s no reason a “man” should ever have the need to hit a woman.

It is in this thought, however, that Stephen truly contradicts himself to the point of incoherence. In the US and most of the Western world, masculinity (what it means to be a man) is defined by a lack of emotionality. How often do we hear bros and middle-aged men alike call an ex-girlfriend “crazy” or carry on about listening to their wife’s emotional workday? Having and displaying emotions is not acceptable for one who identifies as “man.”

So if men aren’t supposed to have violent outbursts like Ray Rice, then how is it that men can be so provoked by the women in their lives?

What about me? I’ve never hit a woman in my life.

Well then, friend, I’m afraid to tell you that your Man Card has been hereby revoked until such time as we can determine how many corners to cut off.

While that’s a bit of an over-exaggeration, Smith says something very similar. Men simply can’t control their impulses and will therefore perpetrate violence against women who provoke them.

Sound the Masculinity Alarm. Because if you have been provoked (which is even hard to write) by a woman to hit her, then you’ve had an emotional outburst. Fork over that Man Card.

At the end of the day, masculinity is quite the fickle social performance. I’ve written extensively on the topic for my thesis and will certainly write about it again.

But let’s stop pretending that anyone deserves violence, intimidation, rape, or harassment, and let’s recognize the innate human right to exist in a world free therefrom.