Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99

Op-Eds

News Opinion Op-Eds

When women attack men -- a double standard [Commentary]

What if he had smacked her one?

She's going after him with fists and feet. What if he had defended himself in kind? Or what if he had been the one who attacked her without physical provocation?

Would it still be funny?

As we all know from a leaked elevator surveillance video that has been replayed countless times on television and online, that's not how it happened. Instead, rapper and businessman Jay Z deflected the blows and at one point caught a kicking foot in midair, but otherwise made no aggressive moves as his sister-in-law, singer Solange Knowles, whaled on him. Beyonce -- his wife, her sister -- watched without interfering, and an overmatched bodyguard tried to keep the peace.

Video of the one-sided brawl at a New York hotel first surfaced last week on TMZ. It has since been widely remarked upon and scrutinized. People have speculated on what made Solange go off like that. People have cracked jokes. But there has been little if any denunciation of the violence, nor are police known to be investigating.

Indeed, the world seemed ready to move on to the next oddity in the human carnival by the time the family released an opaque statement on Friday (they're both sorry) and "Saturday Night Live" lampooned the fight in a sketch.

But what if he had hit her, whether in self-defense or aggression? Wouldn't we be having a markedly different discussion right now? Wouldn't police be involved? Wouldn't his reputation be in the toilet?

Yes. So, what's the difference?

We know the answer intuitively, even if it is not politically correct to say: Real men don't hit women. Not even in self-defense, unless maybe she holds a black belt or a baseball bat. Men are taught from boyhood to be mindful of their superior size and strength: Don't hit girls.

So Jay Z took his sister-in-law's abuse because there was, in a real sense, nothing else he could do.

And don't you think she knew that? Don't you think she was counting on it when she waded in there?

One is wary, as a man, of calling out double standards between the sexes. In the first place, men benefit from more double standards than we have space to count. In the second place, it would be specious to pretend the physical abuse of men by women is a problem anywhere near as ubiquitous as the physical abuse of women by men.

That said, it's hard to let this go without at least acknowledging this other double standard -- and Ms. Knowle's exploitation thereof.

Too bad police didn't raise the specter of an investigation, even if only to have it batted down. Might not have been the worst thing in the world if Jay Z's heavy-handed in-law had to at least momentarily contemplate explaining herself to a judge.

But that, of course, is wishful thinking. It won't happen -- not only because police would be disinclined, but also because as a guy, Jay Z would in all likelihood be mortified by the very idea. Forget the family dynamic: To press charges because a woman hit you without injury would be to betray male pride. Might as well join a monastery. You could never show your face again.

So it bears repeating: There was nothing he could do but take it. And if that wasn't physically hurtful it had to, at the very least, be profoundly humiliating.

Isn't it interesting how, 50 years into the modern feminist movement, with women represented at previously unthinkable strata in our national life, gender roles continue to define and constrain us, often in ways as subtle and unseen as they are abiding and real?

We will be thrashing that out for the foreseeable future. But we might make a small, albeit welcome change in that future if we reconsider what we have long told our little boys and expand it to include their sisters, too.

Don't hit girls? No.

Don't hit at all.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His email is lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • 'Little Boy': A film to make you believe America's best days are ahead
    'Little Boy': A film to make you believe America's best days are ahead

    There are classic films, like the ones on TCM and AMC, and there are modern films. There are few modern classics. "Little Boy," in theaters April 24, could be a modern classic.

  • Big pharma should support the NIH
    Big pharma should support the NIH

    Recently at a reception, one of my faculty colleagues at Johns Hopkins expressed concern about her academic future. The pay line for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants in her field was 7 percent; that means that she has to spend two or three weeks writing a proposal that has only a 7 percent...

  • Hillary Clinton can't count on the Obama coalition to turn out for her

    In news only slightly more surprising than this morning's sunrise, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last Sunday that she is running for president again.

  • Restoring people's faith in government
    Restoring people's faith in government

    In Maryland and across the country, Americans are growing deeply cynical about Washington. And for good reason. They perceive that policymaking is increasingly an insider's game, with little role for the public itself. They feel that their voices go unheard in Congress. And they see, time and time...

  • Hogan must fund health care
    Hogan must fund health care

    At the beginning of this year's General Assembly session, the prognosis for quality, affordable health care in Maryland was unclear. Newly elected Governor Larry Hogan had proposed a number of cuts to critical programs, the funding mechanism for our health insurance marketplace was up in the air...

  • Is there value to the n-word?
    Is there value to the n-word?

    The "n-word" — what a complicated topic to discuss in 2015. You're either for its free expression or against its very existence.

Comments
Loading

55°