Is watching Ray Rice punching his fiancé out the same thing as looking at hacked photos of nude celebrities?

The positive collateral in the celebrity nude-photo-hacking scandal was the increasingly articulate (though not without irony, Your Working Girl admits) invasion of privacy response mounted by some activists, news agencies and media watchers. They expressed the idea that a woman—celebrity or otherwise—should be able to take whatever pictures she wants in the privacy of her own boudoir, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to see those pictures without her express permission. Your Working Girl heartily agrees.

She was a bit perplexed when she heard the same invasion of privacy analysis echoed by some violence against women activists this week as they reacted to the NFL suspension of Baltimore Raven running back, Ray Rice. They decried TMZ’s release of security footage showing Ray Rice punching his then fiancé, Janay Palmer, in the head so hard she immediately crumples to the floor in an unconscious heap is an invasion of Janay Rice’s (and, presumably, Ray Rice’s) privacy and should not have been shown without her  permission. Some of those same activists also criticized people who’ve watched the security tape, saying they are cut from the same cloth as the peephole pervies gawking at private pictures of nude women celebrities.

The trouble is the critique makes no sense. Could it be that, by hopping on the slightly improved collective consciousness of the right of women to a private sex life, some activists are missing the essential point? The idea that domestic violence is a private family matter has played a central role in keeping it flourishing unabated generation after generation. Perpetrators of domestic violence against women continue on their rampages at will because it’s all happening behind closed doors.

Your Working Girl had thought we had reached the point where everyone agreed that, whether it occurs in the family kitchen or the elevator of a casino, when a man punches a woman hard enough to knock her out, it is a serious crime against society and ought to be punishable by the full extent of the law.

Should Mr. Rice have extended the same treatment to a stranger as he did to his fiancé in that elevator, he would have been promptly clapped in irons and carted away to face the consequences. (The fact that the security people on the scene did absolutely nothing as Janay Rice’s seemingly lifeless body was dragged across the threshold of the elevator—and left in a position where the door couldn’t close—sickened this working girl even more than the assault itself.) If Ray Rice had been knocked unconscious on the football field, an army of trainers and emergency responders would have descended upon him as the crowd watched in horrified silence. No such courtesy or concern was extended to Janay.

Now, on top of all that, according to the privacy response of some activists, Janay is the person expected to adjudicate whether a security tape taken in a public place should be released and declare whether or not her husband be placed under arrest, both of which the manly men of the NFL could not bring themselves to do. The idea of leaving it up to one lone woman—a woman who is married to the abuser, lives in his house, loves him, fears him, sees the good side of him and believes he can change—to make the call is preposterous. What an onerous and unfair burden to place on anyone.

Snippets of video have created watershed moments in politics and the fight for social justice including police brutality (Rodney King); Marion Barry (mayor on drugs); animal abuse (Centrepoint CEO kicking a dog) and other recent and horrific tapes Your Working Girl acknowledges exist but does not wish to mention. Your Working Girl admires violence against women activists and counts herself among that number, but truly doesn’t understand how having a woman essentially close her living room curtains to hide what’s going on makes anyone safer.

The release of the video of this crime is not a breach of privacy. Watching it isn’t an abomination. It is shedding light on a crime. The NFL cannot turn away. This is what violence against women looks like and it’s not a pretty picture.

 

 

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