I finally watched the Ray Rice video, the one of the Baltimore Ravens star running back decking his wife in an elevator. If you haven’t seen it, do, and then decide whether you agree with the victim that this is a private matter between her and her husband. Really? In what universe is knocking someone else out a private matter?
What if he had hit a friend or a stranger? It would have been laughable to suggest the assault deserved a ring of privacy and that the cops shouldn’t be called and justice pursued. But because the woman was his fiancée, now spouse, she was calling her knockout a family matter.
We do a strange dance with the issue of privacy. We have a kind of love-hate relationship with it. We have jettisoned it in so many ways, with our daily tweets and techno-bytes of self-revelation, the constant Instagraming and messaging. Yet we cling to it on some level — like a curtain to draw around ourselves when we wish.
Patriarchy makes good use of the issue of privacy. Behind that curtain — or those elevator doors — it can still swagger and intimidate and hurt. Then, if the victim refuses to press the case, the state is reluctant to intervene. There is a presumption that it is entirely their business — the couple’s — to sort out.
We had this same discussion before, about children. We have now moved off the notion that what parents did in their homes in the name of discipline — or in eruptions of temper — should always be countenanced. Enough outcry, and enough gut-clutching memoirs written by authors abused as kids, helped shift attitudes. We came to understand that it was incumbent on all of us to intervene — or insist that our law enforcement and courts do. (Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the sorry record that many child protection services have.)