Is Hope Solo Another Ray Rice?
There’s a whole lot of hand-wringing in sports press about a domestic violence case that's apparently not being taken seriously enough. No, it doesn't involve Floyd Mayweather. His rematch with Marcos Maidana is over, so we can all go back to conveniently forgetting that the highest-paid athlete in the world has a sordid history of offenses, having pleaded guilty twice and served three months in jail for attacking the mother of his children in front of them.
Rather, the miscreant of the moment is Hope Solo, goalie of the U.S. women's soccer team. With next year's World Cup approaching and Solo extending her shutout record to 73 games, writers everywhere are reminding us that the NFL isn’t the only league that’s mishandled a case of domestic violence. Solo’s own domestic violence charge, from an incident this summer in which she’s accused of punching her sister and teenaged nephew, has brought calls for the goalie to be benched until the end of her trial, which starts in November.
They’re absolutely right. In addition to Ray Rice, we should also be talking about Hope Solo and Floyd Mayweather and Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer. While we’re at it, let’s also talk about Mark Fuller and Don Spirit and James Gorrell and all the other perpetrators of abuse who aren’t just football players.
They’re also right that the Solo case doesn’t quite fit most people's image of a typical domestic violence situation. The Rices fall much more in line with the strong male attacker/weak female victim pairing that so often causes us to ignore female abusers and nontraditional victims including heterosexual men. Solo shouldn’t get a pass just because she’s a woman.
But the unintended consequence of such calls -- acknowledged and answered, to their credit, by many of the callers -- has been a false equivalency drawn between Rice and Solo, which simply denies the gendered nature of the crime. This line of thinking goes: If women attack, too, then the societal problem we see reflected in the current NFL crisis can’t be due to unchecked forms of dangerous masculinity.
This is not a double standard at work: Rice and Solo are distinct situations. For one thing, to equate them would be to give soccer as much cultural standing in American life as football; to believe female athletes exert as much popular influence as their male counterparts. And while the United States Olympic Committee's inaction deserves criticism, it hardly equals the Ravens’ months-long campaign to discredit the victim, or the NFL’s long history in failing to treat domestic violence cases seriously.
I get a lot of comments from male readers who take issue with the characterization of intimate-partner violence as a problem of female victimization. As the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence notes, about 835,000 men are assaulted each year. These victims absolutely deserve our attention, and should be included in this discussion. But it does a disservice to all victims, and the issue broadly, to pretend that this crime affects men and women equally. According to the coalition, despite the staggering number of male victims, 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
If we’re not talking about Hope Solo or male victims, it’s for the same reason we weren’t talking about the Ray Rices in the NFL until now. Let’s have a full-ranging discussion about domestic violence, not forgetting whatever athlete perpetrator might be the flavor of the month. But let’s also not lose perspective on the cultural undercurrents related to masculinity that are the main drivers of the problem. Conflating Ray Rice and Hope Solo does nobody -- other than the reactionary NFL establishment -- any good.
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