Monday, September 08, 2014


At The Guardian, Hannah Giordis tells us that we shouldn't watch the video of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious:
That we feel entitled (and excited) to access gut-wrenching images of a woman being abused -- to be entranced by the looks of domestic violence -- speaks volumes not only about the man who battered her, but also about we who gaze in parasitic rapture. We click and consume, comment and carry on. What are we saying about ourselves when we place (black) women’s pain under a microscope only to better consume the full kaleidoscope of their suffering?

This broadcasting of victims’ most vulnerable moments as sites for public commentary is not new. Indeed, victims of abuse have always been forced to recount their traumas to audiences more intent on policing their victimhood than finding justice. With YouTube and TMZ and all the rest, victim blaming extends far past simply being shunned by your immediate community -- it means having your most horrific memories go viral without your consent. It means having millions of people virtually dissect your wounds, not to heal them but to decide if your injuries were bad enough for everyone to feel bad for you.
So is it simply not possible to find a way to watch this brutality without exploiting the victim? Obviously there are people who don't grasp the seriousness of this act of abuse, or of abuse in general, but it seems to me that most people who've seen the video have come away horrified. Is there just no amount of disgust at what Ray Rice did that justifies the exposure of this incident, because some people aren't disgusted?

It makes me wonder about victims of violence from the past -- Emmett Till, for instance, whose mother, after he was beaten to death for whistling at a white woman, had him buried in an open casket, thus revealing to the world the extent of his disfigurement as a result of that beating, or Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the young girl burned by American napalm who's seen running down a road in Vietnam in a famous 1972 photograph. Is it impossible to look at the victimization of these two without exploiting them? It didn't seem that way at the time that we first saw their suffering, but now we're told any glance at suffering is voyeurism. Is that all our response to images of Emmett Till and Phan Thi Kim Phuc ever amounted to? And therefore is it impossible to watch the Rice video -- or videos of those beheaded by ISIS or Al Qaeda -- without giving power to the assailants? If we once could look at such images non-exploitively but can't anymore, when did that change? Why wasn't our gaze toxic decades ago? Why is it inevitably toxic now?


Nada said...

Of course, you are entirely correct in your argument. The truth shall set you free -- including "gut-wrenching images of a woman being abused". We need more truthful information about human suffering to mend our ways, not less.

Mart said...

Between a couple hours of ESPN and MSNBC, I saw the punch and dump played on loop about 100 times. The hard part for me was watching how horrible Janay looked while the NFL paraded the couple onto stage a few months back. She of course apoligized for her part in forcing her face into his fist.

Since you mentioned ISIS...Agree ISIS are immoral religous zealots and chopping off heads is barbaric (unless you are a good King in "Game of Thrones"). From a Muslim perspective, how is a drone strike delivered to a wedding party by the religous zealots in the USAF or CIA any less barbaric? Is a really bad thing only barbaric when the video shows the victim close up, and they include the money shot?

Victor said...

I haven't seen - and won't watch - Rice cold-cock his fiancée with a left hook that Joe Frazier would envy.

I saw the complete lack of love and respect on Rice's part once on TV when, after whatever happened in the elevator, instead of being concerned for her, he dragged her out of the elevator like a sack of meat.

Who does something like that, with a person he supposedly loves?

And @ Mart - great comment.

aimai said...

Booman Tribune has such a dreadful, moronic post about this topic that I have almost sworn off his site. He did the same thing about campus rape issues a month or so ago. He seems to have some kind of blind spot when it comes to women and violent crime. He goes to some weird, wishy washy, pearl clutching space where he simultaneously bemoans the further "abuse" of the woman while describing her several times as "lying" to the police as though her (not atypical) reaction to the demands/threats of her abuser makes her equally guilty with him in the entire matter.

It was just bizarre. Obviously there is something different about using an image to "shock the conscience" or rally public opinion and straight up exploitation and pornographication of the viewer. Other shocking images? Funerals all over the Arab world and the graphic used to show the British Public what they had never seen before: the terrifying conditions of the slave ships. Should people avoid showing the world as it really is in order to protect the dead person, or the abused person from getting the justice that publicity gets for them?

Steve M. said...

BooMan: "Her family loses its main source of income, perhaps forever, and this is supposed to vindicate her right not to be abused." Yikes -- that's the same argument Politico's Glenn Thrush has (rightly) been criticized for making.

Victor said...

Yeah, I read that too.
I don't comment there often, so I didn't.
But his take really bothered me.

Who's looking out for Mrs. Rice now that Rice is suspended, and, imo, has little chance of getting back in the league?

Dog-fighting was bad enough.
But cold-cocking your fiancée is a whole different realm.

I don't think any team will pick him up, because they won't want to deal with the public backlash.

I'm very concerned about his wife.
I hope people in authority are, too.

Victor said...

Sorry, Steve.
I don't know why every time I post a comment, it duplicates.

But your isn't the only site this happens on.

My apologies.