Brandon Marshall, gender violence and the unintended victims

Advanced poker players use a technique called the “block bet” in which they lay out a small bet before an opponent they believe has superior cards will bet. They do this in hoping that the opponent will only call their bet, and thus allowing them to see another card at a cheaper price. Because I’ve been in the feminist movement long enough and have seen incidence after incidence of gender violence being constructed and deconstructed, this here is my very own block bet regarding the Brandon Marshall stabbing incidence, before anyone else — and particularly so-called “Men’s Rights Advocates” can spin the news, pointing out that men are also victims of women’s violence, and thus any concerns the feminist movement has regarding violence against women is misplaced and moot.

By now, the majority of you have heard about last night’s stabbing of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, something the police alleged was done by his wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall. If it is true that Nogami-Marshall stabbed her husband, she should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, in doing so, we must not forget that Marshall’s stabbing is an isolated incidence, yet men’s physical and sexual violence against women is an epidemic, something that happens so often that the majority of stories won’t even make the headlines, as Marshall’s stabbing did.

Stories like those of Marshall and the Duke Lacrosse rape case will distract us. They represent the exceptions rather than the rules, and instead of concerning ourselves with the real issues of gender violence and asking questions like why Marshall’s wife was provoked to stab him in the first place (he, after all, has a history of domestic violence), or how many real rape incidences are taking place if there are false rape accusations, we turn a blind eye on bigger issues of gender violence.

That athletes are sometimes involved in cases of violence is nothing new. Marshall wasn’t the first and probably won’t be the last — we can’t help that. What we can help, however, is controlling the narrative when these incidences take place, and focus on the real issues, rather than the superficial fall outs and possibilities that might happen after the fact. A prime example of this is the murder of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams, who was killed during a New Year’s Eve celebration in 2007. While the majority of the conversations revolves around who was guilty and who was not guilty, an underlying narrative of hypermasculinity and gender violence was completely ignored. Had Marshall, who was there that night to celebrate with Williams, not challenged another group of men to a fight, Williams probably wouldn’t have been killed. Had another young man in Marshall’s group not reached out and groped a woman in that Denver nightclub, things wouldn’t have escalated and Williams probably wouldn’t have been killed. In short, Williams, much like Marshall now and the majority of Americans, are victims of unintended sexual and gender violence and hypermasculinity. Yet, after each incidence takes place, we busy ourselves with talking about superficial facts, rather than focusing on a need to curb a culture of violence and hypermasculinity. (You can see the Sports Illustrated article on Williams’ death and the details leading up to it from the link. Try, if you’re interested, to find the hypermasculine culture and sexual objectification of the woman in question. )

When I got a call from a friend this morning regarding Marshall’s stabbing, like other Dolphins fans, my first reaction wasn’t whether this was an incidence of domestic violence and what we could do to provide couples with better tools to solve intimate relationship issues. My first concern was whether Marshall would be playing next season, remembering that the Dolphins gave up two draft picks and $45 million for Marshall’s services. Likewise, conversations surrounding Marshall, whether on sports radio or ESPN, have been about whether Marshall was worth the price the Dolphins paid. While this is understandable, as fans have emotional interests in Marshall’s ability to perform, and the Dolphins organization has financial interests in Marshall’s health, what is also shows is that gender violence affects us all, on one level or another. While Marshall and Nogami-Marshall are direct victims of gender violence in this case, there are also many other unintended victims.

The list of direct and indirect victims of gender violence is a long one: the women whose health and lives as well as autonomy are at risk — and in the rare instances when they strike back, as Nogami-Marshall did, the original perpetrators also become victims, as Marshall did; the Marshall and Nogami families, who have to deal with the heartbreak of tending to one family member in the hospital while the other is possibly headed to prison; the National Football league having to deal with public-relations nightmares and defend the behaviors of its players; the Dolphins organization, as a whole, which stands to lose money and fan support if Marshall does not perform well because of his injury; his teammates, in turn, are financially and emotionally affected if the team perform badly next season should he not be able to play; and, finally, fans themselves who live and die with the performance of their teams, emotionally affected because of the possible negative outcome for the team. In just one incidence, two people are directly affected, and dozens of people indirectly affected, with thousands more affected in smaller ways.

Take the number of unintended domestic violence victims and multiply it by 1.3 million — the number of estimated domestic violence cases that take place each year — and that does not account for incidences of men on men violence, and this epidemic becoming something that we all, including MRA’s, need to be concerned with. While the feminist movement and the effort to men’s violence against women should always be focused on women because they are most directly and severely affected, we must also account for the effects domestic violence has on our economy, workforce, families and children.

Add that number to the millions of cases of men’s violence on other men – a product of a culture of hypermasculinity and inability to solve problems by other means – and it becomes a moral imperative for us all, whether feminists, sports fans, employers, taxpayers, Williams and his family, or MRA’s, to help young men find new means and meanings to practicing masculinity without hurting women and other men. It becomes our responsibility to speak up against gender violence and mentor young people to respect their intimate partners. It becomes our obligation to hold everyone to a higher standard of conduct in our daily interactions with others, which often also means re-thinking about we conduct ourselves and treat other based on gender.

The Brandon Marshall stabbing incidence is more than just a narrative of who stabbed whom, Super Bowls and touchdowns — it is comprised of many layers involving gender, hypermasculinity and the gender straight jacket that has, for too long, limited men to act like anything other than what the socially-constructed masculinity prescribed. Until we begin embracing feminism and allow young men to take off that straight jacket, more girls will suffer and more women will die, and along the way, we’ll all become unintended victims of an epidemic that affect us all.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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