Ray Rice Halloween costumes are not funny

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Halloween always reminds me that there are things far scarier than ghosts and goblins, things like racism and misogyny that persist when the costumes are packed away and November 1st rolls around.

ICYMI, yesterday more photos surfaced of couples costumed as Janay and Ray Rice for Halloween, complete with blackface and bruises. Still others — including a white child, also in blackface — dragged blow-up dolls behind them. The hashtags that appeared alongside the photos on Twitter and Instagram? #hilarious #BestCostume #funny #lmfao #hitabitch #shewasknockedupnowshesknockedout and, inexplicably, #domesticviolenceisnotfunny #butmycostumewas. 

The message couldn’t be clearer: in 2014, violence against black women is seen as nothing more than a joke. As Wagatwe summed up on Twitter, “Yet another reminder of how black women are not seen as humans, but props (see: black blowup doll) and our pain & trauma as punchlines.” As Janay Rice herself said, “It’s sad, that my suffering amuses others.”

The Cut reported that “no one found the racist and sexist costume amusing” but if you check the comments, retweets, favorites, and hashtags, it seems like quite a few people did.

Still others suggested that, while they don’t think domestic violence is funny, Janay Rice’s failure to condemn her husband or leave him or pursue a criminal case against him (or any of a dozen other things people who are not Janay Rice feel Janay Rice should have done) meant that she essentially got what she was asking for (e.g., “mocking the situation is wrong. but she is defending him and what he did. that is wrong”). So, since some confusion seems to remain, let me be clear: It is not a victim’s responsibility to condemn her partner. It is not her job to be a “model victim.” It is not okay for people who are not Janay Rice (or Rihanna, or any of the other famous black domestic violence survivors we seem to hold to a higher standard of “perfect victimhood” than anyone else) to insist that she be a role model to other young women who may become victims of violence.

Janay Rice never “asked for” any of this — not to be beaten, not to be subjected to the public’s surveillance, not to be the butt of Halloween “jokes,” not to be a role model/inspiration/symbol. Anyone who’s not Janay Rice needs to stop talking about what she should/shouldn’t do and pack away those respectability politics, right alongside those terrifying costumes.

IMG_4962Dana Bolger is a founding co-director of Know Your IX and contributor to Feministing. She tweets at @danabolger.

St. Louis, MO

Dana Bolger is a senior editor at Feministing.com and the executive director of Know Your IX, a national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation. She's a 1L at Yale Law School.

Dana Bolger is Executive Director of Know Your IX and a senior editor at Feministing.

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