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September 10, 2014

Ray Rice and Female Privilege

So this whole kerfuffle over Ray Rice clocking his then-fiancé puzzles the Editorial Staff mightily.

One the one hand, seeing a guy that size literally knock a physically smaller/weaker person unconscious and then casually drag her across the floor is sickening. But the calls for boycotting the NFL (or suggestions that watching football amounts to "co-signing" violence against women, or even more bizarrely, that doing away with football is some kind of Important Step In The Fight Against Domestic Violence) are just mind numbingly stupid.

Does anyone seriously believe we'd be having this conversation if Ray Rice had clocked a physically smaller man? The thought is laughable. Football players commit crimes all the time. Some of them are minor, some are truly reprehensible. This is not news:

It has been an awful offseason for the NFL.

Twenty-seven active players have been arrested in total so far, most notably star New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Since the Super Bowl on February 3, NFL players have been arrested for common crimes like DUI and public intoxication, but also for things like street racing, child abuse, and trying to solicit a prostitute.

In 1999, there was even a study that compared relative crime rates between NFL players and a relevant sample of young men. Inconveniently for the uber-outraged, the study found that normalized offense rates (incidents per 100,000) for NFL players were less than half those in the general population (see bottom line in the table below):

striking.png

table.png

Why should it matter more when NFL players commit violent acts against women (at rates that - at least in 1999 - were half those in the relevant general population!) than when they commit violent acts against men (and especially, physically smaller men)? Isn't this simply a form of blatant female privilege to match the oft-cited male privilege that apparently needs to be "checked" because.... equality!!!?

Grim observes:

Sometimes the only way to get a man to listen to you is to knock him upside the head. That's true for other men, too: once in a while, a man just needs a good knock on his door.

The double-standard is wise and proper, though, because if he knocks you back he could kill you.

We're not sure we agree with Grim. It's actually fairly rare for men to be physically disciplined these days, and in any case "the end justifies the means" isn't a terribly strong argument. The Marine Corps seems to be able to get men to pay attention without hitting them.

We're not really sure what the feminist argument for treating women differently in these cases would be. There's a clear legal precedent for punishing battery that leads to serious injuries more seriously than cases where the injuries are minor or even nonexistent. Don't we already have a rule in place for dealing with such cases that doesn't involve a sexist double standard that argues that women are weaker and less capable of defending themselves than men (except, of course, in combat situations and when applying for any job with physical fitness/strength standards)?

Sounds to us like someone needs to totally check their female privilege.

Posted by Cassandra at September 10, 2014 12:02 PM

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Comments

Given the history of the Raven's organization (re:Ray Lewis), I find this particular saga more than sickening hypocritical. While I agree that what Rice did was not *nice*, and I agree with Grim that the double-standard is in place because, for the vast majority, a man is quite likely to kill with a blow to a woman's head. However, self-defense is a personal device every person has the right to use when being attacked. Should he have hauled off and cold-cocked her?
Um, no.
I have seen many bouncers dealing with out-of-control drunk women without having to resort to extreme violence such as this. It can be done, and I believe that a man has at least a small bit of responsibility to weigh his response to the actual amount of force he is receiving.

That said, I'm thinking that there are quite a few recruits who, upon getting knocked upside the head by pugel sticks, more quickly learned the "Miyagi Defense" than from all previous instructions from the DI.
0>:~]

Posted by: DL Sly at September 10, 2014 01:10 PM

The USMC is a hotbed of corporal punishment, I would say. Ask any Marine how many pushups he's done, or how long he's been made to stand locked up at attention or parade rest to make a point about submission to authority. Boot camp involves punishing amounts of it to introduce you to the concept, and it's all backed by the threat of even greater degrees of punishment if you don't comply and push.

Best men in the world come out of that process, some of them. Is that an end that justifies the means? What if it's the only means that works? What if it's the correct end for a man, to become that kind of man?

We don't have the same superstructure in the general environment, but it still does a frat boy a lot of good if his boorish behavior occasionally receives a sharp, physical correction. It's immediate feedback, and if society supports and backs it, it's all the stronger and works all the better.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 01:55 PM

I also dispute that there's anything that needs justification here. If 'becoming a good man' is the proper end for a human male, and this is a means to that end, then the means itself is good from the perspective of the male.

This is for the same reason that, if 'remaining a squirrel while producing more squirrels' is the end of being a squirrel, things that help attain that end -- food, introductions to squirrels of the opposite sex -- are good for the squirrel from the perspective of the squirrel. This is true even if they are initially scary to the squirrel, such as being captured from my attic and removed to a park filled with lots of squirrels of the opposite sex. The squirrel might not have chosen to be trapped freely, if asked, but it's still a good from the perspective of the squirrel. It's just that the squirrel can't recognize it consciously.

Someday that frat boy may thank the woman who walloped him to teach him not to speak to women that way. At least in his heart, when he's older and better, with a wife and perhaps with daughters of his own.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 02:04 PM

Ask any Marine how many pushups he's done, or how long he's been made to stand locked up at attention or parade rest to make a point about submission to authority.

That's different from knocking recruits out with a punch to the face, though. Having spent 3 years at Parris Island in the RTBs, I know you don't get to hit recruits.

There's also a difference in that recruits are there because they signed up voluntarily for a regimen of physical training. Dating or marrying doesn't involve the same assumption of the normal risks of the activity :p

I can't sign off on your Jezebel author slapping her romantic partners at will whilst fulminating over men doing the same thing. I'm betting that you wouldn't endorse a mere slap from a man that didn't cause any physical damage, and also not all men require hitting to focus their attention. Rationalizing hitting someone because "sometimes the only good way to get a man to listen is to knock him upside the head" doesn't make sense to me.

It's an excuse: what if he *is* listening, but simply disagrees? Do you get to bully him into submission simply b/c he's male?

That makes no sense to me, Grim.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 10, 2014 02:20 PM

What if it's the only means that works?

It's not, though. So that's not a good argument for doing it.

Say it *were* the only method that worked? You could make a moral argument that agreeing that someone else has legitimate authority over you to include hitting you any time he/she feels offended is a voluntary assumption of the risk (similar to people who agree to be dominated because it's a lifestyle thing, 50 shades of stupidity-style).

That still wouldn't justify women hitting men (but not vice-versa).

When I got married, I told my spouse that if he ever raised a hand to me, I would be gone so fast it would make his head spin. Doesn't matter whether he felt he needed to "get my attention" or not.

And I would have left. Immediately.

I would never hit him - not just because he's an adult, but because he deserves more respect than that. If I can't make him listen, that's a relationship issue. Not a justification for slapping him silly any time I feel he's not paying rapt attention to my every utterance.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 02:26 PM

However, self-defense is a personal device every person has the right to use when being attacked. Should he have hauled off and cold-cocked her?
Um, no.

What he did wouldn't meet the legal test for legitimate self defense because he used way more force than needed to defend himself:

A person claiming self-defense must prove at trial that the self-defense was justified. Generally a person may use reasonable force when it appears reasonably necessary to prevent an impending injury. A person using force in self-defense should use only so much force as is required to repel the attack. Nondeadly force can be used to repel either a nondeadly attack or a deadly attack. Deadly Force may be used to fend off an attacker who is using deadly force but may not be used to repel an attacker who is not using deadly force.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 10, 2014 02:30 PM

Does anyone seriously believe we'd be having this conversation if Ray Rice had clocked a physically smaller man? The thought is laughable.

I'm not entirely sure about that, at least if there was the same video available. What struck me about the video was not so much the size difference between Rice and Ms. Palmer but the difference in what I'd either call "professionalism" or "lethality". Ms. Palmer may be trying to "assault" Rice but she seems to be just flailing away and it looks like even if Rice just stood there she wouldn't do much damage. Rice's response, on the other hand, is incredibly fast, focused, and powerful.

If the same video surfaced of the same exchange between Rice and a man of Ms. Palmer's size and martial incompetence, we wouldn't be having a discussion about domestic violence but I suspect we would be having a discussion about proportional response in self-defense situations. Or, as LeCharles Bentley put it:

He could've killed that girl. They need to sports science the force of that punch. NFL players are STRONG... Like very strong...

All that said, yes, we are looking at what could be an uncomfortable situation for feminism. If we can't claim special privileges for women just for being women then we are left with only the "smaller weaker" argument and that has nothing to do with "domestic violence". An interesting way to "deconstruct" this issue might be to walk through how we would feel about a similar incident involving a same-sex couple, especially two women.

Posted by: Elise at September 10, 2014 02:32 PM

The Greek for meek means strength under control.
Chivalry, honor. Or, as an old dog soldier would say, "I could kill you, but I choose not to."

Self respect can shrug off disrespect. Probably requires patience, and a sense of humor.

If not, there is always endless psychodrama, and Jihad.

Of course, only the last one left gets the joke. Now that is funny.

Posted by: neal at September 10, 2014 02:51 PM

The Greek for meek means strength under control.

This observation has a lot to do with why I would leave my husband if he ever hit me. I expect self control from adults, and would lose respect for him if he felt it necessary to hit me. This is why God made words :p

Grim's framework works so long as one man is in legitimate authority over another, but it fails miserably in any situation where that is simply not the case. Then, it's just plain bullying: "I'm bigger than you, so you have to listen to me or I'll hurt you."

Which is no moral argument at all.

I also think it sells men short to claim they can't/won't pay attention without being hit. Men do, every single day, pay attention to all sorts of things without being hit. If they're incapable of that much self control, if they truly won't listen unless they're literally beaten into submission, what does that say about men in general?

First of all, it says I'm not safe around men unless there just happens to be a big, strong, benevolent man around to do the beating. Which is just nonsense, and a depressingly reductive view of masculinity. I spanked both my sons (one more than the other) because - as children - they lacked the social conditioning that enables adults to work and play well with others.

But spanking was neither my first resort, nor my second or even third resort. And my sons both minded me just fine, even when they grew larger than I am. Moral authority worked. So did modeling correct behavior and ensuring that they knew breaking rules would have undesirable consequences (not the least of which was the dreaded, "I'm disappointed in your behavior, son.")

Posted by: Cassandra at September 10, 2014 03:12 PM

If we can't claim special privileges for women just for being women then we are left with only the "smaller weaker" argument and that has nothing to do with "domestic violence".

BINGO. It also has all sorts of implications for workplace "equality" of the unearned sort :p

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 03:15 PM

A couple of comments completely out of order

Does anyone seriously believe we'd be having this conversation if Ray Rice had clocked a physically smaller man? The thought is laughable.

1) A similarly sized man as Ms Palmer would still likely be physically stronger.

2) A similarly sized man as Ms Palmer would have no expectation that they could strike someone of Rice's size with impunity.

Football players commit crimes all the time. Some of them are minor, some are truly reprehensible.

And it always annoys me that the professional sports commissioners are left to deal with that within the sport. The NFL/MLB/NBA doesn't have the options of light/heavy enforcement if you put the sons of bitches in jail in the first place.

However, self-defense is a personal device every person has the right to use when being attacked.

I didn't really see anything like an "attack" by Ms Palmer. She kind of flails weakly at him outside the elevator. I saw her raise her elbow prior to Rice's first punch but I can't tell if that is a defensive flinch to him "jumping*" at her. She does attempt, futily, to knock away his first punch. I'm inclined to think that move was defensive and not offensive.

Even if it was an offensive move , self defense is limited to proportionality. Some have argued that after Rice's first punch he backs away and tries to disengage. Ms Palmer then lunges after him.

That is true as far as it goes. At the same time, her right hand is still holding onto her purse string (and maybe a cell phone?) and her left hand is down by her waist. She's pissed off, but she's not a physical threat.

Not to a man who is an elite physical specimen even among elite physical specimens. She presents no reasonable physical threat to him without a weapon of some kind.

Lastly. I'm not exactly certain why the release of the video makes a damn bit of difference to the Ravens or the NFL. Exactly what did they think happened between them entering the elevator and him dragging her out unconscious? That he playfully booped her nose and she fainted from the cuteness of it all? Who the hell didn't expect to see a vicious punch?


*The chest pop meant to feign drawing back a punch to see if the other person will flinch and give away that they are scared.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 10, 2014 03:22 PM

So I realized I kind of went off on a tangent. I've been trying to write about the Ray Rice story (not getting anywhere) but the stuff I was writing about was rattling around in my head.

We're not really sure what the feminist argument for treating women differently in these cases would be.

Well, I'm pretty sure it would go something like this: When one man hits another man, that's individual violence. When one woman hits another woman (not that that ever, ever, ever happens), that's individual violence. But when any man hits any woman, that's men in general keeping women in general in line. So long as some men are hitting some women - especially if men are hitting women *because* they're women - then most men don't have to hit the women in their lives. Just knowing violence is "on offer" is enough to keep all women, even the un-hit, in line. Therefore, it is uniquely horrible for a man to hit a woman.

It is, I think, analogous to the idea that a white person killing a Black person is worse than one Black person killing another. Or, for that matter, to the idea that apartheid in South Africa was uniquely horrible, far worse than, say, the Chinese government oppressing its own people. It rests on a world view that is inaccessible to me but that seems very handy for justifying outrage over what the "viewers" want to be outraged over and for ignoring what the "viewers" would rather not think about.

At any rate, this world view also allows for "workplace 'equality' of the unearned sort". It's not that women deserve special treatment (never being hit by men, getting into combat units even if they can't carry the load) because they're women; they deserve it because the world is set up to make their lives far more difficult than the lives of (white) men and society must compensate for that greater difficulty. Not compensate them so much as compensate some universal balance.

Posted by: Elise at September 10, 2014 03:31 PM

Lastly. I'm not exactly certain why the release of the video makes a damn bit of difference to the Ravens or the NFL. Exactly what did they think happened between them entering the elevator and him dragging her out unconscious? That he playfully booped her nose and she fainted from the cuteness of it all? Who the hell didn't expect to see a vicious punch?

Actually, we've always known what happened. The police report refers to Rice "striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious”. Plus the video released months ago, showing him dragging her out of the elevator does not exactly make him look like a concerned fiance in a tragic situation.

Someone I read on this (don't have the link) argued that hearing something happened and actually seeing it happen are very different and I think there's something to that. I also think that the sort of miasma around the incident prior to Monday was that the two of them had a "fight" and it got out of hand. So they were both equally at fault, let's move on. This approach was facilitated by Ms. Palmer's apology for her part in the incident and validated by all three "governing authorities" - NFL, Ravens, Atlantic County Prosecutor - going light on Rice.

Monday's video release made it pretty clear that the "fight" was less "Rocky" and more "Bambi Meets Godzilla". That made the "both at fault" fantasy harder to hang on to. The NFL and the Ravens responded to what they saw.

What no one seems to be talking about is the fact that the Atlantic Country Prosecutor saw the video released Monday *before* he gave Rice the sweetheart deal. Somehow the video that has the NFL and the Ravens and, apparently, half the country up in arms was shrugged off by this guy.

Posted by: Elise at September 10, 2014 03:42 PM

"What he did wouldn't meet the legal test for legitimate self defense because he used way more force than needed to defend himself:"

I'm sorry, does this mean that I need to check with Eric Holder now before I can consider whether or not I should defend myself against what I perceive to be an attack? Cause I don't see that in the Constitution much less within the laws of God, Man or Nature. At what point am I supposed to define an *attack* and an "attack" from which I feel the need to defend myself?

As I said, "Should he have hauled off and cold-cocked her?
Um, no."

But who gives anyone but Rice the authority to decide when he feels the need to defend himself? Am I defending what he did? I stated that pretty clearly. But to say that just because she's smaller, didn't look like she hit him very hard, yada yada yada, means that he has now lost any semblance of the right to defend himself, well, seems a bit harsh. Did he go overboard? Lose his temper? Yeah, drunks do that. They also strike out at people who are bigger than they are even though they know deep down that they haven't the physical power to cause damage.
Cause they're drunk.

Posted by: DL Sly at September 10, 2014 03:50 PM

I think we'll have to disagree about this one, Cass. I'm with Sly on the law of God, Man, and Nature. What works with young men is sometimes sweet Reason, but sometimes they get in a place where they need a good smack instead. Society ought to back that up where we agree that they're being vicious and their behavior is unacceptable, so that the reproof will have its best effect. It's what works, and I'm not convinced that it isn't sometimes the only thing that works.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 04:31 PM

means that he has now lost any semblance of the right to defend himself,

It does not mean he lost *all* semblance of the right to defend himself. But he never had unlimited power to defend himself in any way he deems fit either.

He may defend himself. That is, he may do what is reasonably necessary to stop the attack on himself.

If you haven't seen it already, Andrew Branca, has a good analysis of the issues involved.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 10, 2014 04:46 PM

I'm sorry, does this mean that I need to check with Eric Holder now before I can consider whether or not I should defend myself against what I perceive to be an attack?

Eric Holder has absolutely nothing to do with any of this. Self defense laws (like most criminal law) are state laws, so you're governed by the laws of the state you live in.

And also centuries of American and English common law, which is where most of this comes from. It's not new.

Cause I don't see that in the Constitution much less within the laws of God, Man or Nature.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights have nothing to do with this, either. Self defense is a defense to a (usually State) charge of battery or murder. To assert the defense, you have to prove that the means used to defend yourself were both reasonable (in light of what a reasonable person would consider necessary) and warranted (you actually *were* being attacked).

State laws vary very little on this, because it's based on common sense.

At what point am I supposed to define an *attack* and an "attack" from which I feel the need to defend myself?

If a toddler smacks you, you don't get to pull out a gun and shoot the toddler. If you're 6'7" and 300 lbs, you don't get to kill an "assailant" armed with a water gun because neither of these actions is reasonably necessary to defend yourself.

But who gives anyone but Rice the authority to decide when he feels the need to defend himself?

The laws of all 50 states for one. Again, this isn't new.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 05:21 PM

"That is, he may do what is reasonably necessary to stop the attack on himself. "

And for this over-stepping of those boundaries, he was charged with assault.

"But he never had unlimited power to defend himself in any way he deems fit either."

I will have to disagree with you here, YAG. I will always reserve to myself any and all means I feel I need to defend myself.
Period.
However, I, as a cognizant, functioning (Hush, Cass) adult, also realize that if I choose to over-step the boundaries of proper response, I may/will suffer those consequences that society may impose upon me.

Thanks for the link. I will check it out.
0>:~]

Posted by: DL Sly at September 10, 2014 05:22 PM

Again, you and I will disagree on this. For one, we are not speaking from the same plane of thought. You are speaking from technicalities and legalities of the laws of Man.
I am speaking from the realities that existed since before such laws were written, and still exist in the world today.
As for being able to shoot a toddler just because he slapped me, well, yes, to put it bluntly I can. Should I?
Well, of course not!
That's called being an adult.

And, fwiw, my reference to Holder was simply as a placeholder for every the "Law of the Land"...I realize he's not exactly the prime specimen for such a reference, but he's the Big, Stinky Cheese for that.
0>:~]

Posted by: DL Sly at September 10, 2014 05:29 PM

I'm with Sly on the law of God, Man, and Nature.

Never mind that pesky New Testament? :p

What works with young men is sometimes sweet Reason, but sometimes they get in a place where they need a good smack instead. Society ought to back that up where we agree that they're being vicious and their behavior is unacceptable, so that the reproof will have its best effect. It's what works, and I'm not convinced that it isn't sometimes the only thing that works.

It doesn't always work, Grim. History is full of young men who didn't pay attention to being smacked either.

I will agree with you thus far: I believe that in a very primitive sense, people need to believe that the threat of force is a viable option. But that force can take many forms.

Justice for most of history has included punishments like maiming, hanging, etc. and they didn't result in no crime. Corporal punishment also doesn't work all the time. It's a tool, but not by any means a panacea. Physical punishment didn't deter many criminals. There were plenty of habitual offenders then, too.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 05:30 PM

Well we all know that people *can* do all sorts of things (rape, murder, steal, lie, etc). There was never any argument that they couldn't do these things.

The argument here is whether doing those things is considered moral and/or justifiable by society, not whether individuals possess the ability to do them. That's kind of obvious from that fact that they *do* these things all the time.

And once society decides what it is or is not willing to accept, the question becomes, "How should society punish behavior it considers unacceptable?"

The standard here is pretty clear and of long standing. It is grounded in good sense, long experience, and also morality (sorry, but it would be morally wrong to cause more injury to someone than they ever threatened you with, absent some compelling reason). And as for the laws of God, Christians are taught to turn the other cheek:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

There's nothing in the 10 Commandments granting people the right to respond disproportionately. Even the old testament "eye for an eye" was proportionate. It wasn't "two eyes for an eye" or "take my eye and I'll take your life". Yes, you can reserve unto yourself whatever you wish (murderers and rapists do this, though obviously you are neither). But that's really not in dispute.

People can and will disagree about "what's moral". Laws represent an agreed upon standard that is codified to help people understand the rights and responsibilities that follow from living in a community. There's often a large overlap between law and morality, but not always.


Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 05:41 PM

I need to defend myself.

The operative word there is "need". I don't begrudge people, in any way, shape, or form, what is necessary to defend themselves.

What Rice did went far beyond what was needed to defend himself (assuming that Ms Palmer was the aggressor).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 10, 2014 05:49 PM

Oh, and on a tangent: Turn the other cheek wasn't a statement on assault. At the time, the left hand was considered unclean. To be struck on the right cheek, by someone's right hand it to recieve a backhanded slap. This is not an attack, it's an insult.

By offering the other cheek you do two things. 1) You don't return an insult with an insult. Thus on your part, at least, de-escalating the situation. 2) You deny the other person the ability to insult you in this manner again and force the other person to deal with you as an equal. You are essentially daring the other person to commit an assault. Which, given the punishments for doing so, would be highly unlikely.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 10, 2014 05:56 PM

I did not know that, YAG! That's what I love about this place - I learn new things every day. That also clears up my confusion on this oft quoted instruction.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 05:59 PM

Never mind that pesky New Testament? :p

I am guided by the Lord's example as well as advice.

Jesus never said not to hit people. He just said to forgive them as you would wish to be forgiven. The frat boy in my example is receiving a kind of blessing, though he doesn't know it at once. If the young lady can forgive him, she is doing the Lord's work as far as I can see.

Again, we simply don't agree about this. I regard violence as being at times the just and righteous thing, the best thing, the proper thing. At other times, in other ways, it can be a great harm. But we have erred too far, I believe, in fear of it. There are times and places where it is exactly the right thing to do.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 07:43 PM

we simply don't agree about this. I regard violence as being at times the just and righteous thing, the best thing, the proper thing. At other times, in other ways, it can be a great harm. But we have erred too far, I believe, in fear of it. There are times and places where it is exactly the right thing to do.

There is no reasonable construction of my writing (especially on the war on terror) over the last decade which should lead anyone to believe I think violence is off limits.

You often seem to think violence is a good answer to many more situations than I do. Where I disagree with you is with your frequently expressed opinion that more people should commit acts of violence when they think it's warranted (except of course for the police, who apparently should never resort to it - I've never figured this one out and never will).

My observation of "most people" is that they are violent far more often from a serious lack of self control than from deliberate reflection and careful consideration. If I shared that view of humankind, I might agree with you.

But from what I can see, people are too often self-interested and very good and making up elaborate rationalizations for doing what they clearly know to be wrong. I don't think encouraging this tendency to be a good thing.

And judging by most of what I read on the Internet, the idea of people who lack the basic ability to think critically being more prone to react violently to the stresses and strains of daily life terrifies me. I don't think countries where people resort to violence frequently are better than we are. I think they're mostly worse and would never want to live there.

And most of all, I think the ones who suffer most are the weak and defenseless. I have not observed this wonderful state of affairs where noble, but violent men generally protect the weak in these countries. And I don't want my country to be more like theirs.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 08:33 PM

The reciprocal situation for an NFL player cold-cocking an ordinary woman is something like a woman who uses poison, or attacks her husband when he is asleep and therefore at an insuperable physical disadvantage. I can't condone either action unless a woman has a really convincing reason why she can't leave instead.

But then I don't think of fisticuffs as even remotely acceptable for anything less than a response to imminent criminality. That's what comes of being raised female, I guess. I've never even seen a fistfight.

Has anyone else seen the Matthew McConaughey movie "Mud"? It was on TV last night. A lot of the tension involves a 14-year-old boy who instinctively jumps on two older guys at different times, to stop violence against a woman. In the first case, the older boy is only slightly larger, and backs off instantly in the face of righteous violence. No one is offended. In the second case, the full-grown man is a brutal monster who immediately knocks the kid out, though the movie minimizes the effect of the punch. In real life, he'd likely have done serious damage, and I'd have been in favor of prosecution. The 14-year-old was gallant and ready to fight his own fights without whining, but the fight was spectacularly unequal.

Re Cass's observation that she would instantly leave if her husband struck her: I agree. Cass, you were mentioning at Grim's place that leaving is also a tool in the toolbox for a complete failure of communication. It strikes me that it would be good to have something between tolerating the silent treatment and simply moving out and divorcing. Similarly, there should be a lot of ways to approach any conflict that fall between ignoring a provocation and punching someone out.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 10, 2014 08:43 PM

I have not observed this wonderful state of affairs where noble, but violent men generally protect the weak[.]

And I, of course, observe no other world. Not directly.

I read about such worlds often, though. Those worlds seem impoverished. They lack nobility, they lack honor, they lack grace, and they lack something of true love.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 09:37 PM

But then I don't think of fisticuffs as even remotely acceptable for anything less than a response to imminent criminality. That's what comes of being raised female, I guess. I've never even seen a fistfight.

Honestly, I'm at a complete loss to understand how anyone could believe being raised to be a spoiled, entitled princess who physically attacks men when she feels angry or upset and exhibits not one iota of adult self control is something to be admired?

That's not "spirited" - it's just plain boorish: akin to the vicious shrew who cuts men to shreds with her poisoned tongue simply because she can. That kind of behavior's not "cute" or funny, or anything else except pathetic and contemptible. I don't respect people who can't control their tempers (self-description: "violence was encouraged in me; people always found my temper, with its foot-stomping, drink-tossing, vase-smashing theatrics, to be hilarious, largely because I am so small") and I would be deeply, deeply ashamed to admit having acted that way even once (let alone multiple times).

Surely there are better way to show "spirit" than hiding behind the old fashioned practice of teaching men never to hit females? There's no bravery here - she's *counting* on not being treated as she treats others simply because she's female. IOW, she's counting on the very kind of "privilege" she decries in men.

I don't understand parents who think raising kids this way is a good idea.

Learning to control one's temper is generally a skill people mostly have acquired by the age of 6. We then have 12 more years to perfect our self-mastery.

If you're in a relationship with a ... I hesitate to use the word "man" ... who will only listen to you if you hit him first, you should run, not walk, away from that relationship. Lack of self control is not normal masculinity, nor is it a quality I would ever want to deal with in anyone who played a significant part in my life.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 10:15 PM

There is plenty of honor, nobility, grace and love in the real world, Grim. I see these qualities every day.

Posted by: Cass at September 10, 2014 10:26 PM

But it is the real world, Cass. It is my world. It is the world I touch, the world I see. I am a living man, for now, and I make these things real wherever I go. Of course it is a world in which -- as far as the eye can see -- these things are the normal condition of the world.

I remember another world, the world I knew when I was young and weak. In that world my father did as I do, but he was not always around. Yet he showed me the way.

Posted by: Grim at September 10, 2014 10:33 PM

But it is the real world, Cass. It is my world. It is the world I touch, the world I see. I am a living man, for now, and I make these things real wherever I go. Of course it is a world in which -- as far as the eye can see -- these things are the normal condition of the world.

I think we are talking about different things, and will have to agree to disagree once again.

From my perspective, the world is a much larger place than I (or you) can ever experience. I lack the ability to create the world in my preferred image - I can influence a small part of it, but I don't think that's the same as saying I've changed the world everyone else experiences.

But I do understand - I think - what you are trying to say.

Posted by: Cass at September 11, 2014 10:20 AM

}}} We're not really sure what the feminist argument for treating women differently in these cases would be.

"I'm a female chauvinist pig, that's why"

What? Oh, I thought you were looking for the truthful, honest, forthright response.

That's one thing I like about you, Cass, you do see, often at least, the sexism behind much of modern "feminist egalitarianism". The same kind found in Animal Farm: "Some genders are more equal than others"

Women want all the benefits of being a man, but when it comes to anything negative, "What? Me? No, no thank you. I'll not have any of that..."

I first noticed it myself when visiting a friend of mine who lived in NYC back in 1986. His GF at the time, "Jill", was an outspoken feminist, who had written articles about feminist subjects and been published in one or more journals in the Tri-State area -- probably nothing big and notable, but the point: she was quite ardent about it.

While visiting them, the subject of a dinner party wherein some "male sexist pig" came up who had offended Jill with some comments he'd made (No, no details as to the nature of the comments -- just that she had gotten into a high dudgeon about them). So she dumped a plate full of spaghetti over his head.

I didn't say anything at the time, I'm not even sure if it occurred to me right away -- but I did, at least shortly thereafter, consider what would have happened if *I* had done that.

The answer clearly varies, but there is always a significant chance that there would have ensued a physical altercation. And that possibility is something that constrains all men from taking a verbal disagreement into physical territory: "Am I prepared to challenge this person on a physical level". And generally, if you do this in polite company (as she did), you're considered boorish and rude, even if there was significant provocation.

And if he'd turned around and punched "Jill" out?

Right. She would have been the first one to scream out and splutter "...but I'm a WOMAN!?!?", and everyone would have thought ill of him for striking a woman.

As I understand it HE even apologized shortly thereafter.

Now, does this mean I think there should or shouldn't be a rule against this? No, not at all.

But there needs to be a counterbalancing rule, too -- men should never, ever initiate a physical altercation with a female -- but a female should also never, ever take a verbal disagreement into physical territory, either.

And this is hardly a bad deal for women -- because most of the time they can more than amply handle themselves with insults and psychological attacks -- usually, I'd suspect, better than men can, because women are much more *LIKELY* to deal with other women verbally rather than physically, and thus have a lot more practice at it.

And I think that is a fair, equitable set of rules that takes into account the fact that women are consistently smaller and weaker -- on average -- than men. Don't take it into physical territory, ladies, unless you're prepared to accept the consequences of a physical altercation.

As far as Rice goes, throw him in the freaking jail and get it over with. I'm with those who are asking, "WTF cares about the video? Why does what he did -- knock her out and drag her out of the elevator -- matter one whit to the wrongness here? Does the fact that people can SEE it change it in some manner? No, it doesn't." The SOB should have the book thrown at him for assault and battery, period. That's what would happen if he were NOT a football player.

Posted by: IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." at September 12, 2014 07:30 PM

}}}} This observation has a lot to do with why I would leave my husband if he ever hit me. I expect self control from adults, and would lose respect for him if he felt it necessary to hit me. This is why God made words :p

While I agree with you in principle here, Cass, it's not an always valid argument. It's certainly a sign that one or both of the people either need to get out of the relationship or take some serious counseling, but it might not always be the guy's fault when it happens. Certainly he bears partial responsibility but women are more than capable of deliberately pushing buttons to drive a man over the edge -- and some women DO do exactly that because of some masochistic shard in their souls -- and you know damned well what I'm talking about -- there is a percentage of the populace who has, in themselves, a measured amount of self-destructive impulses, and I'll make the unsupported claim that it's more prevalent in women than men, though we aren't taking 2x or 3x or 5x, more like 60-40 women to men.

And so a woman gets in a mood, and starts deliberately pushing buttons, and pushing, and pushing and pushing, until she sets him off and the beating begins.

No, that's most emphatically NOT excusing it. He should see what is coming and GTFO of there. Perhaps permanently. But you're pften also talking about a mixed dynamic that feeds off of both of their dysfunctional qualities -- he's somewhat sadistic, she's somewhat masochistic. And the simple matter is, when a woman WANTS a fight, there's a pretty good chance she's going to get one -- if not right then, then the next time they're together. And again, yes, not an excuse, he should see it coming and end the relationship. But we ARE talking about people, not logical computers.

I am in no sense excusing the behavior of the male -- but there IS validity in the argument "she was asking for it", in some cases -- and no, certainly not all of them, by any means. It does not excuse his behavior, but it does spread the blame, in the cases of which I speak.

Posted by: IGotBupkis, "'Faeces Evenio', Mr. Holder?" at September 12, 2014 07:46 PM

Hi guys,
This touches a nerve for me and sets me off. Guess the well lubricated retired boat guy may be more socially conservative than he thought.
Because of simple biology, prevalent in most large mammals, human males are larger and usually much stronger and aggressive than females. IMO much of what we now recognize as civilized behavior is related to channeling male aggressiveness into acceptable behaviors, and encouraging behavior towards women that are beneficial for society (mutual defense, protect women, care for children; ALL children).
I'm old enough to remember when it was generally considered ok for a man to slap back a woman that slapped him, but to never close a fist.
> I do *not* accept that standard.

IMO, the correct response for this kind if behavior is for other guys to drag him around the corner and beat the living shit out if him. And I *do* mean cripple him.

Respectfully,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at September 13, 2014 02:02 AM

I'm not buying the argument that it's possible it's not the guy's fault if he punches a woman out, because she might have upset him.

As for the video, of course it doesn't change his culpability, but it does make a big difference in public opinion. As long as it's just a written report, readers will wonder if it's true and discount it somewhat in they lack the time or inclination to look into it carefully. When you see the video, there can't be any doubt.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 13, 2014 11:25 AM

He shouldn't have hit her. Which is to say I wouldn't have hit her if she were my girlfriend. But then she wouldn't be interested in me in the first place.


I suspect that the elevator wasn't the first or last place he put a hand to her, and that his propensity for violence is part of why she is attracted to him. Otherwise why would she stay with him? Maybe the message shouldn't be, "Guys, don't hit girls", but rather, "Guys, don't hit girls, and girls, if you get turned on by thugs don't expect much sympathy when the inevitable happens". It seems to me they are a highly compatible couple.


Also, it looks like the football industry is going all-out feminist PC because they think it will get them more women viewers. If that's what the industry wants then who am I to object, but I see no reason to let myself be used to further their agenda. Mrs. Rice can take care of herself. I'll save my outrage for things that deserve it.

Posted by: Jonathan at September 13, 2014 12:59 PM

I think I can promise not to watch football no matter what the NFL does to Rice. And I agree with Jonathan that my sympathy is better directed at women who have the self-respect to leave after they've been struck, let alone knocked out cold. I think that, on the whole, people who want to edit themselves out of history should be allowed to do so.

None of which changes my contented acceptance of any kind of social ostracizing that can be summoned up against Rice. Somebody just dump the guy overboard, please.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 13, 2014 01:10 PM

"... girls, if you get turned on by thugs don't expect much sympathy when the inevitable happens"

To me, women who are willing to let themselves be physically assaulted by their significant others, deserve all the sympathy in the world. They must be miserable beyond imagining to stick with someone who does that to them.

Someone else's bad behavior is not an excuse for my own bad behavior. There are people who hit those they claim to love and people who don't. Those who don't, don't. Those who do always have a reason why they had to do it, didn't have a choice, were forced into it. I always wonder if the latter would have felt the same irresistible compulsion if a police officer (or their target's parents) were observing the interaction that made their violence inevitable.

Posted by: Elise at September 13, 2014 05:38 PM

Right, and if I poison my boyfriend, was I driven to it? How about if I cut his throat while he's sleeping? The fact that we're physically able to do something, and we're really irked, doesn't answer all the relevant questions for us before we act.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 13, 2014 06:35 PM

I've always thought poison was particularly despicable.

Posted by: Grim at September 13, 2014 11:54 PM

Really, more so than punching out a woman? For me, it's just a question of who's vulnerable and how. Morally, they're equivalent--one no more sneaky or gutless than the other.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 14, 2014 06:59 PM

I think poison is morally much worse, in that it is dishonest as well as murderous. A friend I grew up with -- he had grown up to become a deputy, actually -- was poisoned by his wife. All the time she was smiling at him, pretending to be concerned about his strange illness and growing weakness, and all the time she was slipping it into his Coca-cola a bit at a time. Later the coroner, thinking organ failure suspicious in one so young, discovered that her previous husband had died the same way.

A man who punches out a woman may also be a murderer, if he kills her; he is certainly of low character, and no one I can respect. Even so, at least he looked her in the eye with honest intent.

Posted by: Grim at September 14, 2014 08:01 PM

Ah yes, here we are. It appears she died in prison a few years ago. I find that strangely satisfying.

Posted by: Grim at September 14, 2014 08:08 PM

I think poison is morally much worse, in that it is dishonest as well as murderous.

What you describe is a particular kind of poisoning, equivalent to the husband who is kind and solicitous and loving to his wife, all the while he is having an affair, finally hires someone to kill his wife, and then portrays himself as heart-broken over her death.

The poisoning equivalent of a man who punches his wife in a fit of rage and kills her is the woman who dumps his entire heart-med prescription in her husband's coffee in a fit of rage and watches him die of heart failure.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 10:06 AM

That still seems dishonest to me.

I will accept, as an equivalent, the woman who -- in a fit of rage -- retrieves a gun and shoots him while he is unarmed. ("Lead poisoning.") That's equally direct.

Although even this is not quite equivalent, since for most women and most men, she has some reason to fear him even while she holds the gun and he has none. The man who beats his wife to death is still worse than the woman who shoots her husband to death, since he does it from a position of safety.

But they are both of them better than a poisoner.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 11:43 AM

But that presupposes that a gun is available to her. When guns are not available a different "equalizer" must be found. Usually, a woman has no chance against her husband with fists, knives, clubs, swords, etc., unless she attacks him stealthily: hitting him over the head while he sleeps, for example. It seems wrong to me to attribute greater honesty to a means of attack that is usually available to husbands but not to wives.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 12:28 PM

Perhaps it is my place of upbringing, but I'm not in the habit of thinking of guns as 'usually available to husbands but not to wives.' I know the rare Southern woman who doesn't have access to at least a deer rifle on immediate notice, and more than adequate knowledge for its operation.

I suspect it's possible a Southern jury might even acquit her for its use, depending on how she structured her complaint. Certainly she might end up charged with manslaughter instead of Murder I or II.

But if she poisons him, that's Murder I -- on the reasoning that the use of poison requires a kind of planning and calculation stronger than grabbing a gun out of the closet and plugging your husband in a screaming rage over his affair (say). The shift of moods from hot rage to cold calculation is calibrated in the criminal code to indicate a much worse form of murder.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 01:25 PM

Guns are not "usually available to husbands but not wives" but the effective use of fists and other weapons favoring greater strength are.

I understand the argument about calculation versus rage. However, I believe poisoning can result from rage and a deadly blow from a fist can result from calculation. Certainly a man who beats his wife regularly and ends up killing her cannot really use "hot rage" as a defense.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 01:57 PM

"I think poison is morally much worse, in that it is dishonest as well as murderous."

I would say that the sneaky, dishonest part is pretending to be someone a woman could feel safe unbolting her door to and letting into the home. If he had identified himself at the outset as someone who was no better than a murderous thug of a stranger, she'd have known to shoot him as he crossed the threshold.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 15, 2014 01:57 PM

Elise:

There's a point at which hot rage stops being an effective defense, even if you're hot fairly often. I suppose that point is when the rage comes often enough that you should have known, in the periods of calm between the storms, that you were in desperate need to change your course.

In any case, I can't agree that the mere fact that fists or knives are generally more effective for men than women implies that poison should be stripped of its particular wickedness.

Rather, I would say what I've been saying all along -- that the right way to balance that is by having a double standard on violence, one that punishes men for resorting to violence against women in stronger terms than it punishes women for resorting to violence against men. We should really punish men who beat their wives to death in a very serious way -- and we should really punish women who poison their husbands in a very serious way. But if a woman shoots or stabs her husband, she might in some circumstances deserve a lesser punishment (or even none at all), given that she's competing on an unequal ground where she must of course be in fear even if she is the only one with arms.

Tex:

...the sneaky, dishonest part is pretending to be someone a woman could feel safe unbolting her door to and letting into the home. If he had identified himself at the outset as someone who was no better than a murderous thug of a stranger...

I have two things to say about that, both in the spirit of fairness even to the devil. The first is that I think maybe even most of these people who kill their spouse wouldn't be dangerous at all as a stranger. It's the intense emotion of the domestic environment that brings out murder in them.

The second is that I don't think the kind of person who kills their spouse is usually blessed with a lot of self-awareness. I suspect they're the same kind of person who regards their life story as a tale of woeful heroism against a shocking combination of bad luck and people who unjustly oppress them in various ways. If there's deception involved, it's self-deception: but it may also be a lack of capacity.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 02:17 PM

It's not sneaky because the guy didn't have enough self-awareness? "He's too dull to employ guile!"

On the subject of how flamboyantly a wifebeater flies his colors, I have to wonder why so few of them beat their wives in front of witnesses, and why they so often credibly threaten retaliation against wives who rat them out.

There may be lots of differences between wifebeaters and husband-poisoners, but I'm not persuaded honesty or courage enter into the question to any great degree. People use the weapons they have.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 15, 2014 03:42 PM

I will go this far, and say that I can imagine a case in which poison would not deserve the moral horror that it normally does. In cases similar to the several women kidnapped and kept chained in the basement in the house in Chicago, I think any sort of resistance is licensed. Even if they were outright deceptive and apparently sympathetic as part of the means to poisoning their captor, it would in no way be dishonorable.

Those cases are not marriages in any sense, however. Escaping from a marriage by secretly poisoning your spouse strikes me as especially wicked and horrible.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 04:16 PM

I can't speak to equity or gender differences here, but if I had to choose between them, I'd rather my murderer stuck me with a needle full of poison than put it in my drink.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 15, 2014 04:27 PM

I've been thinking about it some more. For me, it's like this: if I had warning that he would ever so far relinquish control of himself as to take advantage of his superior strength to beat me up, I'd never have been in the same room with him in the first place, without a loaded gun pointed at him, waiting for the neighbors or police to arrive. By the same token, if I thought he could let his passions so override his reason and his character as to steal from me, just because he was materially capable of pulling it off, I wouldn't keep valuables in a place he could reach, and I wouldn't let him have my PIN, or keep property in our joint names. It wouldn't matter whether he had enough self-awareness to have predicted that he might degenerate to these levels: once he did, he would be dead to me.

So I guess, in a way, the sneakiness element is largely irrelevant to me, after all. It's more a question whether he's safe to let indoors, which may mean being able to convince me that he has some kind of insight into himself, can accurately predict his own behavior, and isn't at the mercy of however he happens to feel at an excited moment. I can get pretty excited, too, without robbing a bank or, for that matter, poisoning anyone. People who can't control their capacity to inflict injury end up being ostracized, first from intimacy, and ultimately from society. I can't get that interested in exactly what tools they use to inflict the injury; the point is that they got the opportunity by pretending they were enough in control of themselves not to be dangerous.

Of course, maybe they weren't exactly pretending, but just didn't know anything about themselves. But it's up to me, before I let them inside, to get to know them well enough to find out whether they're that blind and out-of-control.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 15, 2014 04:31 PM

that the right way to balance that is by having a double standard on violence, one that punishes men for resorting to violence against women in stronger terms than it punishes women for resorting to violence against men.

One problem I have with this and, I believe, one reason many women so adamantly reject this (even while being confused about it as Cass' original post points out) is that a double standard on violence toward women seems to become a double standard more generally. Thus, for example, we seem to end up with something like this:

Men should be punished more strongly for resorting to violence against women. Therefore, women can't be welders.

Protection based on actual physical differences seems to easily become protectionism, limitations, restrictions based on suppositions about differences that don't really exist.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 04:59 PM

Elise:

That is, of course, a logical fallacy -- the slippery slope fallacy -- somewhat aggravated by the fact that there is not really even an intelligible slope present. There's a logical reason to connect violence with capacity for violence; not for connecting welding with capacity for violence.

Still, logical or not, I accept your suggestion that women fear it will be done and has been done. But if we can't even have logical standards that follow from immediately relevant differences, then we will end up with a society based on nonsensical standards unrelated to reality -- well, much like the one we seem to be developing as hard and fast as we can!

Tex:

On reflection, YAG's argument seems to resolve my problem. I will accept that poison is not worse than gunshots if the person puts it in a needle and stabs their spouse with it openly.

But we are, in a way, slicing very fine. We can draw a distinction between the murderer who kills their spouse in rage openly; the one who kills their spouse in cold blood, secretly; and the guy who didn't even kill anyone nor violate his marital obligations, but kept several women chained in his basement for decades. Oddly enough, the non-killer who is not violating his marital oath is the worst of our three cases, the one whose non-murderous behavior is so bad that it would justify any sort of murder in order to escape it.

Yet in another way, we can see that all of these spouse-killing cases are extremely far from the ideal. Marriage is meant to be a union for life between a man and woman who strive to achieve God's vision for them: once we get to them trying to destroy their marriage and its responsibilities, we've fallen far from what is right even if they aren't actually killing each other over it. If they are, so very far that the distinctions may seem very fine.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 05:30 PM

we will end up with a society based on nonsensical standards unrelated to reality -- well, much like the one we seem to be developing as hard and fast as we can!

Agreed. Unfortunately, though, fear seems to be the strongest current motivator in much political and cultural discussion.

we can see that all of these spouse-killing cases are extremely far from the ideal

Yes, I found myself trying to explain to my husband that I was involved in a discussion about whether it was worse to poison your husband or to beat your wife to death. He seemed, um, puzzled by that.

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 05:55 PM

I found myself trying to explain to my husband that I was involved in a discussion about whether it was worse to poison your husband or to beat your wife to death. He seemed, um, puzzled by that.

He's not the only one :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2014 06:05 PM

Yes, I didn't see a huge point in arguing that poisoning was worse than beating--or, for that matter, in worrying about whether male violence is worse than female violence. People shouldn't abuse trust, that's all. What weapons they'll have available, considering their size, training, and so on, isn't really the point. That is, it will be something to consider in every individual case, but every soul is subject to a comparable moral code in this area.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 15, 2014 06:09 PM

He's not the only one

:+)

I found myself reading something at Sam Harris' blog (sent there by Ace) and saw a link to a Harris post that had to do with sexism. I thought the last five paragraphs echoed some of the themes in the discussion here (and I love the title of the post):

“I’m Not the Sexist Pig You’re Looking For”

Posted by: Elise at September 15, 2014 06:13 PM

On the subject of how flamboyantly a wifebeater flies his colors, I have to wonder why so few of them beat their wives in front of witnesses, and why they so often credibly threaten retaliation against wives who rat them out. There may be lots of differences between wifebeaters and husband-poisoners, but I'm not persuaded honesty or courage enter into the question to any great degree.

I find being in a violent rage to be a singularly unpersuasive excuse. There's no great bravery in a larger, stronger person beating a smaller, weaker one. None, whatsoever. That the bigger person has no control over his (or her) emotions is really irrelevant.

Killing is killing. Who cares how it's done? It's still wrong, and still murder.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2014 06:13 PM

Killing is killing. Who cares how it's done? It's still wrong, and still murder.

That's why we got into the discussion. There are so many distinctions between kinds of killing, some of which aren't even wrong -- some of which are not murder, some of which are praiseworthy. How it's done and why are very important.

Well, that and Tex reminded me of Randy being poisoned. I hadn't thought of that in some years. Our friendship wasn't very close, and was I suppose an artifact of rural public education: we both rode the same bus to school, and the bus routes were exceedingly long. So, for hours a day we were among a small company of girls and boys shoved into a small space who had to learn to deal with each other.

As an adult, I think he was closer to my father than to me, because he joined the Fire Department of which my father was a Captain. But he was a neighbor, by country standards, so I heard news of him from time to time. He was 32 when he died.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 06:30 PM

Talking about "honest" vs. "dishonest" ways of murdering another human being strike me as post hoc rationalization of something that shouldn't be excused regardless of the weapon.

It just makes no sense. It's not as though it's OK (or even better) to kill someone "honestly" - that kind of honesty is cheap when you outweigh the other person.

I'm with Elise, here:

Usually, a woman has no chance against her husband with fists, knives, clubs, swords, etc., unless she attacks him stealthily: hitting him over the head while he sleeps, for example. It seems wrong to me to attribute greater honesty to a means of attack that is usually available to husbands but not to wives.

Women in general are less comfortable around/experienced with any kind of tool, with any kind of physical fighting, and with guns in particular. I have lived in the South most of my life and that's just as true here. When you think of a Southerner with a gun, the image that comes to mind isn't a woman. That's one of those differences we keep talking about, and if differences matter than this should matter.

There's no reason to kill a spouse unless your life is being directly threatened (in which case it's self defense). Arguing over whether this method or that method is better doesn't change that basic fact.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2014 07:03 PM

Sam Harris's post was amazing. There really are some things you can't talk about at all without tripping the silly wires.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 15, 2014 07:12 PM

I don't agree with you, Cass. I think what that woman did to Randy was positively worse than a lot of killings that happen in rage -- over an affair, perhaps.

That doesn't mean it isn't still wrong to murder your spouse in anger. However unimpressive you find 'rage' as an argument, though, it's still more human and understandable than making love at someone long enough to become the beneficiary of their life insurance policy, and then poisoning them in cold blood. There's a distinction worth recognizing between the cases.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 07:21 PM

Grim, I'm sorry you know of one person who was poisoned and seem to feel that justifies generalizing to all cases of poisoning. But I can't agree that that generalization is justified.

Do I understand your feelings? Sure. But they don't apply to everyone. I have strong feelings about men who seem to think women are their property ("If I can't have her, no one can have her"). I find that attitude utterly self absorbed and chilling, not at all "human and understandable".

And yet I'm not claiming they're worse than the poisoner because of my personal feelings. I find nothing "understandable" about murdering another person. There is no justification for that in marriage outside of self defense.

None.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2014 07:52 PM

I didn't claim that there was a justification for it, only that it is possible to distinguish between what is wrong and what is even worse. That's not controversial, surely. It's why we distinguish between Murder I and Murder II -- not because Murder II is justified, but because (though still wrong) it's not as bad.

In any case, if you read over the debate, you'll find I was persuaded to accept some limits on the condemnation of poisoning as worse than other kinds of killing. So it's not like I'm refusing to consider limits, or insisting on a robust generalization in spite of argument. That was the point of the discussion -- to explore the problem, and come to a more complete understanding of it.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 07:56 PM

The way you phrase arguments like these is what often causes me to object to your arguments. You talk about beating a woman as being more "human and understandable". No, it's not!

Being a bully isn't either of those things, Grim. And using the word "honest" to describe/distinguish between the two scenarios is likewise problematic. I can understand (to a point) the premeditated/unpremeditated framing, but you seem utterly unaware that a person - especially a smaller, weaker one - might become so desperate that that seems like the only way out.

Often you sound as though you are trying to make wrong actions more sympathetic simply because you understand the impulse behind them. But I think that's a poor argument.

I assure you, I find violent men who solve problems with their fists or with weapons to be no less terrifying than a woman who coldly plots her husband's demise. It doesn't make me sympathize that they're feeling strong emotion, and in fact I've known of several cases where a man who was beating his wife coldly precipitated situations where he'd find himself justified in doing it again.

Parents who beat their helpless children are in the grip of strong emotion, too. They also know (in between beatings) that what they're doing is dangerous and wrong and they make a decision NOT to protect their children.

There's something very cold and calculating about knowing you have that problem but not doing anything about it. It's just that in this case, *you're* the weapon. Hard for me to see how that's any better.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 15, 2014 08:17 PM

I think what may be provocative is that you think I'm contrasting cases that are unlike in both sex and violence. I'm contrasting cases in which the presumed killer is the woman.

Hold the sex constant, and the argument might provoke less objection. What I've been arguing consistently is that women deserve more deference when they resort to violence -- so the poison is a kind of limit case, in which I think the ways and means of the murder have used up any difference in deference.

So don't contrast the woman who coldly poisons with the man who kills his woman in a rage over an affair. Contrast the woman who coldly poisons with a woman who kills her man in a rage over an affair.

The only case I've suggested might merit a shift to Murder II or manslaughter is the case of a woman in rage, after all. And here I am pricing in that she is experiencing the extra sort of fear that you're describing -- that's what justifies the difference in standards.

So imagine a woman coming home, finding her husband in bed with another woman, and shooting him with a gun they happen to keep in the bedroom. Is that wrong? Sure. It's a species of murder, but once she's grabbed up the gun in anger, she also has to now fear for what he'll do in reaction to her. There's a kind of human plausibility to how this plays out: the anger is understandable, and the fear is understandable.

Now contrast it with the case of the woman who marries a man who is a police officer in Cobb county, gets on his life insurance, and poisons him to death. She gets with another officer, this time a deputy from Forsyth county, and kills him after having two kids with him.

Is that not worse than the first woman? It strikes me that it is positively worse, precisely because it is cold, calculating, and dishonest.

Posted by: Grim at September 15, 2014 08:38 PM

An enduring difference between you and me is that I generally don't care whether a person is male or female. I hold people responsible for their actions regardless of the plumbing.

I expect a woman to be used to being a woman and deal with the advantages/disadvantages, and I expect a man to do the same. Granting special dispensation on the basis of sex seems wrong to me.

Of course it's worse for one person to commit two murders than to commit one. But I am not convinced it's morally worse to murder for money (if that's even the real motive here) than to murder in a jealous rage. I can think of a lot of reactions to finding out my husband had cheated on me, but murder ain't one of them :p

A person who kills twice in the way you describe sounds mentally ill/deficient to me: a sociopath who is incapable of the normal empathy most of us feel. So is that person morally more culpable than a sane person who can't control her emotions? A sociopath with one murder under her (or his) needs to be locked up where they can't hurt anyone else, but moral culpability is another thing entirely.

I still don't find murder to be an "understandable" response to infidelity. One might say that murder was more "understandable" because the woman whose husband was unfaithful was wronged by him, but her response was grossly disproportionate to the offense. Really, it's the same logic that's behind self defense laws - yes, you get to defend yourself but that's not a blank check in cases where lethal force was not necessary to defend yourself. People don't own each other, and don't have the right to claim affection in the way they might claim property.

Perhaps the difference here is that:

(a) I'm not emotionally involved with either example, and

(b) I have a very strong respect for the right of other people to continue living, and a very strong dislike for the idea of killing anyone, except in self defense or possibly - after a thorough investigation and trial - for aggravated murder.

If we lived in the 7th Century and didn't have any other way to resolve disputes, perhaps I'd feel differently. I like living in the present, and think it's generally a good thing that we don't live by a "might makes right" rule in which matters are settled by combat and the stronger person wins, regardless of who was actually in the right.

The sex of the person involved really is irrelevant to me in most cases. Can't think of a case where it should matter, but I'm leaving myself an out in case you do :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 07:42 AM

Intuitions may differ, but clearly a lot of people think about this issue as I do since we build this very distinction into our laws governing murder in -- as far as I know -- every state. Indeed, I thought that I was raising a non-controversial point until it provoked all this controversy.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 08:20 AM

Once again, we're talking about what's legal rather than what's right :p Except this time, we're on opposing side of that issue - you're arguing support for your position based on the law (something I often do) and I'm *not* arguing those distinctions don't exist in the law (though a successful defense of mental illness establishes lack of mens rea and therefore criminal culpability), but rather that I don't accept lack of self control or the more chilling view that one person "owns" the affections of another as moral "outs".

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 08:42 AM

And FWIW, I think the old fashioned "it's perfectly understandable that he killed her in a jealous rage" standard was wrong - morally and legally. It was based on a view of women that I find abhorrent.

If you view your partner as a human being (rather than as property or an extension of yourself), then you necessarily understand he or she will have their own feelings and thoughts and that you can't control them.

I can understand grief at losing a lover's affections, and anger at having been lied to or betrayed. But the traditional violent rage at sexual infidelity seems rooted in something other than recognition that your partner is a human being. There's nothing in the marriage vows about being able to kill your spouse if they cheat on you.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 08:48 AM

Let me sum up if I can.

Alice (wife) finds Bob (husband) in bed with Carrie (mistress). Alice shoots Bob. This is murder and it is despicable.

Danielle (wife) finds Eric (husband) in bed with Francine (mistress). Danielle claims to forgive Eric, but slowly poisons him to death. This is murder and it is despicable.

Tex, Cass, and Elise claim that Alice's actions are exactly equal to Danielle's: murder is murder.

Grim claims that Danielle's actions are worse: some murders are worse than other murders.

Do I have this right?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 08:58 AM

I get that the objection, Cass, is arising from this view that you object to as abhorrent re: men killing their wives for adultery. But bear in mind I've been arguing throughout that the standards for men should be stricter. The view here is not that men might use deadly violence against women, which I oppose in almost every case imaginable.

The only reason I raise the law is that it seemed to me that the point was non-controversial because it was settled law. Just having quickly looked up the laws in our two states, in Georgia the law is exactly as I'd expect -- murder is killing with malice aforethought, but a killing in immediate passion is voluntary manslaughter.

In Maryland, it's the same, except that there is a specific exception for finding your spouse committing adultery -- all other killings in serious passion are manslaughter, and if you kill other the adulterous party it's apparently manslaughter, but killing your spouse is murder (of the second degree, unless there is one of the aggravating factors present that makes it first degree murder).

However, Maryland agrees with my intuition that poison is particularly evil: murder by poison is specifically listed as always being first degree murder. The only other aggravating factors for first degree murder are killing by lying in wait, or killing while committing various felonies.

So, given YAG's example, under Georgia law Alice is guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Danielle is guilty of murder (and in some peril of execution).

Under Maryland law, Alice is guilty of second degree murder. Danielle is guilty of first degree murder (but there is no death penalty, so she is in no peril of execution).

What both states agree upon is that Danielle's case is worse than Alice's.

So yeah, that's what I thought it was non-controversial to argue. I mean, Maryland and Georgia are about as far apart politically as it is possible to get in the USA. That's why I wasn't expecting to provoke a huge fight by raising the point.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 09:05 AM

YAG,

Close, but I don't know that I think what Alice does is murder. Not just because it would be manslaughter under Georgia law, but also because the immediate conflict between her and Bob might reasonably raise a self-defense claim. It depends on the sequence of events: it's manslaughter if she pulls a gun out of her purse, stands over him lying helpless in bed, and shoots him. But if instead she starts screaming, he jumps up and advances on her, and she pulls a gun and shoots him (though he is naked and unarmed), she might well walk because his disparity of strength makes the use of the firearm appropriate if she is afraid he will hit her.

But the Danielle case is always murder.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 09:16 AM

Well, manslaughter under Georgia law, murder under Maryland law (but manslaughter if Alice shoots Carrie instead).

It can become murder under Georgia law too, actually, if Alice doesn't shoot Bob within a decent interval. If the sequence of events includes enough time that she should have cooled down and thought it through, in the opinion of the jury, then the charge is elevated. So there's a lot of ambiguity in the first case that would need to be spelled out, with a range of possibilities from murder to legal self-defense; there is no ambiguity at all in the second.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 09:44 AM

Ok, let's specify that Alice shoots Bob the next day. That way neither case is "in the heat of the moment".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 10:11 AM

Also, let's take out the self-defense angle. She shoots him as he walks in the door with his hands full of groceries.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 10:17 AM

I prefer the "premeditated/unpremeditated" framing to the "poison/gun" framing. To me, that's the crucial distinction - and this is exactly what the law does: it distinguishes between impulsive actions and deliberate ones.

What bothers me about the poisoning example is that I can see where it might not actually be coldly deliberate, just as I can see how shooting someone might not happen in the heat of the moment.

So it's accurate to say that I accept premeditated murder to be worse than unpremeditated murder, but not necessarily poison per se to be worse than beating or shooting. Does that help?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 10:34 AM

I think that qualifies as top-level murder in both states -- in Maryland because it's 'laying in wait,' for instance, which they put on par with the use of poison. In Georgia, it's enough that it was done in cold blood.

Alice is now legally guilty of the same sort of crime. Are you asking if I still think Danielle is worse, because she murders deceptively and with a smile? I do think so, but perhaps it's because of the combination of crimes: the murder is aggravated by the perfidy. The kind of person who would choose to do both things at once is an especially bad human being.

That's a common moral sentiment too, though. Even in war, when killing is licensed in many cases, perfidy remains a serious war crime.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 10:38 AM

Are you asking if I still think Danielle is worse, because she murders deceptively and with a smile? I do think so, but perhaps it's because of the combination of crimes: the murder is aggravated by the perfidy. The kind of person who would choose to do both things at once is an especially bad human being.

Not necessarily. A person who is naturally weaker or afraid is more likely to resort to subterfuge. This is where I can see nuances that make it unhelpful to infer too much from open aggression vs. covert aggression.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 10:57 AM

Well, this is where we get the 'female privilege' you started with -- except that I didn't intend (or expect) to find it in cases of murder! I was looking for it in cases like the Alice-self-defense case:

1) Alice finds Bob and Carrie, and begins to scream at them.

2) Bob stands up and advances on her, which frightens her because he is stronger.

3) Alice shoots him with the gun she has in her purse.

That's a privilege I'm willing to accept, because making it not-a-privilege means giving Bob the same right to shoot her in the reverse case -- but he is not possessed of the same physical characteristics that make her fear reasonable and her use of a gun potentially appropriate and measured.

I wasn't expecting to find an argument that women could have a privilege to use poison on their husbands because they are weaker. I think that's beyond the limit case that I'm willing to accept for women having a greater right to resort to force in self-defense. Though I would endorse it (and have endorsed it) in cases of someone like that Castro guy who was an enslaver of women, I can't endorse poisoning in any case short of that kind of ongoing, imprisoning violence.

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 11:23 AM

Are you asking if I still think Danielle is worse, because she murders deceptively and with a smile? I do think so...

That's what I was trying to nail down, yes.

And to confirm, in an all-else-being-equal case, that Cass (confirmed), Elise, and Tex believed that these cases were equal.


My own gut reaction is that techniques like poison try to innoculate the murderer from the violence they commit. That by not spilling blood literally, that that somehow makes the metaphorical spilling of blood less bad.

It's kind of like the old movie trope:

"No Bob, I could never shoot my friend. Jake, shoot my friend."

It dissasociates the violence into something calm and almost clinical.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 11:54 AM

All I'm really seeing is an instinctive siding with the one who uses the tool and style most familiar to you. I'm more inclined to accept that people in different situations are likely to adopt different tools suited to their strengths and their risks. That their strengths are different doesn't make their choice of deadly tools more or less excusable.

Cassandra's focus on premeditation makes more ethical sense. I'm willing to grant that poison is typically a tool of premeditation. The sneaky/non-sneaky divide, as I said before, isn't compelling to me on these facts, though in general I'm willing to grant that a conniving and duplicitous criminal is the greater danger to society.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2014 11:58 AM

Tex, Cass, and Elise claim that Alice's actions are exactly equal to Danielle's: murder is murder.

Not what I was arguing (or trying to argue :+). What I considered equivalent was:

Bob flies into a rage (I'll even allow "is driven to rage") by wife Alice, slugs her, and kills her.

Danielle flies into a rage (again I'll allow "is driven to rage") by husband Eric, dumps the entire container of his heart med into his coffee, and kills him.

Both murders were driven by rage. I'm not arguing that makes them okay; I'm just arguing that makes them equivalent. I'm also arguing that these are equivalent:

Gloria expresses love and concern for her husband Henry while slowly poisoning him, then presents herself as grief-stricken when he dies.

Irving expresses love and concern for his wife Julie while arranging to have her killed (I specified an affair in my original example but consider that optional), then presents himself as grief stricken when she dies.

Both these examples involve perfidy. Which reminds me of that great theatrical masterpiece, Hello, Hamlet:

Ya got trouble

Right here in Elsinore.

Trouble with a capital "T"

And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for Perfidy!

(Apparently it's time for me to abandon this discussion since it's making me loopy.)

Posted by: Elise at September 16, 2014 11:59 AM

I love the song.

What's awful, of course, is a woman who actually believes that his punching her out is an expression of love and concern rather than perfidy. Theodore Dalrymple has a lot to say about his many female patients who find a non-beating man devoid of passion. Punching her may be the only thing he does that isn't blank and uninvolved--or she may have her wires so crossed that nothing else registers. Sickening, both sides of such a match.

It feels a long way from my life. I've made my husband awfully angry at times, but I have enough respect for him to know he would never strike me, and I mean never. He has enough respect for me to know that, even if he abandoned his entire character and did so, the situation would not be resolved short of jail or death. There wouldn't be any "Gosh, he must really care" or "Oh, Honey, I'm sorry I drove you over the edge, that was so understandable." By the same token, I may get really mad at him, but I'm not going to cut his brake lines or toss a toaster into his bath, not even at low voltage. We don't think we have the right to terrorize each other, no matter how provoked, and no matter who has the upper hand strategically or tactically at a given moment.

Posted by: Texan99 at September 16, 2014 12:19 PM

All I'm really seeing is an instinctive siding with the one who uses the tool and style most familiar to you.

That's what I was trying to counter - I had that sense, too. And my point was that the tool isn't as important as the mental process underlying the actual murder. Other practical considerations drive the use of the tool - it's a means to an end, but it's the act itself (and the state of mind that precedes it) that is moral/immoral.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 12:20 PM

Not what I was arguing (or trying to argue :+).

Ok, which is why I asked. There were so many scenarios, each with its own foundations, I was losing track.

So in my all-else-being-equal hypothetical would you say that the use of poison versus a gun makes a difference or not?

By the way, I would agree that outsourcing the murder is just as bad as poison as they both seek to dissasociate the murderer from the violence they commit.

I think that *might* be where Grim is coming from (and why I suspect that he would disagree about your scenario). Poison is indirect violence.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at September 16, 2014 12:22 PM

Well, again, intuitions (what you are calling 'instincts') differ -- but even the good people of Maryland once shared my sense that there's something inherently dishonorable about the use of poison for murder.

I don't have a problem with aligning the use of assassins with the use of poison, YAG/Elise. Of course, assassins often use poison!

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2014 12:30 PM

So in my all-else-being-equal hypothetical would you say that the use of poison versus a gun makes a difference or not?

Not - with one caveat. Someone whose spouse is plotting to have him/her shot doesn't suffer in the interim as does someone whose spouse is slowly poisoning him/her. I'm not a big fan of illness, torture, or slow death.

Posted by: Elise at September 16, 2014 01:52 PM

Sam Harris's post was amazing. There really are some things you can't talk about at all without tripping the silly wires.

And I agree totally with Harris' observation about someone being "determined to be offended", just waiting for someone to cross that tripwire. It's so perfectly descriptive.

Posted by: Elise at September 16, 2014 01:55 PM

Elise, I meant to tell you how much I enjoyed the Sam Harris post. I agree that the interviewer was looking for reasons to take offense, and was mystified that she found any :p

Posted by: Cassandra at September 16, 2014 02:31 PM