The Tiger Woods Saga goes on. About 98% of the story is rank speculation at this point. The fact is only a handful of people know what happened the night of the wreck or what he’s been up to while tom-cattin’ around, and none of them have much to say on either topic.
But Tiger’s a celebrity and that means people will leap to the conclusions they want, taking care only to avoid the attention of lawyers bearing defamation and libel suits. Beware of suits with suits! That’s about the only rule. The only thing we like more than creating celebrities, sometimes out of the most meager raw materials, is destroying them for having failed to meet our standards for celebrities.
So who cares what really happened or who Tiger’s cheated with? Facts be damned! This is a morality play now.
Absent facts, the whole thing becomes like a Rorschach inkblot test designed to reveal the mysterious inner workings of the zeitgeist. The actual material doesn’t mean much, but our reactions tell us a lot. Since the subject matter is mostly about marital relations and domestic violence, those are what we learn about from people’s reactions to the tedious saga of the Lady with the Sand Wedge and the Tiger.
We’ve had the standard-issue misrepresentations of domestic violence by the likes of Slate. And we’ve had Saturday Night Live making light of domestic violence against men. No surprise there; popular culture seems better than it used to be, but violence against men by women is still almost invariably depicted as at least acceptable and often an affirmative good. And often enough, it’s played for laughs, as with SNL.
But there’s also this in a mainstream newspaper (Philadelphia Daily News, 12/4/09). It’s an op-ed by attorney Christine Flowers that points out that, for example, even if Woods has committed adultery, that doesn’t entitle his wife to attack him with a golf club. After all, every perpetrator of DV has an excuse for doing it. “He said I looked fat!” “She’s getting too friendly with another guy!” Isn’t our whole opposition to DV based on the assumption that violence is not an acceptable response, regardless of the provocation?
Flowers points out the double standard in how the media depict DV. The SNL sketch would never have shown a man attacking a woman, but a woman attacking a man is comedy.
And from her viewpoint as an attorney, she’s seen DV go both ways. She’s under no illusions that only men attack women or that only women are injured by an intimate partner. And she doesn’t pretend that the legal system is fair to men. She points to the Lorena Bobbitt and the “Burning Bed” cases as ones in which, if the sexes had been reversed, the men would be doing long stretches in prison.
But it is unconscionable to have one standard for women, and another for men. You can say that men are physically stronger – but that surely isn’t always the case. You can also point to a history of gender inequality which for years guaranteed that women would be forced to stay in a dangerous relationship for economic reasons.
But times have changed. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend that women aren’t as capable of abuse as their male partners, and that they are always the financial underdog.
There’s a lot of sociology that Flowers doesn’t seem to know about who commits DV, under what circumstances and why, and who the victims are. But her op-ed is a measure of how far we’ve come in gaining a wide-spread public understanding of DV. Not nearly far enough, but much further than just a few years ago.