The Privilege of Tears

[TW for domestic violence]

Two months ago, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, a woman with whom he lived at the time, and threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing his conviction. In the meantime, he has faced zero consequences from the NFL and is scheduled to play in a game this weekend.

Two nights ago, the owner of Hardy’s team, Jerry Richardson, went somewhere and received some award. (I really don’t care where or what.) As part of his prepared remarks, he addressed the league’s response to abuse by its players — and broke down in tears as he spoke. [h/t The Rachel Maddow Show]

In case you are not somewhere that you can watch video, here’s what Richardson had to say:

“When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple. To those who would suggest we have been too slow to act, I ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge. Over the course of 25, 20 years, we have worked extremely hard to build an organization with integrity [inaudible] and learn[?] to trust your community. I look forward to continuing to earn your trust, and I thank you for this award.”

As far as prepared remarks go, nothing remarkable. It is Richardson’s demeanor here that catches my attention, as he chokes with emotion, fights back tears, and struggles to speak. At one point, he breaks down into what I can only describe as a whimper. He comes across clearly as a human being experiencing deep pain.

And I can’t care.

Not just “don’t.” Can’t.

In fact, the more times I watch this clip, the more divorced I become from any sympathy, empathy, or indeed anything resembling a normal, healthy human response to seeing another in pain. By the fourth viewing (took some searching to find a clip I could embed), I wanted to smash him across the head with a 2×4.

That was disturbing to feel. I won’t be watching it again. (So if this embed doesn’t work, please just take yourself to youtube and don’t let me know.) 

I was left wondering, what is it that makes me so angry that I am dehumanizing this man in my head to such a degree that I picture doing violence to him? For starters, there’s his whole vibe of “I’m a good person, so of course I abhor domestic violence, and so of course when people say they think I don’t, it makes me feel sad, which is a terrible thing for a good man like me to be feeling. What I say should be enough to make it clear I’m a good person — who really REALLY hates it when men beat up women — regardless of any actions I do or don’t take.” (I bet this dude would make a great rape apologist.) And then there’s this issue:

The humanity he displays here comes at the expense of other people’s humanity.

His very ability to feel pain — to weep at the subject — comes across as a sign of just how insulated he is from DV’s realities. For contrast, here’s how local press reported testimony given at trial by the woman* Hardy was found guilty of abusing:

Hardy, [the woman] said, flung her from the bed, threw her into a bathtub, then tossed her on a futon covered with rifles. [She] said Hardy ripped a necklace he had given her off her neck, threw it into a toilet and slammed the lid on her arm when she tried to fish it out.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Hardy dragged her by the hair room to room, she said, before putting his hands around her throat.

“He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me,” said [the woman], 24, who said she used to live with Hardy.

“I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said, ‘Just do it. Kill me.’ ”

“Just do it. Kill me.”
“My stance is not one of indifference.”

Richardson may not feel indifferent — indeed, I do not doubt that he feels quite terrible right now (at least for himself) — but I doubt he realizes how lucky he is to be able still to weep. To endure violence at the hands of a person who purports to love you, a person whom you yourself may still love, is to experience sorrow far beyond the contusions and abrasions and broken bones. It can mean losing the ability to feel any pain at all.

I’m glad you can still weep, Mr. NFL Owner. Though, might I recommend you keep your weeping far away from me, and others like me?

We’ll all feel better that way.

* I will not be using assault survivors’ names for the forseeable future, unless I am citing from something I know that survivor has chosen to put forward herself (or himself) as an act of asserting and/or controlling her/his own version of the narrative. In the brief post I wrote in early August regarding domestic violence and an NFL player, I made a different decision (for reasons that I hope are clear to anyone reading that post); since then, both that particular story — and the issues of DV and the NFL — have changed, are still changing, and I have decided not to highlight any more names of victims here.

As a result of using that individual’s name, my itty-bitty blog got slammed earlier this week by people (apparently) seeking lurid photos of her. In roughly 24 hours, that particular post got viewed over 150 times. (For context, I started this blog over a year ago–and prior to Monday, it had only been viewed 602 times in total.) Gonna repeat here what I wrote on Facebook:

If you are coming to my personal, feminist, “circulation: 8” blog looking for TMZ-released images of a woman being brutalized by her partner, you reeeeaally need to work on your Internet searching skills. (Srsly. They offer classes.) Also…



4 thoughts on “The Privilege of Tears

  1. This is the most amazing, wonderful, perfect summary I can possibly imagine for the men (and people in general) who say they abhor violence against women while simultaneously engaging in a culture that actively normalizes/encourages it. To be so far removed from the perspective of someone who has lived this nightmare and then have the audacity to think people should have sympathy for YOU just cause it makes you “sad” to think about… it’s insulting, inappropriate, and infuriating. (To the point that I am now thinking in alliterations…)


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