Monday, January 12, 2009

Response to "How to properly slap a woman"

by Peale Iglehart

I just read Elizabeth Winkler’s recent post on “How to properly condone domestic violence”—and I read the one dismissive post in response to it. I don’t mean to sound self-righteous, but how is there only ONE comment about this video?? The “filmmakers” claim to hail from “Old Nassau”—why aren’t more of us pissed off about this?

In case you couldn’t tell, I agree with Elizabeth: this video is disturbing on many levels. To the lone commentator: how exactly do you think the “filmmakers” go about “showing just how awful this shit actually is”? I don’t see the irony or the humor. Where’s the indication that this clip isn’t just making the girl the butt of the “joke”? To me, the “actors” don’t seem subversive—they just seem smug.

Furthermore, even if this video was meant to be subversive, there’s something disturbing and infuriating about Ivy Leaguers (if these people are actually Princeton students) chuckling knowingly about a problem that presumably is so “below” them. The fact is, domestic violence isn’t necessarily about isolated instances of violent men and spineless women, the way these “actors” imply with such obvious self-satisfaction.

This is touchy territory, I know—but domestic violence is related to socioeconomic status and race, too. Before I get attacked for writing that, let me be totally clear that I am ABSOLUTELY NOT suggesting that upper-middle-class and/or white women don’t deal with domestic violence. (Men, of course, deal with it too—I’m talking here about women.) Research on this matter can be fuzzy, and of course no study is 100% conclusive, but a study on domestic violence in Illinois found that “White and Asian American persons are somewhat underrepresented relative to their representation in the population, whereas African American and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic American clients are somewhat overrepresented” (Grossman & Lundy, 2007, p. 1044). A 2003 Brown University study found that in Rhode Island, “Black and Hispanic women, especially black women in more affluent neighborhoods, are over-represented in police-reported domestic violence information.”

So yeah. Not so funny anymore, is it? It’s not just a question of “if that spineless airhead would just stand up for herself” or “if that guy wasn’t such a chauvinistic jackass.” Of course individuals are involved. But domestic violence occurs within a greater social system, bigger than just the argyle-bedecked boyfriend and his giggly arm candy. Factors like income and race and privilege and power play a role. This problem is complicated. And it’s not going to go away because a pretentious guy in an argyle sweater made a joke about it.

And P.S., to the lone commentator: Elizabeth’s not a “dude”…just saying.


At January 12, 2009 at 1:54 AM , Anonymous christina said...

I haven't watched the video, and I don't plan to, because this whole thing just seems like an attention ploy. An attention ploy in terribly poor taste, no doubt, but an attention ploy nonetheless. And the best way to stop such attention ploys is to ignore them. So, now that we've given it quite a bit of attention (3 posts already), can we stop enabling such behavior?

Obviously I'm not saying we should ignore the problem of domestic violence, because that is clearly a big problem. But rehashing this video over and over again isn't doing anything to solve that problem, is it? It's just saying "hey, all you attention-mongers, if you want to grab a bunch of people's attention, just make an offensive/unsensitive/demeaning how-to video." Which is not something we really want to encourage, right?

At January 12, 2009 at 12:01 PM , Anonymous Peale said...

Christina, I see your point about “enabling” the makers of the video. But I still think the video provided an important launching point for a discussion on domestic violence. In other words, the other writers and I didn’t just bash the video for our entire posts -- we tried to address broader issues. Yes, the posts stemmed from reactions to an “attention ploy”, but does that mean the broader topic of domestic violence isn’t worth talking about? It seemed to me like Elizabeth, Josh, and I were at least attempting to do more than just "rehash." And our posts weren't directed at the "attention-mongers" themselves, but to readers in general. And we could probably all benefit from taking a closer look at what we find funny or repulsive and why.

At January 12, 2009 at 4:25 PM , Anonymous christina said...

In a case like this, I think the reason we find the video either funny or repulsive is the shock value of it (and your personal response, either way, is derived from 1) how you respond to shock value and 2) your background, upbringing, social climate, etc.). Sometimes things seem funny (even though they aren't) just because you're shocked that somebody had the audacity to say or do it. That's how humor works in general--if you're not at least a little surprised by the outcome or the punchline of a joke, you're not going to find it funny. And when we're repulsed, that emotion virtually always derives from some sort of shock (though often in combination with other things).

I can see your points, don't get me wrong. Domestic violence is worth talking about, and the video does provide a good launching point, but if the discussion is meant to be about domestic violence in general, I think circling back to the movie several times detracts from moving the discussion forward and, at the same time, enables the attention-seeking behavior.


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