We're going to try a little experiment: that is, present a friendly male point of view once in a while. Today, writer Cord Jefferson responds to Jezebel commenters who weighed in on the sucker-punch heard 'round the reality TV world.
Like most people who succumbed to the sweaty, boozy, spray-tanned draw of Jersey Shore last week, I was taken aback when, during the highlights preview, I saw that twitchy lunatic haul off and smash Snooki in the face. The scene, like the punch itself, was jarring, mostly because, as a female friend of mine put it, "A man who does that is perfectly comfortable not even acting like he respects women." On top of that, that punch was hard. Nevertheless, Snooki's beating wasn't anything I considered unairable—not by MTV's standards, and certainly not by Jersey Shore's standards. In the series' first two episodes, for instance, not only do we see one of the male housemates punch another guy who was "lookin' at him" (which is every crazy jerk's Achilles' heel, by the way), we also see a man vomit all over a coffee table, women calling other women "whores," and, in the same preview reel containing the Snooki punch, several incidents of male-on-male and female-on-male violence.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, after first seeing Jersey Shore on Saturday, I didn't think much of Snooki or the punch until yesterday, when Irin posted "There's Nothing Funnier Than a Woman Getting Punched in the Face." After reading the post and the comments beneath it, I was again taken aback, though not by just the punch this time.
One commenter summed up the attack thusly: "Men hitting women violates a social contract ... Men on men violence or women on men violence doesn't have the same implications." Another said, "When I first saw the clip on the previews for the show, I had hoped that the guy was aiming to punch somebody else and accidentally hit Snooki." And still another noted, "I'm ... very much against men hitting women."
Now, you'll not ever get me to say or agree with the wrongheaded Mad Lib that is "If women want equality, then..." However, I find it remarkably troubling that a handful of Jezebel readers—a demographic distinctly aware of some of the world's most stupid violence—is so comfortable talking about violence as if it's something to be categorized and rated.
Yes, domestic violence against women is a serious issue, and much worse than a barroom brawl between two drunken males. But why is it unimaginably worse for an asshole to haul off and hit Snooki than for an asshole to haul off and hit a man Snooki's size, for no reason whatsoever? Why is random violence—again, not premeditated, protracted violence, like war rapes and domestic abuse—something MTV should consider not showing when against women, but air at will when it's against men? The government has laws in place to protect America's most vulnerable victims—battered wives, children, elders, etc.—from calculated attacks, as it should. But attempting to argue that some mindnumbingly stupid bit of violence, like that that befell Snooki, is better than some other stupid bit of violence, even marginally, is a slope slippery with blood.
Two weeks ago, it's very possible that Tiger Woods' wife beat him bloody and then chased him out of their home with a golf club. At the thought of this—a man being domestically abused by his wife—one clearly skeptical Jezebel commenter wrote, "Are we labeling every semi-physical interaction between couples as domestic abuse nowadays?" Presumably, the idea here is that violent women (like Elin Nordegren) lose their heads, while violent men (like Chris Brown) are monsters.
Unfortunately, I'm all too familiar with the taxonomy of violence. Six years ago, at late-night taco shop in Tucson, Arizona, a table of drunk jackasses in glittery t-shirts made a comment about my friend's breasts while I was in the bathroom. I exited just in time to see her lifting her tray of nachos and dumping it all over one of the guy's heads. The three men immediately stood up and squared off with my friend, and I ran over and put myself between them and her. "I'm sorry she did that," I told them, my friend still screaming obscenities at them behind me. "But let's let this one go, huh?" They didn't. Instead, one of them cracked me in the side of the face while I turned around to try and calm my friend, who was in tears at that point. I fell hard, hitting my skull on a table on the way down.
When I came to, my face was in a pool of my own blood, and an ambulance was on its way. I couldn't remember where I was, and the guy who beat me was long gone. But to this day I'm almost certain I knew what he was thinking the instant before he smashed my face in and gave me 36 stitches in my head: "I can't hit a woman."
Cord Jefferson is writer-editor. His work has appeared in 'National Geographic', 'Filter', 'The Awl', 'The Root' and on MTV.