Sports Roundup #9: Sexism and Domestic Violence in Sports
BY MARIKA KROMBERG | EDITORIAL INTERN A few times a day, scrolling down my Twitter feed, I see an outburst about domestic violence. More often than not, it’s a reaction to the double-standard of men and women in regards to domestic violence. It’s never okay for a man to lay a hand on a woman, but a woman hitting a man warrants nothing more than a light reprimand, they say. However, domestic violence is still widely considered a women’s issue, beyond the progressivism of the Internet through Twitter and Tumblr, especially in the sports world. Domestic violence is most often highlighted in relation to the NFL or college football, with scandals that result in a player’s suspension occurring about once a year. But with Hope Solo’s domestic violence cases dragged into the spotlight, the lens of domestic violence in sports is beginning to shift. Scandals among famous athletes, while appearing distant from our lives as day-to-day citizens, are hugely reflective of our society’s stance as a whole. Public reaction is indicative of the normalcy of this behavior— giving us a peek into underlying mechanisms of behavior that is usually hushed up. Therefore, I will be looking at Hope Solo, the goalie for the U.S. women’s national team, and Joe Mixon, an Oklahoma Sooners running back, to evaluate the role of gender in domestic violence cases in sports.
"With Hope Solo’s domestic violence cases dragged into the spotlight, the lens of domestic violence in sports is beginning to shift"
Joe Mixon served a one-year suspension after punching a female student at a restaurant and breaking four bones in her face. Mixon claims to have been incited by a racial slur. Recently, the video of the attack became public, provoking public outrage. Andrea Adelson, a writer for ESPNW, argued in “We shouldn’t need to see Joe Mixon’s assault tape to be outraged” that this case proves that women’s voices are drowned out in domestic violence cases: “In cases involving violence against women, they're too often treated as just words on the pages of a police report, with skepticism as the first reaction to an accusation.” Based solely on our legal system, however, that skepticism is justified. We regard offenders as innocent until proven guilty— encouraging the second-guessing of accusations. So is it really a bias against women that’s being shown in these cases, or is merely a bias against the accuser? To me, although this is a valid point, I would argue that this does demonstrate a bias against women. Our system is biased against victims, who most often happen to be women. The issue remains, however, if reworking the legal system is what’s necessary to aid victims, or if we must implement a more grassroots approach, perhaps through social media and public perception— one that lifts women out of their status as victims.
Hope Solo’s case presents another interesting consideration; a case in which perhaps the woman is not the victim. At least, Solo is not the victim of aggression, but whether she is the victim of sexist societal condemnation is not crystal clear. In June 2014, Solo was charged with two accounts of domestic violence, against her half-sister and her half-sister’s son, following a drunken dispute. Cindy Boren, a reporter for the Washington Post, argues in “Hope Solo and the domestic violence case no one is talking about” that Solo’s case is “the domestic violence case no one is talking about.” She believes that, as a woman, Solo is getting the double-standard reversed— her pending court case overlooked in order for her to continue playing in national team games, at the same time countless NFL players are getting indefinitely suspended for the same charge. J. Doyle, for the Sport Spectacle, argues in the opposite in “Sexism, Hope Solo.” She contends that the sexist pattern continues in Solo’s case, that the media has only jumped on this case as an opportunity to progress men’s issues in sports. J. Doyle claims that the media is attempting to use Solo’s case to argue for less stringent punishments for men in domestic violence cases; they’re not concerned with the community response that should be taken to resolve the root of the problem. Focusing on Solo’s case at all is in fact a manifestation of the institutional sexism of sports.
In both Solo and Mixon’s cases, the double-standards stemming from gender is hard to pinpoint, but there is a consensus that gender does play a role. In doing this analysis, it does become apparent that evaluating the role sexism plays in domestic violence is sports is difficult to do in individual cases. The legal system in the United States, the capitalist underlying of the company sponsors, and the sports institution— whether the NFL or FIFA— play a huge role in the significance of each incident. Both Solo and Mixon are results of societal workings, as sports tend to be— indicating that perhaps these sports incidents are only indicators that, when it comes to domestic violence, there are necessary societal charges becoming more and more urgent.
Each month, our editorial interns research articles written by or about women’s sports. Our Sports Round Ups is a gathering place of women sports news and voices. Our mission is to spread awareness of women’s voices in the sporting field, to help tell the stories of our community, and to inspire her own understanding and voice. Check out our Sports Round Up series.
[Photo credit: 2015 Getty Images]