Saturday, February 5, 2011

Abuse Bowl Hoax

Image by Combined Media
The Super Bowl is barely 24 hours away, and people across the country, even other parts of the world, are all gearing up for a marathon of beer, Velveeta topped Fritos, endless commercials (and, oh yeah,  probably a little head banging good ‘ole ‘Merican football, too). And many are also bracing for that annual orgy of misogynistic violence that accompanies it.

Or are they?

Domestic violence is a serious problem. Thousands of children are killed by their parents each year and it is a cause of death and terror for many women and some men. However, the notion that violence against women skyrockets during the Super Bowl is just plain bogus.  The hoax started in 1993, when a group of women called a press conference before the Super Bowl presenting data from a study done at Old Dominion that showed incidents of domestic violence jumped 40% after games won by the Redskins during the 1988-89 season. After this, psychologists, doctors and shelter workers started coming out of the woodwork with their own evidence to support these claims. The hoax was so convincing that NBC ran public service announcements during the Super Bowl warning men that they could face prison for attacking their wives. It was ultimately exposed as a hoax when the Washington Post tried to follow up on the studies.

Despite the exposure, it is still believed by many and continues to be expressed during the lead up to this current Super Bowl. The belief is so ubiquitous that it spread to Europe during the 2010 World Cup.

The basic premise, that men get so pumped up on booze, adrenaline and testosterone during a big sporting event that they lose their shit more easily than other times of the year, certainly has an appeal to it, especially if you subscribe to the notion that testosterone and alcohol are the causes of patriarchy and violence and that football is the epitome of violence. However, this reductionist and sociobiological sleight of hand let’s men (and women) too easily off the hook. If it is testosterone, stimulated by violent knuckleheads bashing each other’s brains in on T.V., then men aren’t really to blame for their actions. If true, you would expect massive beatings after each boxing match, hockey game and traffic snarl up, too.

While the overly simplistic premise of the claim should have drawn more skepticism and investigation, the claim appealed to people on several levels and was thus more valuable as an unsubstantiated claim than as an exposed myth. The media, for example, thrive on claims like this. Violence sells, even if the violent images are fabricated. The morbid obsession with violence trumps reason and critical thinking. Furthermore, as a puritanical society, people love stories that allow them to wag their fingers at the bad guys who sully their mothers, sisters and daughters. A similar dynamic was at play when the entire nation became hysterical over satanic child molesters at daycares, resulting in many arrests of innocent people.

It’s not just that Americans can’t or won’t think for themselves. The football hoax fit right into a more generalized misperception about domestic violence that is perpetuated by the highest levels of the U.S. government. "The facts are clear," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45." Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Justice Department’s own data, the leading causes of death for African-American women between the ages 15–45 are cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries such as car accidents, and HIV disease. Nevertheless, Holder’s claims remain on the DOJ website, perpetuating the racist myth that all African American women are in violent dysfunctional relationships.

Of course none of this is to say that football is a particularly safe or healthy pastime or that violence against women is an insignificant matter. Football is a relatively dangerous sport, but not as dangerous as war, which the U.S. engages in with almost as much frivolity as a sporting event. And domestic violence is still a serious problem in our culture that is often downplayed or trivialized, rather than discussed honestly and critically.

Super Bowl Fridge by mrpbody33
However, I the most common act of abuse that occurs during Super Bowl Sunday is that of overindulgence in unhealthy food and drink, slothfulness and indolence, all forms of abuse that I enjoy myself now and then and wish I could enjoy more often.

No comments:

Post a Comment