Dear Philly: Battered Women Aren’t Sports Mascots
Dear Philly: Battered women are not your sports mascots.
Like you, I think that Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is a bad dude. And like you, I’m always going to regard the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane with a certain amount of wariness. But take away their team affiliations — make them two relatively anonymous guys — and I’d still feel that way.
In Philadelphia, though, we seem to treat the transgressions (alleged and otherwise) of our sports rivals as an opportunity to express our fandom. And that’s kind of gross — a conflating of priorities that, at its worst, serves to further objectify women who’ve already been treated and made to feel worthless.
The thought first occurred to me last month when the Flyers played the Blackhawks and Kane. Kane then stood accused of rape, though he hadn’t been charged — and indeed, it now appears he won’t be. How did Philly fans respond? By chanting “She said no” at Kane throughout the game.
“Cheap heat against a visiting player,” Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski wrote, and he was right.
Fast forward to this weekend and the Eagles’ rivalry-week matchup with the Cowboys. Hardy, who’d already been under the microscope for domestic abuse, was now facing increased scrutiny thanks to a new Deadspin report that documents, in pictures, the bruises that Hardy left on his then-girlfriend after a 2014 fight.
Here’s the good news: Josh Innes and WIP used the occasion to raise at least $23,000 for a battered women’s shelter in Dallas. That’s great, and if the generosity of Eagles fans someday saves the lives of Texas women, a wonderful thing will have happened. And that’s true, even if it was still seemingly based in — admittedly higher-minded-than-usual — “beat Dallas” fandom.
Still, it bears repeating: Domestic violence, assaults on women are wrong because they’re wrong, not because the abusers aren’t on your favorite team.
The implication in those cheers, in the triumphalism over the fundraising numbers, is that we Philadelphians are better than those neanderthals in Dallas. But we’re not. In Pennsylvania last year, 141 people — mostly women — died in domestic violence incidents. Eighty-five thousand women were served at shelters operated by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. More than 6,000 had to be turned away because the coalition didn’t have the resources to help everybody who needed it.
In Philadelphia in 2014, there were more than 1,000 rapes and attempted rapes reported.
All of which means our city and our state are filled with the pain of women who have survived the worst sorts of traumas possible. They are our wives, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our friends, our neighbors, and they are relatively anonymous because they were not victimized by a high-profile athlete. They will never be the subject of a Deadspin profile, never the cause for a hockey chant.
Who is raising money for them?
Turning crimes against women into sports arena chants mostly trivializes those crimes, turns them into smack-talk fodder — and thus makes the actual women, with their actual stories, relatively invisible, seemingly meaningless except as the vehicle for the opportunity to get a good burn in on the opponents.
That’s not how it should be. I cannot think that it serves the women, or their healing, all that well.
Philadelphia isn’t the only city where these things happen, of course, but it’s the only city in America that is today congratulating itself on showing Greg Hardy what’s what. By all means, let’s join together and fight the scourge of violence against women — but let’s try to do it even when there’s not a game to be won, OK?
Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.