Can we discuss provocation?

Can we discuss provocation? EPSN host Stephen A Smith was suspended for suggesting the discussion.

Can we discuss provocation? ESPN host Stephen A Smith was suspended for suggesting the discussion.

I’ve never hit a woman and I never would.

A woman, though, tried to strangle me once in my late 20s.

Well, aren’t you going to ask the question: “What did you to provoke her?”

Is that a fair question?

Can violence be provoked?

If you’re a parent, a teacher or a police officer, you would answer, “Of course, violence can be provoked” i.e. “Those boys were bullying Johnny and he hit them!”

But can we use the same justification of provocation if a man hits a woman, other than in self-defense?

If my story above was different, and she said “He tried to strangle me”, would you ask the same question of her, “What did you to provoke him?”

Of course, not!
Stephen A. Smith, ESPN reporter was suspended for suggesting that we discuss female provocation of men in domestic violence.

But it is taboo to suggest or even hint that a woman could ever, in any way, whatsoever, provoke a man to hit her.

Violence against women is wrong. Period.

So what about Battered Woman Syndrome, aka Battered Wife Syndrome?

This is the legal defense used to acquit women of murder charges when the woman one day killed her abusive husband or partner.

Her defense is “provocation.”

And incidentally, the courts permit the same defense for men!

But violence and abuse are not limited to physical battery; they take many forms:

Mental, emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

And in the real world, off the TV set and behind closed doors, men and woman engage in these forms of violence.

The stories by my clients are shocking: a male client was beaten by his mother but never his father; a female client was beaten, verbally and emotionally abused by her mother but never her father; an adult male client was recently beaten by his wife – she punched him and slapped him – he refused to retaliate; a woman was verbally and emotionally abused by her husband.

But in the court of public opinion, we only see provocation as a word women can use.

In fact, the media and many late night shows thought it was amusing and hilarious that Solange (Beyonce’s sister) attacked Jay Z in an elevator – he didn’t retaliate.

We expect more of men; we hold men to a higher standard.

We reinforce the sexist stereotypes that women are extremely emotional, physically weak and helpless, and men are stoic, physically strong and can and must control their emotions and exert more self-discipline than women who can’t do so.

Yet, we now accept and welcome women in the armed forces to fight, kill and protect our country.

Women want equality and they want to be feel empowered.

Hollywood is at least granting them that with the progressive inclusion of tough, violent heroines: Artemisia is the vengeful and powerful female commander of the Persian navy in “300 – Rise of an Empire.” She kills scores of men single handedly in combat. Think also of Angelina Jolie versus Brad Pitt in a series of violent battles in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”

While many people support and shout “equality for women”, we don’t treat them equally. The conference for “A voice for men” which included female presenters had to change its venue because of death threats. If that was a woman’s conference and it received death threats, we all would have reacted quite harshly and would have defended the women.

We only see violence against women as a problem. But all violence is serious and provocation is a challenging word – it is emotional and subjective.

My dad was physically abusive to my brother and me, and emotionally abusive to my mother. He never hit my mother but he would smash things and shout. But years later, my mother would openly be verbally and emotionally abusive to him, and he would never retaliate.

Could either of them argue provocation?

We each need to accept personal responsibility for our individual actions and understand that violence takes many forms. We all need to respect each other and control our responses and reactions, regardless of our gender. Beyond that, we have no excuse.  (Also read  “Emma Watson – feminism and gender stereotypes”  and “Women engage in domestic violence as much as men” and “Emotional Intelligence can help prevent domestic violence” 

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