Usually I’m fiercely against double-standards, but I have to admit: I don’t think that a woman hitting a man is the same thing as a man hitting a woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m anti-domestic violence (physical and emotional), or any violence for that matter, but I just don’t believe that if a woman hits a man, the ramifications are the same as when the reverse happens.
Now, I’m not talking about slugging your boyfriend or husband with a brass-knuckled left hook. Or smashing him over the head with a portrait painting. Or bludgeoning him with a blunt object. Obviously these acts are wrong, violent, and possibly a felony. I don’t mean pulling a Lorena Bobbitt or a Phil Hartman’s wife or a Francine Hughes in The Burning Bed (although the latter was found not guilty by a jury of her peers). I’m not talking about drawing blood, using lethal weapons, or murder. I’m talking more about smacks and slaps to the upper-body region when a gentlemen is behaving badly: Shoulders, chest, that kind of thing.
Why do I feel this way? Domestic violence is a very serious issue and I’m not making light of it. But let’s face it: It’s pretty hard for most women to physically hurt a man. As many men will take pride in telling you, men are physically stronger than women. Yes, yes – I know that some women are stronger than some men, but I’m talking about general biological and physiological truths, not exceptions to the rule. (According to the National Organization for Women, almost five million women are physically abused by their partners every year, and many more of those incidents go unreported.) So, with that seemingly sexist viewpoint in mind, it’s not fair or right for men to hit women, because they’ll likely cause the women real physical (not to mention emotional) harm. Most civilized societies and laws agree with this stance.
We see the kind of thing I’m talking about on TV and in movies all the time: A frustrated girlfriend/wife smacks her boyfriend/husband across the shoulder because he stayed out too late/got drunk with his friends/didn’t do the yard work he promised/forgot their anniversary. These scenarios are supposed to be funny. Why? Because we know that the woman isn’t actually causing the man any real physical harm. But if we saw the reverse situation, we’d be outraged, and rightly so, because it takes far less effort for a man to physically injure a woman. That’s why we call these guys bullies, and (hopefully) press charges against them. But if you were to slap your boyfriend/husband on the chest after he stayed out all night at a friend’s bachelor party, would he call the cops and file an order of protection against you? Unlikely. Because he knows this isn’t domestic violence the way a man can perpetrate it against a woman. He knows you didn’t really hurt him, that you couldn’t really hurt him (at least not with your bare hands). Do your smacks and slaps annoy and irritate him? Almost certainly. But he won’t smack or slap you back, even if it’s just on your upper body, because he knows that would be considered domestic violence. And if he does in fact retaliate, you should call the cops.
Should women get a free pass when it comes to acting out and inflicting emotional hurt, if not physical harm? No, they should not. (Except in situations of self-defense. See the Jennifer Lopez movie Enough as an example.) Do women need to control and deal with their anger and rage issues just as men should? Of course. Should women strive to inflict physical and emotional harm on their partners? Of course not. Do some women actually and repeatedly physically abuse their male partners using whatever weapons they have at their disposal? Undoubtedly. Is this whole concept of “it’s-not-wrong-for-women-to-hit-men” a dangerous double-standard? Possibly, but I think it’s a double-standard that’s based in the reality of life’s inequalities. I’ll never advocate ever hitting anyone, or letting rage go untreated, but slapping your fellow across the upper body simply isn’t the same thing as sending your lady to the hospital after shoving her around. Is it advisable for women to hit men? No, it’s not. But it’s not necessarily domestic violence, either.