What the Ray Rice Scandal Says About Our Culture

By: Mara Smith, E23 Staffer

Raven’s running back, Ray Rice, was suspended indefinitely from the NFL in September once video surfaced on TMZ showing Rice assaulting and knocking out his then-fiancee, Janay Butler. The video has since gone viral and has sparked debate over sexism in our society and especially a culture of violence in sports.

In February, footage showing Rice dragging Butler’s unconscious body out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino is released by TMZ. After Rice is indicted by an Atlantic County grand jury on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault, the Ravens respond with the statement following statement: “We know there is more to Ray Rice than this one incident.”

While the Ravens excused Rice and his actions, they denounced the victim by tweeting, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident”. The tweet was later deleted. It is particularly concerning that the NFL is fostering a culture of misogyny by implying that the victim is to blame for her own assault while downplaying the role of the perpetrator. In addition to the Raven’s response implying that Rice’s actions are excusable, the NFL responds with only a slap on the wrist: a two-game suspension.

The issue did not gain significant attention until the second video was released in September showing footage from inside the elevator of the assault. It took undeniable physical for the league to decide that what transpired in the elevator was serious enough to warrant suspension. Some believe significant action should have been taken by the NFL immediately following the incident rather than allowing Rice to play for six months with virtually no punishment after the first video was released.

The NFL’s lenient punishment for Rice and tendency to blame the victim points to a larger issue of misogyny in today’s culture. The Rice scandal led to a nation-wide dialogue on women’s issues. Recently, Emma Watson was named a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and delivered a speech on the importance of feminism at the U.N. headquarters in New York. Watson called on both men and women to get involved in the feminist movement saying, “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?” Watson has brought worldwide attention to the issue with her campaign “He-For-She.”

MU students interested in getting involved with the feminist movement can take part in MSA’s new campaign “Enough is Enough.” In an email to students from Student Body President, Kelsey Haberberger, she describes the campaign, “As a university, we have come together, uniting our voices, to take a stand against sexual violence on our campus.”

In light of the Ray Rice scandal, it is imperative that students join in on a campaign to shift current thinking about women’s issues and broaden their thinking to consider feminism a human issue. As said by Emma Watson in her U.N. speech, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”