Someone asked me the following question in a Facebook comment when I posted this article on the similarities between domestic violence/racist cop apologists:
I think we have to look at domestic violence as a whole not in parts. We honestly don’t know what was said and what was done before Mr. Rice Struck his then Fiancée Janay. We can’t just say men should be a Jay-Z in a case when a woman is doing everything she can to provoke him to give her a glass of sit yo A** down. Let’s be real. We all have a tipping point. Is that realistic to act like men don’t?
Yep, somebody put that out into the universe on a public forum.
My answer was lengthy, so I thought I should share it with everyone:
Two things about tipping points: First, they don’t make whatever you do after reaching them okay, as in acceptable in society, personally and/or relationally permissible, or legal. Maybe understandable, but not allowable. For example, let’s say I reach a tipping point with my boss and say, “Kiss my insubordinate ass and f-you and ya mama.” I’m fired, because my behavior is inappropriate. HR doesn’t care if I was having a bad day, I missed my bus, one of my coworkers called in sick and I had to finish all her work on top of my own. Doesn’t matter to HR if I say, “But my boss is never satisfied with anything I do, and he’s always overreacting, and I just reached my tipping point.” HR might see my bad day as mitigating circumstances and suspend me without pay and make me attend anger management instead of firing me, but I’m still wrong.
Likewise, beating up on someone smaller than you are and who isn’t attempting to strangle you and who doesn’t have a weapon that can cause you death or irreparable bodily harm is wrong. Even if they said all kinds of nasty things first. Even if they spat on you. Even if they hit you first. Even if it’s two men in the abusive situation. Even if it’s two women. It’s still wrong.
I stand by that but also see the necessity to note: It’s not just about physicality. To say that all would be forgiven in an intimate partner violence situation if men and women were equally matched physically ignores the gender dynamics at play in intimate partner violence (and in violent interactions between male and female strangers, including violent speech used in street harassment, but that’s for another post). It ignores the issue at the core of all this: Men are taught and most feel they have an inherent right to dominate women, and anything that challenges their power and/or their masculinity should be knocked down, out, and into submission. We see the same mentality among white people who, through, terroristic violence or legislation, attempt to halt challenges to white supremacy. So just like I can’t ignore race and our country’s racial history in cases of police assaults against unarmed black teens, I can’t say that this would be a different situation if the woman were a body builder. The core issue would still be men needing to hold onto power.
Second thing about tipping points: They’re arbitrary and fickle. They vary according to what kind of day I’m having, alcohol intake, physical and mental health, who I’m interacting with, whether or not I prayed this morning, how much sleep I got last night, etc. It cannot be everyone else’s responsibility to always know when my tipping point is, so stop telling women they should know when to back off.
And everything I didn’t say, Mychal Denzel Smith did.