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What’s Missing from the Tiger Woods Story

Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 03:53 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The most famous golfer of his generation was in a car accident. He was unconscious. He was in serious condition. He was treated for facial lacerations and released. He hurt his face in the accident. He hurt his face before the accident. His wife hurt his face. He’s having an affair. They’re just friends.

That’s the Reader’s Digest version of how the Tiger Woods story unfolded Thursday and over the next few days. The details of the accident and injuries remain uncertain, but it now appears that Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, may have caused the golfer’s facial injuries during a fight over his alleged infidelity, and may have also caused the accident by chasing the car in which Woods was fleeing and hit the vehicle repeatedly with a golf club. The media are busy speculating about what the story means for Woods’ popularity and what he should do to minimize the damage. The under-addressed issue is what I consider to be the most disturbing possible angle: domestic violence.

If the roles were reversed and it was Nordegren who had the accident and then refused to talk to police, if Woods had gone berzerk over the possibility of another man, if he had scratched her face and then wielded a golf club as a weapon as she tried to escape, I guarantee the question on everyone’s lips would be, “Is Tiger Woods a wife beater?”

It is my belief that almost anyone is capable of violence under the right circumstances. When someone does snap, the American double standard kicks in and dictates how we react based on the gender of the parties involved. We have zero tolerance for men who assault women but make excuses for women perpetrators. It’s a remnant of sexism, ironically promoted most strenuously by feminists, that considers women to be weak and in need of protection. Thus, a man can never hit a woman, but a woman hitting a man is not big deal, especially if he was “asking for it” by having a girlfriend on the side.

But what does this say to female victims of domestic violence? That sometimes there’s a good reason to batter? That sometimes the victim is asking for it? That the violence wouldn’t have happened if only the victim hadn’t made the abuser so damn mad? These are the excuses that have been used by batterers of every generation. They don’t suddenly become legitimate reasons when the abuser is female.

A truly egalitarian society would treat assault by a woman against a man (or a woman against a woman, or a man against a man) exactly the same way as violence by a man against a woman. For that matter, an egalitarian society wouldn’t make a distinction between domestic violence and the same acts perpetrated against strangers on the street.

I wasn’t in the Nordegren-Woods home before the car accident and I wasn’t a witness to the accident itself. I have no idea what, if anything, Nordegren did to her husband. I don’t know whether or not she has a propensity for or a history of violence against him. But I do know that we do victims of violence no favors by ignoring the the victims who are wealthy, famous, male professional athletes.

Categories: gender issues
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