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Framing Ray Rice’s Story: Blaming and Shaming Janay

**Trigger Warning: Discusses domestic abuse**

Originally, I had no plan to write about Ray Rice and the disgusting video that TMZ leaked. We all saw it, we all know it was wrong and (rightfully) his NFL contract was terminated. Case closed in my opinion…well so I thought. My mind changed over the past few days when I started seeing the trend of what was happening in the framing of this story.

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In a CNN article describing the events they focused on how Ray Rice and his wife Janay are attending counseling and trying to work things out. They chose to point out that in the video she was his fiancée, and now months later they have been married. From a PR standpoint, I totally understand this frame. It allows people to see the good in Rice and shows what he is doing to heal, as well as remedy the situation with Janay.

My problem with this? It opened the floodgates to blame Janay because, after all, if he was so bad why would she marry him? On NewsMax TV, Ben Carson, a Fox News contributor, started the trend by stating:

“Let’s not all jump on the bandwagon of demonizing this guy, He obviously has some real problems, and his wife obviously knows that, because she subsequently married him. So they both need some help.”

Rush Limbaugh added to the discussion:

“Now the obvious question behind the question. Why did she marry the guy, right? If she got decked like that…. She apologized too at his apology presser. What did she apologize for? For getting beat up? Nobody can figure that out. So chomp on that.”

Writer Beverly Gooden shared my frustrations with the shaming of Janay and took matters into her own hands. By sharing her story on Twitter with the hashtag #WhyIStayed she encouraged other victims of domestic abuse to do the same. She explained that:

 “When the overwhelming public voice is of shame, you can get lost in the guilt. You can feel voiceless. I want people to know that they have a voice! That they have the power.”

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Amen Beverly! I think what she did was amazing because it highlighted the fact that none of us were involved in the situation and we don’t know the complexities of their relationship. More importantly, neither do the news outlets. The story should have gone “Ray Rice broke his contract, got terminated from the NFL and is now probably going to play in Canada.” That’s really all we need to know, we didn’t even need to see the video.

While I’m glad that the issue of domestic abuse is being talked about, I’m upset that the dominant discourse has been aimed at blaming the victim. Beverly showed that we have the power to change the conversation, and the hashtag #WhyIStayed is still going viral. These tweets are creating a really great discussion that I think is extremely relevant and necessary in light of the news coverage of these events. Follow the #WhyIStayed hashtag and join the conversation, we can put an end to the shame and blame that is currently connected to abuse!

3 Responses to “Framing Ray Rice’s Story: Blaming and Shaming Janay”

  1. TheRadicalRadish

    It frustrates me that victim blaming always follows an incident of sexual assault/battery when the victim is female. I think it is amazing and so powerful when social media is used to give those silent survivors a voice, like Twitter did with this incident.

    It also frustrates me that in these cases, the opposite narrative, men abused by women, is often silent. I recently saw an episode of “What Would You Do” that showed a couple out in public in two scenarios. The first – a man was verbally and physically abusing his girlfriend, and people that witnessed quickly intervened to help her. When the roles flipped, a woman was verbally and physically abusing her boyfriend in public, people smiled and laughed, and kept on walking. What does this say about the role of men and women in relationships, and in society in general? Abusive relationships are harmful, but people often realize so, as the #WhyIStayed hashtag has shown. I think it would be awesome to have more men engage in this conversation, and to show solidarity as well.

    Reply
    • ChelleBelle

      I definitely agree with you! When I was looking for tweets to showcase in this article I really wanted to find something from a male perspective but I couldn’t find anything. Maybe that goes along with the societal standards of not appearing weak or “like a girl” so they just don’t feel comfortable speaking out? I’m really not sure, but I totally agree it would be great to hear men speak up about this!

      Reply
  2. Nix the Blackface and Domestic Abuse | ShoutOut! JMU

    […] Janay Rice (Ray Rice’s wife) had a lot to say about the issue and made this statement, “And as Mic‘s Derrick Clifton noted, ‘toxic masculinity and deeply ingrained misogyny leads people to routinely devalue women in nearly all facets of society.’ This is clearly manifesting itself with these Halloween costumes.” […]

    Reply

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