When it was reported that a 25-year old Cleveland woman riding an RTA bus was uppercut and violently thrown off said bus by the 59-year old bus driver whom she had assaulted just moments before, opinion on the woman’s actions ran the gamut. Some said that what she had done to the driver warranted his treatment of her–reportedly, she had grabbed him by the throat, spit in his face, and struck him. Other people said that no matter what the woman had done, the bus driver was wrong because there are absolutely no circumstances in which a man is ever justified in hitting a woman.
In all of the going back and forth over who was right and who was wrong, one question that seemed to get lost in the turmoil was “Is it ever OK to hit a man?”
Obviously the average man has more muscle mass than the average woman, and thus will be stronger than the average size woman. Due to the weight, size, and muscle advantage that men–on average–have over women, the general consensus has been that men should not his women because men have a natural physical advantage over women and are more likely to seriously harm a woman in a fight. In recognition of this natural advantage, men haven’t tended to hit women or treat them the same way that a woman would be treated by the same offenses.
Unfortunately in the rush to defend women against the unfair advantage of men, and in the clamor to bring attention to domestic violence, it has been forgotten that men have feelings and can feel pain too. Rather than claiming that it is never OK to hit a woman, perhaps the saying should be that it is never OK for anyone to hit anyone else. Forget about whether or not the person being assaulted is a man or a woman–everyone just needs to keep their hands to themselves, or be prepared to face the consequences. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Discussions where people are arguing over whether or not a man should retaliate against a woman without it also being argued equally vociferously that a women never has any right to put her hands on a man remind me of a time when white doctors would perform experiments on blacks that would never be performed on white people. The medical establishment reasoned that blacks were biologically and physically different from whites, that blacks were better able to withstand pain than white people. White people were full-fledged humans, deserving of having their mental and physical integrity remain in tact and off limits from assault. Black people had no such privilege. Are we not now treating men the same way we once treated blacks when we argue that it is OK–or, at least it is “not quite as bad”–to hit a man as it is to hit a woman?
Furthermore, by not recognizing that men have feelings which are just as valid as the feelings of women, and that men feel pain just like women do, are we not encouraging–or, at least, refusing to discourage–violence against and among men?
In order for the humanity of women to be accepted, the humanity of men needs to be accepted. Women have no right to ask more of others than they feel it is acceptable for someone to ask of them. That is equality. And if women want equality, justice, and fairness, then they have to be willing to extend those standards to men.
Jamila Akil is a senior editor at Beyond Black and White. Follow her on Twitter @jamilaakil or email her at jamilathewriter-at-gmail-dot-com.