Why Saying “I’ll ‘Ray Rice’ This Test” and Similar Things is Inappropriate
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard and seen more about the Ray Rice domestic violence episode than you ever wanted to. In case you somehow missed it (or just need a reminder), two different videos from security cameras at a casino in Atlantic City, NJ reveal Rice’s assault on his then fiancé, Janay Palmer (she is now married to Rice). The first video released to the public showed Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. That video was troubling enough: Rice did not appear upset. Instead, in a rather nonchalant fashion he dragged his fiancé and the mother of his child out of the elevator like someone might drag a heavy bag of trash toward the dumpster.
Based on the first video and whatever Rice and Palmer told the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL, Rice received a two-game suspension. The reaction from the public and especially those who work to reduce domestic violence was one of shock and disappointment. The two-game suspension hardly seemed enough for such a vicious attack. Players who violated the league’s drug policy typically receive harsher sanctions. The NFL appeared not to take seriously the matter of domestic violence among its players. Would you agree?
A second video was released months later. It showed what happened inside the elevator where Rice unleashed a powerful punch that immediately rendered Palmer unconscious. The second video image was so violent and upsetting that the NFL was forced to reconsider and increase its punishment from two games to an indefinite suspension. The Baltimore Ravens immediately cut ties with Rice. While the sports world and others in the media continue to discuss and debate the Ray Rice saga as it continues to unfold, some students at the Mount and well beyond the confines of our campus have been overheard saying things like, “I’ll Ray Rice this test!” or similar things indicating how they will “knock out” or complete some task or another. In addition, recent news stories and photos have shown some people going to costume parties wearing a Ray Rice jersey while dragging around a blow up doll. Is saying “I’ll Ray Rice this” funny? Is the costume funny?
While humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, I think a bit of reflection will quickly reveal that “Ray Ricing” things like a test or a paper or any assignment or task, and dressing up as Ray-the-fiancé-assaulter are not funny, and they certainly are inappropriate and insensitive. Moreover, part of the reason that we have high rates of domestic violence in our society has to do with how we think and talk about domestic violence. When we make light of violence and trivialize it we are effectively reinforcing attitudes and beliefs that provide the cultural underpinnings of violence toward others, especially women. I like humor that pushes the envelope as much as anyone (maybe more than most), but I also recognize that what we say and do has consequences (even when we are trying to be funny).
Some of our male students recently participated in the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event to show their commitment to reducing domestic violence. One young man held a sign that read, “Our feet hurt so they (women) don’t have to.” I thought this was a great way to express solidarity with women and others who are victims of violence. The sign was clever and powerful in a helpful way. I applaud that young man and all those who donned high heels and walked, literally, a mile in them. What they did was impressive, even fun to watch. Saying “I’ll Ray Rice” this or that or wearing a Ray-Rice-dragging-his-fiancé costume is anything but impressive, clever, funny. Both are in poor taste, they reveal a lack of understanding and sensitivity about the reality of domestic violence. They surely reflect poorly on those who say or do such things. Would you agree?