Response to ‘The Bachelor’ Slap May Show Attitudes Changing Toward Female-on-Male Violence

I told you that Amber Portwood is the gift that keeps on giving.

It seems that enough people have seen her punch-up of boyfriend Gary Shirley and identified it as domestic violence that, whenever they see a woman hit a man, they want her prosecuted.  What a concept!  I told you that the Amber Portwood incident was educational.

So when a woman named Chantal O’brien appeared on the television series “The Bachelor,” and slapped the said bachelor, Brad Womack, the Internet buzzed with calls for her prosecution for battery.  Interesting; folks learn fast.

Now, none other than attorney and media spotlight magnetGloria Allred has leapt to Chantal’s defense here saying the slap didn’t constitute battery (All Headline News, 1/5/10).  She’s probably right.  To be pursued by a district attorney, battery usually has to be injurious in some way which the slap clearly was not.  (Domestic violence of course is different; there, pretty much anything qualifies as actionable.)

I also suspect that the whole thing was scripted which means that Brad consented to being slapped.  That too is a defense to a charge of battery be it criminal or civil.

But what’s interesting is that Allred is at pains to differentiate “TheBachelor” incident from what Amber Portwood did.  Again, Portwood is so much in the forefront of the American consciousness about DV right now that Allred and others feel obliged to distinguish the two cases.  Thank you Amber.

But there’s more going on in the “The Bachelor” incident than meets the eye.

First, Chantal took the astonishing point of view that slapping the man was OK because she was doing it for “all the scorned women in America.”  Oh, really?  I wonder how she knows.

How had Brad “scorned” her?  He hadn’t.  In fact, they’d never met prior to the show as far as I can tell.  But it seems that on a previous season of the show, he had “refused” the last two female contestants.  Say what?  A man’s refusing to date or become intimate with a woman constitutes “scorning” her?  Since when? 

Memo to Chantal: it happens every day, many times a day.  Girls and women set their hearts on men who don’t “second that emotion.”  Boys and men have the same experience.  Asi es la vida.

So it’s remarkable that Chantal seems to believe that Brad’s refusal of two women deserves a slap.  It’s more remarkable that he does too, a fact that he admitted in so many words.

While the “The Bachelor” incident means little by itself, it does suggest that the American TV-watching public has had its consciousness raised about female-on-male violence.  That’s a good thing, and for more than reasons of correcting disinformation about domestic violence.

For many decades – far predating second-wave feminism – popular culture has represented female against male violence as at least acceptable and often an affirmative good.  I can’t count the old movies that include a woman slapping a man because of something he said that she didn’t approve of.

More recently, the ante has been upped considerably to include everything from knees to the crotch depicted as comedy to “Boys are Bad, Throw Rocks at Them” T-shirts to “Thelma and Louise”-style murder.  And it’s all justified by something – anything – the guy did to “deserve” it.  Usually it’s sexual infidelity that’s used to allow the woman to injure or sometimes kill the man, but it can be other offenses as well.

None of that of course is used to justify male-on-female violence.

The point being that there’s always been a double standard when it comes to portrayals of violence by pop culture.  Female on male violence is almost always depicted as acceptable.  The reverse is almost never the case.

But, if the “The Bachelor” slap is any indication, the worm may be starting to turn.  Americans saw that and immediately thought “Amber Portwood” and realized that what the woman did was wrong.

If this keeps up, maybe Americans will even start to wonder why young men but not young women must register with the Selective Service System.  Who knows?  Stranger things have happened.

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