Over the past few weeks, many feminist or feminist-leaning women (no matter how they label themselves) have shared articles and memes espousing this sentiment: If you criticize Taylor Swift for celebrating her boyfriend's wins, supporting him, that "your daughter's are listening." That it amounts to criticizing women for taking up space, for supporting their partners. And that is so valid. It really is. But we can't just feel righteous in "girl power" feminism. We have to challenge ourselves, those we admire, and our culture that continues to excuse the violent behavior of powerful men. Especially when it is easily wrapped in a pretty package.
I am a clinical social worker. And unfortunately because domestic violence is so common, even when I wasn't working specifically in the DV prevention and response field, I dealt with it. If you are working with people, especially people in distress, DV is common. Violence generally is so common in fact that few people are talking about the violence seen during the Super Bowl last night.
If a client of mine, either when I was working as a case manager for refugees, or now as a private practice sex and relationship therapist, said to me: "I attended my partner's work event and he went up to his boss and screamed in his face. And then shoved him. In front of everyone" it would trigger assessment and potential interventions. No question. I would be doubly concerned if this partner was willing to do this, in last night's example, in front of quite literally the entire world. What is he willing to do privately then? Especially when he plays a sport famous for inducing CTE, which can cause violent outbursts? And those assessments might find that the client is safe. But I would continue to keep an eye on a client who was partnered with someone with these behaviors.
if your thought right now is: "But it was the Super Bowl. It's the highest stakes for a football player." I ask you to consider that this is still just a game. A game the players are being paid millions to play. No other player did this last night. People work high stress jobs everyday and manage to channel that energy into non-violent ways. This betrays the pass we give (and I would argue, the acceptance even) of male passion equating to violence.
Last night, families gathered to watch this game. Young people learned that violence means you win. It means you are celebrated. It means you get to kiss the pretty girl at the end. If you shared the memes or articles about critique to Taylor Swift damaging young people, I hope you will also have a version of the following conversation with your child:
"Hey, it was fun to eat good food and see our friends at the Super Bowl party last night! I was wondering if you remember when Travis went up to his coach and screamed at him, and then pushed him. I was pretty shocked in the moment but now that I've thought about it, I want to talk to you about it. What did you think about it? How do you think it would go if you did that to your coach at school? What if you were the coach; how would it make you feel? And what if your boyfriend or girlfriend did that?"