A Super Failure: Domestic Violence and Football’s Big Game
February 3, 2012
By David J. Leonard
For the longest time I have heard that Super Bowl Sunday was a day of heightened domestic violence. Linked to alcohol consumption, frustrations over the game outcome, and a day of uber masculinity (as opposed to hyper masculinity), the narrative has identified Super Bowl Sunday as one particularly dangerous to women. Thus, with the Super Bowl approaching, I decided to look into this issue in broader detail.
As one searches Super Bowl and domestic violence, one is confronted with a clear theme: that any connection between the two is a myth and a hoax. Citing a 2007 study from Oths & Robertson that “examined 2,387 crisis call records covering a previous 3-year period,” Dr. John M. Grohol identifies the claim as urban legend, a “largely debunked myth that domestic violence calls spike around Super Bowl Sunday.” Similarly, in “Super Bowl or Super Bull? Six Super Bowl Myths Busted,” Sarah Weir disputes the often-uttered claim:
This story stemmed from a Public Service Announcement that aired at the beginning of the televised broadcast of the 1993 Super Bowl match between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills that warned, “Domestic violence is a crime.” Although a number of articles debunking the claim appeared in various newspapers, the idea has persisted. Football is so overtly macho and physical it’s no wonder that it gives some people, especially those who don’t enjoy or understand the game, the chills. However, in 2006, Richard Gelles, an expert on domestic abuse from the University of Pennsylvania said, ‘This kind of ‘urban legend’ trivialized the causes and consequences of domestic violence.’
The efforts to dismiss, deny and minimize the issue of domestic violence and its relationship to hyper masculine sports spectacles is revealing; the efforts to oversimplify it as a source of opposition is reflective of the right’s anti-feminist agenda. For example, according to Christina Hoff Sommers, who the Daily Caller identifies as the “American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and equity feminist,” an oxymoron to say the least, “Women who are at risk for domestic violence are going to be helped by state of the art research and good information,” she said. “They are not going to be helped by hyperbole and manufactured data.” Similarly in “Super Bowl Sunday and domestic violence: A hoax,” Dr. Charles Corry laments the Super Bowl myth is yet another example of how feminism is corrupting society through denying the attacks on men.
Unfortunately, the Super Bowl Sunday violence myth is just one of many myths surrounding domestic violence. Most studies are suspect and highly skewed. Men and women initiate domestic violence in roughly equal proportions, yet judges and police are trained and intimidated politically not to question a woman’s claim of domestic violence, effectively passing judgment on the accused man.
Ignoring facts, such as “One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime,” or “majority (73%) of family violence victims are females,” Corry, whose National Justice Foundation focuses its attention on seeing men as victims of sexism, is reflective of the anti-feminist opposition discourse.
In examining the reports and the literature, it is unclear as to the relationship between domestic violence and Super Bowl Sunday. While there is no causal relationship, there is clearly anecdotal evidence from shelters that suggest that Super Bowl is a day where domestic violence is an issue. Yet, it is important to look beyond causal relationships to reflect on the structural factors that contribute to the issue of domestic violence. As Jackson Katz, co-founder and director of MVP Strategies, noted to me, the issues of alcohol abuse, gambling, the ubiquity of parties and social interactions increasing the opportunity for conflict, and the presence at home (people are less likely to be working on the weekend), provides a structural reality to reflect on the issue of domestic violence.
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