By Christiana Paradis
Being a third wave feminist can be draining. For days on end you work tirelessly to effect change or alter gender stereotypes only to be cheered on by the same 15-20 feminists that continue to read your blogs or share your posts on various social media sites, but you rarely reach a wider audience. It becomes downright excruciatingly exhausting some days, and the more exhausted you get, the angrier you get. You stay up late at night and question: Why don’t other people care about these things? Why don’t my OWN female friends care about these things? Is everyone crazy or just me? HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN THAT SEX AND GENDER ARE NOT. THE. SAME. THING!?!?!
Over the last couple of months I’ve felt this anger more than I should, but every now and then something happens, something remarkable. Maybe it’s something big or small depending on who you are or where you are in the world. This something for me this past week was the release of Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens due to an additional video surfacing regarding a previous domestic violence issue. Why was this so remarkable, you may ask?
Back when I was a wee blogger at PBG, around 3 years ago to be exact, I wrote a blog about the ways in which the National Football League (NFL) continuously downplayed domestic violence and sexual assault allegations. At the time I cited a recent murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chief’s player, the sexual harassment of a female NFL reporter, and the recent domestic violence allegations of a Miami Dolphins player. I was disgusted that despite different teams calling out the behavior, there was no general outcry or any official statements made by the NFL, and as a result this invalidated and dismissed female football fans. Once a boys club always a boys club, right?
Fast forward to 2014: In February Ray Rice was seen dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator, the NFL decided to suspend Rice for two games and the Baltimore Ravens took no additional actions regarding Rice’s behavior. All of a sudden public outcry begins and memes pop up all over social media sites questioning a yearlong suspension for marijuana use vs. a two game suspension for domestic violence.
Feeling pressured the NFL decided to determine new sanctions for players accused of domestic violence. These new sanctions include a 6 month suspension for a first offense and banned for life for a second offense. Additionally, after a second video emerged from the February incident involving Rice, the NFL decided to ban Ray Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens made a decision to release him. Though some of these changes came much later than I would have preferred, the fact that teenagers, men, women, and current and/or former NFL players stood up together and challenged the NFL regarding this issue, exhibits remarkable change in opinion and culture. Three years ago a murder-suicide ignited little outrage, but today a two game suspension for domestic violence created a fire storm. That is change. It is a change so big that it forced an organization as large and powerful as the NFL to act, and that gives me hope.
It means that as a society we have become much more educated and more aware of the many implications of domestic violence, it means as bystanders we will not allow this behavior to continue to exist and be rewarded. It means that though we can’t always see it on a daily basis, things are changing and standing together we continue to be drops of hope in a very large bucket that is defining the third wave feminist movement.