Marissa Alexander’s case is not so much about Florida’s stand your ground law as it is about the connections between interrelated facets of her case including gender, domestic violence, and mandatory minimums. In Part I of this series, we explored the role of gender.
Today’s post looks at the double standards applied to evaluating violence in the context of domestic violence.
Alexander’s first husband runs a website at justiceformarissa.blogspot.com. It’s more than an artifact in today’s use of social media in search of social justice; the blog also contains critical information about the case, including a deposition of Marissa’s ‘victim.’
The deposition is long – it runs sixty-six pages in transcription. In those pages are sentences and fragments that tell the story of domestic violence between men and women everywhere.
Q: When you say you got mad on that first incident, what did you do?
A: I pushed her, and I pretty much pushed her on the bed and then I forced her out of my house. You know, I pretty much picked her up and throwed her out.
Q: Literally picked her up?
A: Literally, yeah.
And then some more:
Q: What do you mean she got put out?
A: I mean I put her out.
Q: How did you put her out?
A: She was trying to stay, wanting to talk to me, and I just — I made up in my mind — I was done with her, but evidently I wasn’t done with her, but I picked her up. She a little person.
Q: I’m sorry?
A: She’s a little person so it doesn’t take much for me to pick her up and tote her out my front door and lock my door.
That, right there, is the mutual combatants problem in a nutshell.
People absolutely love to say, “Women can be just as violent!” They acknowledge that intimate partner violence is a gendered crime, but then they step right into the mutual combatants trap with that sentence.
Or: “Men can be victims too.” And with that statement, they do not so much support male victims, who are more likely to be abused by another male, as they support the notion that women and men are playing some sort of a game on a level playing field.
When women and men are engaged in physical violence, their violent actions are not equal. Did she slap him? Did he slap her? Does it mean the same thing? Clearly not. Alexander is so outmatched in any battle with her husband that he can literally pick her up and carry her around. As he said, “She a little person.”
Yet, Alexander’s violence, even when protective, is treated as equal to that of a man. That’s not right.
Male violence is socially understandable. Normal. Unfortunate. Jealousy. Routine. Passionate. Protective. Unintentional. But female violence is understood entirely differently. Even women’s use of self-defense is cast as aberrant, frightening, threatening, and dangerous.
This is not the only double standard in domestic violence. In addition to everything else, domestic violence is fundamentally understood as a problem not just of what actions a person takes, but of the relationship of the parties involved. What if Alexander’s assailant had been a stranger or a mere acquaintance?
Do you remember the case of Sarah McKinley? The single mom shot an intruder, in defense of herself and her three-month-old baby. We all thought she was a hero. Is the real difference between these two cases the relationship between the attacker and the woman firing a gun?
A: I just calling her bitches and, you know, honestly, be honest with y’all, if my kids wasn’t there I wouldn’t have left when she would have shot. I was just that mad.
Q: What do you mean you were that mad?
A: I was just that mad at the fact she was sending sending pictures of my baby to her ex-husband, to – I believe it would have been worse that it would have if my kids hadn’t have been there.
Q: What do you mean it would have been worse?
A: It would have been — I would have, you know — if my kids weren’t there, I knew I probably would have tried to take the gun from her, you know. I just don’t know what would have happened. If my kids wouldn’t have been there, I probably would have put my hand on her.
Q: What do you mean you would have put your hand on her?
A: Probably hit her. I got five baby mamas and my hand on every last one of them except for one.
Q: When you say you put your hands on them, what do you mean by that,
A: I physically abused them; physically, emotionally, you know, it’s like…
Why was this case ever even charged? And why did the defense fail? Because we hold women to all kinds of double standards when it comes to intimate partner violence.
- ‘Stand Your Ground’: Ladies, You Have No Ground to Stand on (gawker.com)
- Neutrality is Not an Option in Violence Against Women Claims (crimedime.com)
- Restaurant Misses the Point with Rihanna and Chris Black and Bleu Burger Debacle (crimedime.com)
- Stand Your Ground Double Standard in Florida (kitakazoo.com)
- What is the Truth About Abuse? (crimedime.com)