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Hope Solo's Treatment by Media and Courts Will Have Considerable Impact on Gender Politics
Is There a Double Standard for Female Athlete Violence?
From Ray Rice to Floyd Mayweather, violent male athletes have been roundly condemned for battering their significant others recently. As we try to improve gender equality, we have tried to turn a societal leaf in terms of confronting domestic violence. No longer will we tolerate male athletes who abuse or cheat on their wives and girlfriends. That era, hopefully, is past.
But what about when women do the hitting? A longstanding open secret about domestic violence is that women are often aggressors. Despite typically being physically stronger, many men are slapped, shoved, punched, or kicked by female partners. Many men who are victims of domestic violence may never speak out because they fear that authorities, friends, and family will not believe them. Men, and society as a whole, are socialized to be skeptical of male victimhood. Men are not victims and should not be treated as such.
Hope Solo, the U.S. women's soccer team goalie, is one of the most recognizable female athletes in America. While women's sports are often considered a positive influence on young women and girls, Solo has gotten into her share of trouble. According to USA Today, Solo has been involved in multiple controversial incidents since joining the U.S. women's soccer team. In June 2014, however, her previous incidents of notoriety were easily eclipsed by her arrest for domestic violence.
Solo allegedly battered both her sister and her nephew at her sister's home one evening after becoming intoxicated on wine. At the time, critics complained of a double standard. While male athletes who were accused of similar crimes would be hastily removed from the playing field, they claimed, the U.S. women's soccer team was silent about Solo. In fact, since the incident, Solo has both remained an active player on the team and has kept her lucrative endorsements, such as with Nike.
Now, new reports have come to light detailing Solo's behavior toward police during and after her June 2014 arrest. The reports amplify the controversy behind Solo's arrest by asserting that she was belligerent and verbally abusive toward arresting and processing officers. Solo allegedly belittled the masculinity of the officers, insulted their civil servant pay, and made lewd comments about two of her jailers. During processing, she had to be physically taken to the floor for resisting officers' commands. Throughout the incident, Solo was characterized as angry and intoxicated.
While Solo has claimed that she was actually the victim of the domestic violence, blaming her 280-pound nephew for the assault, the police reports certainly portray Solo more as an angry aggressor than beaten victim. ESPN reports that Solo, despite claiming that she was "concussed" by her large nephew, suited up for a game the next week. The original court case was thrown out on procedural grounds, but prosecutors are re-filing.
Though some might shrug off the Hope Solo drama as inconsequential, it is an important case at an important time for issues of gender equality. How the media and the courts treat allegations of female-instigated domestic violence could have an impact on public response to recent attempts by legislatures to empower female accusers of sexual assault, abuse, and domestic violence, especially on college campuses. If the public, especially men, feel that female suspects are being easily "let off the hook," they may resist bills and proposals that would empower female accusers.
Nobody wins when men believe that the media and the courts are biased against men and trivialize violence against them. Men will come to oppose any attempts to empower female accusers on the grounds that such proposals will further disadvantage men. If female batterers are not treated seriously, men will come to view issues of gender equality as "us versus them" instead of "equality."