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Fear strikes out

April 9, 2011

UPDATE: Wouldn’t you know it? A sportswriter in Pittsburgh has proven me wrong by—you guessed it—blaming Bryan Stow for wearing a Giants jersey to a Dodger game. There’s already a campaign to get him fired.

The first stretch of the 2011 season has generated plenty of blogworthy stories (Manny flames out once and for all; my team’s terrible; Boston’s team is worse and with fewer excuses….), but here in SoCal, there’s less talk of baseball proper than of the horrific assault that left a Giants fan brain-damaged after he was attacked by two Dodger fans in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day.

It’s not the first time, of course, and it’s not a surprise to anyone who’s experienced the seamier side of Chavez Ravine. A Giants fan was murdered by a Dodger fan after a 2003 game—the first Dodger-Giant game I’d ever attended, in fact. I’d been warned to expect a degree of ugliness that would make the Cards-Cubs rivalries of my childhood seem like puppy tussles by comparison, but, naively enough, I hadn’t thought anybody would actually die.

Since the most recent attack, the local and national media have rightly rallied around the rights of fans—no matter which team they support—to enjoy a safe and pleasant outing at Dodger Stadium. Column after column has lamented the death of our innocence. Frank McCourt and his spokespeople have been blasted for their initial tepid response to the crime. The LAPD presence at games has been (with no shortage of fanfare) dramatically increased. The victim, Bryan Stow, has become a tragic martyr for the cause, while the still-unidentified perpetrators have come to symbolize all that’s wrong with a culture of thoughtless violence and dangerously twisted loyalties.

Here’s what hasn’t been in the news:

“Well, if he didn’t want to get beaten, he should have known better than to wear a Giants jersey at Dodger Stadium.”

And of course it shouldn’t be. Because that sort of victim-blaming, the mere suggestion that apparel justifies assault, would be unthinkable.

…..Except when, for example, the crime is a gang rape, and the victim is an 11-year-old girl who, according to a Florida state politician, “was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute.” Except when a Canadian judge declines to imprison a rapist because he determines that the victim’s clothing (tube top, high heels, makeup) suggested that “sex was in the air.” Except when a British rapist goes free because a court finds that his 10-year-old victim was “dressed provocatively” and passed for 16.

Gee. I think I see a pattern here. And I think it’s fascinating—if utterly depressing, on more than one level—that the opening-day tragedy at Dodger Stadium has suddenly introduced a whole lot of manly men to the concept of not feeling safe. I’m going to bet that the average woman (not to mention the average person of color, LGBT, resident of an impoverished neighborhood, or combination of these) already knew exactly what that felt like.

The difference? When men are afraid, police are dispatched to rid them of the curse of fear. When women are afraid, men write bestsellers to reassure us that fear is actually a gift. When white guys are attacked, the media leaps to attention, and the whole system—hell, the whole society!—needs an immediate overhaul. When the rest of us are attacked, well, it was probably our own damn fault.

Here’s hoping that Bryan Stow makes a complete and speedy recovery, and here’s hoping his story is the last of its kind.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. jrfstl permalink
    April 10, 2011 1:13 am

    Dichotomy perfectly articulated! Thanks for putting it out there — I hadn’t thought about it quite like this.

  2. April 11, 2011 8:06 am

    This is a great post about how women and their clothing are sexualized while men are seen as *gasp* individuals worthy of basic human rights without regard to their clothing (in general). If you don’t mind, I’d like to include it on my blog’s link post today. It’s awesome and more people need to read it.

  3. fearlessleader permalink*
    April 11, 2011 8:21 am

    SartorialNerd, I’d be honored! I just poked around on your blog a bit, and it’s great. Thanks for linking and thanks for blogging.

  4. lightbird permalink
    April 11, 2011 10:34 am

    I linked over here from Shakesville. I’ve responded to your comment there but wanted to post here as well. Thank you for this wonderful write-up. If you don’t mind I’d like to pass this along in other forums.

  5. Walter permalink
    April 12, 2011 11:19 pm

    Cant we just stop using Bryan Stow to get our point across?

  6. fearlessleader permalink*
    April 12, 2011 11:37 pm

    Hi, Walter—the media’s coverage of Stow’s tragedy IS the point here. I understand what you’re saying—really, I do (and if anything, I’m trying to point out that the mechanisms by which he’s been conscripted as a cultural symbol are significantly different from those applied to rape and sexual-assault survivors)—but like it or not, it’s a big story in the baseball world, and I don’t believe I’ve crossed any lines of respectability by addressing it on my personal blog. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  1. Why I can safely hate the Giants again « A Blog of Their Own

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