What a “family man” looks like
Dear New York Times,
I would like to introduce you to a family man who loves football. His name is Matt, and he is my husband and my kids’ father.
New York Times, I know that you will hide behind the fact that your source, Ruben Marshall, is the one who called a man who just committed a domestic homicide “a good man. A good, loving father, a family man.” You will say that you are merely repeating the, er, “facts” of the case.
Let’s take a moment and look at the adorable little girl in this photograph, my daughter. Isn’t she cute?
Back to you, New York Times. If we move forward with the idea that you presented the story of a murder-suicide in all its complexity, then why didn’t you interview Becky Gonzalez? You could have asked what she thought about the man who killed her daughter, Kasandra Perkins. Though Jovan Belcher was the father of Gonzalez’s three-month-old granddaughter, Zoey, I HIGHLY DOUBT she would call Belcher a family man. She might call him a sick fuck. A perpetrator of domestic violence and terror. A murderer.
But you didn’t ask her, did you?
I quote my friend, the fab freelance feminist Erin Matson: “Imagine your sister, mom or friend being murdered by her boyfriend with their child in the next room and the newspaper story ending by calling him ‘a family man.'”
Once again, New York Times, I must ask that you look into the eyes of my cute daughter. Perhaps your perception of any act of violence against her would be colored (pun very much intended) by the fact that she is very young, very blue-eyed blonde, and very much a football fan, not a football girlfriend.
Football girlfriends must subsume their cuteness and vulnerability to the service of their lovers. Football players are HEROES, amirite? Which is part of why you used heroic apologetics to describe the football player’s sudden and shocking death as if it were a bizarrely random tragedy, rather than what it really was: part and parcel of the seemingly intractable culture of violence that happens every day, to daughters, mothers and wives from all walks of life.
New York Times, you know that journalism does not occur in a vacuum. Each writer and editor brings his (YES, HIS) perspective to his writing. When you trot out “family man” tropes like these about men like Jovan Belcher, you trivialize the seriousness of domestic violence–and worst of all, you erase the stories and voices of women like Kasandra Perkins. You contribute to the problem.
As a small act of repentance for your part in this culture of silence, I suggest you interview Perkins’ family and friends for their perspectives, then gather your editorial board to issue a strong statement in support of reauthorizing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. VAWA has stalled in Congress due to political dithering that reflects the cultural myth that domestic violence is something weird, something “other,” something not worthy of our Congress’s time and energy, when the truth is that domestic violence impacts 24 people in the United States every minute.
And if you need a family man to profile for an upcoming issue of the Sunday magazine, my husband’s schedule is WIDE OPEN.
The Radical Housewife