The Double-Standard: Is Women Hitting Men Ever Okay?


An indignant reader tipped us off to a a Chicago Sun-Times article that defends a woman who struck her husband after finding him with hookers. I wish I could say I’d never do that.

The truth is, I’ve hit boyfriends in anger. I’m not proud of it, and I debated not writing about it at all, but it’s not something I’ve seen talked about much. I’m not talking beating, but when confronted with infidelity, I’ve slapped a boyfriend across the face, hard, and more than once, and shoved and struck too. Now, you might say these were extraordinary circumstances, or that because I’m a fairly small woman striking a much larger man it’s not so bad, but the fact remains that if the tables were turned, such behavior would be considered appalling.

When I sounded out some friends, several of them admitted to lashing out physically at a boyfriend, and while no one was exactly pleased with themselves over it, it also didn’t seem like the Big Deal it obviously would be were a boyfriend doing the same thing. I can’t speak for others, but in some ways, I feel like violence was encouraged in me; people always found my temper, with its foot-stomping, drink-tossing, vase-smashing theatrics, to be hilarious, largely because I am so small and because it comes out so rarely. Like my grandmother, I was “a spitfire,” my grandpa always said approvingly. As a result, I didn’t work to curb it as I should have, probably feeling in some way that it even denoted “spunk” or something, and doubtless there was some half-baked, unacknowledged idea of “lady’s prerogative” at work, a double-standard I’d consciously have mocked.

In the Sun-Times story, Eni Skoien came home to find her husband, Gary, a former Cook County Republican chairman, in their children’s playroom with two hookers, whereupon she struck him with her fists and a toy guitar. As a result, she spent two nights in jail for assault. Columnist Mary Mitchell, writes the following

I don’t condone violence. In fact, my mantra is run, walk, crawl if you have to, to avoid violence. But I can certainly understand why Eni Skoien couldn’t slink away. Everybody knows that you don’t ever bring another woman into your wife’s home.

Mitchell points out Skoien’s small size – “5 feet 4 inches and 110 pounds” – but as we know, if it were a diminutive man doing the beating, it wouldn’t lessen the crime, just make the bullying somehow more psychologically charged. Should her husband have called the cops on her? I’d say no, given the circumstances and the fact that it seems unlikely he was in real jeopardy – but then, he’s obviously a bad guy. Once arrested, while it seems “unfair,” as Mitchell says, assault is, at the end of the day, assault. While we might feel for a woman confronted with such a scenario – and I wish I didn’t empathize quite so much – we don’t live in an “eye for an eye” society. Quite simply, violence is never part of our social contract, or shouldn’t be. And isn’t that the real issue? Beyond any notions of gender equality or double-standards (which, even if applied n your favor, always come back to bite you in different ways) it comes down to what is acceptable. I remember the look of shock on my shrink’s face when I told him I’d struck my boyfriend; it was then that it really hit home (no pun intended.) There was no justifying it or explaining it away; it had been violence, pure and simple, and the accident of being small didn’t change that fact. Mitchell says, “in a situation like this, a few whacks might be the only way a woman can hold onto her dignity.” Well, take it from me: it doesn’t make you feel dignified. And thank goodness for that.

If She Hit Him, He Probably Deserved It [Chicago Sun-Times]

Earlier: Have You Ever Beat Up A Boyfriend? Cause, Uh, We Have

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