We ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger: On Kasi Perkins as ‘the catalyst’ to her own death & holding the media accountable

Coverage of the murder of Kasandra (Kasi) Perkins by NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher has been incredibly brutal over the past few days as we bear witness to mainstream news sources rushing to defend Belcher’s character and erase any whiff of ‘male violence’ or ‘domestic abuse’ from the conversation. Most media that covered the story over the weekend barely mentioned her, headlines reading” “Chiefs LB Belcher kills self“, “NFL tragedy: Chiefs chairman says Jovan Belcher murder-suicide ‘incredibly difficult’”, “Jovan Belcher murder-suicide leaves Chiefs in shock“, “Kansas City Chiefs’ Belcher in fatal double shooting“… You get the picture. Something about a football player. The NFL is taking it pretty hard.

Fox Sports went out of it’s way to find people to defend Belcher’s honour:

He was a good, good person … a family man. A loving guy,” said family friend Ruben Marshall, who said he coached Belcher in youth football. “You couldn’t be around a better person.

He was someone who took genuine pleasure in bringing happiness to others,” [Dwayne] Wilmot said.

CTV News quoted Kansas City Mayor, Sly James, who urged people not to ‘judge’ Belcher:

I hope people will look at the situation and try not to judge the person. There are a lot of people hurting. There’s a young baby right now without parents,

The New York Times stacked their piece with quotes assuring us that Belcher was a good man:

I had every reason to believe he was a well-spoken, articulate man who exhibited a lot of genuineness

I didn’t want to believe it. He was a good man. A good, loving father, a family man.

Numerous mainstream news outlets who covered the events framed the whole thing as a baffling tragedy.

 It feels like an infinite number of lives directly impacted by the decision of one person. And for now, no one knows how or why he came to that decision. All anyone knows is that he did. (Aol Sporting News)

There’s going to be unanswered questions, the why’s of this tragedy. It’ll never be truly known to us. (Fox Sports)

And indeed, it was a tragedy. But while the media obsesses over the death of a young athlete, wondering how such a crazy, crazy thing could happen, they miss the most obvious thing. That is male violence against women.

What this situation isn’t, in fact, is baffling. Because violence against women is a global epidemic. In Canada alone, a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days. Global research “suggests that half of all women who die from homicide are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.” In England and Wales, two women per week, on average,  are killed by a partner or ex-partner. In the U.S.,  between 1980 and 2008 the percentage of women killed by intimate partners went from 43 percent to 45 percent. For men it went from 10 percent to 5 percent. A blog post over at What About Our Daughters points out that “black women ages 25-29 are about 11 times more likely as white women in that age group to be murdered while pregnant or in the year after childbirth.”

And we are baffled when it happens again? This ‘double shooting’, this ‘murder-suicide’, this ‘unthinkable tragedy’? We don’t know how this could have happened? Really? Take a guess.

Instead of stating the obvious —  that this was yet another case of male violence against women, we feign confusion.

But there’s nothing confusing about the situation. We can even, simply, look to the way in which media has framed this incident, to see why this continues; to see why women continue to be abused and murdered by their partners. Domestic violence is prevalent because we clearly don’t take it seriously. We are more concerned about the loss of an NFL player than we are about the fact that this was a violent man who took the life of his partner.

Oh. And as pointed out by Jason Whitlock, the Kansas City Chiefs decided not to cancel their game the very next day. A woman is murdered by one of their players, but god-forbid they postpone their Sunday celebration of masculinity and violence. And let’s please not pretend that the male-centric culture of professional sports like football and hockey don’t centre around violence and aggression. That it isn’t a blind celebration of patriarchal capitalism. Let’s not pretend like the NFL gives a shit about women.

The Chiefs issued a statement that said their game Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers would go on as scheduled, even as the franchise tried to come to grips with the awfulness of Belcher’s death. (Fox Sports)

And then, of course, almost on cue, there’s the victim blaming.

While the New York Times was bad, including leading quotes like: “What could have caused him to make him do that?” “You never know what would trigger that.” “We had heard that they had been arguing in the past,” Deadspin managed to post the most disturbing coverage of them all, quoting from an email sent to them by an anonymous friend of Belcher’s.

The relationship had “soured” this friend said. The couple had been “arguing”. We shouldn’t focus on this “isolated incident”, the friend stressed, this had been building for some time. Oh. And did we forget to mention the obvious? That Kasi was after Belcher’s money?

…she made it clear that she was leaving and [would] contact a lawyer to “get as much money as possible”.

And as if this ‘friend’ had not gone far enough, here’s the kicker: Kasi was, according to this source, “the catalyst to this incident.”

The friend (as well as other sources) mentioned that Belcher had substance abuse issues and had suffered a number of concussions. So looks like Belcher was the real victim here.

I have no idea what could have inspired the folks at Deadspin to print this (seemingly libelous) garbage. It seems unnecessary. Detrimental even. Why contribute to a culture that is clearly so desperate to avoid holding men accountable for incidences of domestic violence? Maybe Belcher had problems. In fact, I’m sure Belcher had problems. And one of those problems was patriarchy and a culture that feeds, encourages, and understands masculinity to centre around aggression and power. Belcher’s problems are real. But so is patriarchy. And men aren’t the primary victims of that system.

None of those quotes Deadspin featured will sound new to anyone who’s ever come out about abuse or to anyone who’s known a woman who’s gone public with her experiences of male violence. Not one. I myself have been at the receiving end of all of them and more. The “oh, but you two were fighting, weren’t you?”, the “she pushed him to do it. You know… she’s kind of a bitch…”, the “she’s just trying to get revenge/money/attention/whatever”. I’ve heard the same said about my friends. I’ve heard the “well you went back to him…”, the “he was drunk”, the “she’s crazy.” I could go on.

The point is that this has to stop. We pay lip service to domestic violence or ‘family violence’ (the newest in terms the government uses in order avoid describing the truth of the matter), removing gender from the discussion and presenting violence against women as a private matter (a ‘family’ matter) — ‘they had problems’, ‘oh, it’s none of our business’ — yet we are so clearly committed to doing nothing. We are unwilling to admit that this is a systemic issue and that this is about gender. Because we don’t give a shit. We care more, as a society, about sports than we do about violence against women. We are still representing women as conniving gold diggers who ‘ask for it’. Who push men to violence. Who are the ‘catalysts’ in their own murders.

The media is not innocent in this. They aren’t simply ‘reporting the facts’. The media is shaping the conversation and they are shaping it in a way that excuses and erases male violence against women.

The media and journalists make choices. They can say ‘bullying’ or they can say ‘misogyny’. They can say ‘sexting up kids!‘ or they can say porn culture. They can say cyber harassment or they can say sexual harassment. They can say ‘murder-suicide’ or they can say ‘domestic violence’. They can say ‘family violence’ or they can say ‘male violence against women’. They can choose to quote people who accuse Perkins of being a gold digger or they can quote people who are critical of an unequal and oppressive society (but that probably won’t be quite as popular) and of a male-centric culture that celebrates and idolizes violent men. Certainly they can choose not print quotes that reinforce that which so many already want to believe — that women deserve the violence they are subjected to. That somehow there is no one to blame. Just another isolated incident wherein a woman happens to die at the hands of a man. “What can we do??” We ring our hands. It’s all just so baffling, isn’t it.

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://lifeinthepatriarchalmatrix.wordpress.com Bedelia Bloodyknuckle

    This post was brilliant. I really didn’t understand why they were focusing on Jovan as if HE was the only one that took a life from and not the woman he murdered. In this case, his suicide was an “easy way out” He knew that women would show him no mercy if he was caught and was still alive.

  • riv

    ONE Canadian sports writer had it right, when he praised a colleague who said “let’s not forget that before he was a suicide he was a murderer.” Quite honestly the only thing I’ve read on this. Even if they do start correcting themselves after massive complaints from their mortgage payers, it will be like forcing someone to apologize. They don’t get it, they’re just moving their lips for their own benefit.

  • Amy

    Meghan – I love the force you use in writing this. It says, enough with the bullshit. I wish it were on the front page of every newspaper across North America.

    It’s the same story whenever a woman is a victim of something (murder, rape, harassment, anything really) – she provoked it, she was asking for it, it’s what women are for so therefore there’s nothing being done wrong here; women are property, women are sex, women come last and everybody else comes first. I think it was the CTV coverage that went on about the “NFL tragedy” and the “poor Belcher’s mom, she’s lost a son” and hardly mentioning Perkins, or her family, or the fact that this “NFL tragedy” was THE CAUSE of Perkins death and Perkins’ family’s pain. All poor NFL, poor NFL team, poor tortured Belcher.

    • Andrew

      Yes, Amy! This was my thought as I read through it. This NEEDS to be in every newspaper, news show, sports show at least as balance if not prioritized as mainstream viewpoint.

      This needs to go into the opinion section of every paper that discusses this story.

      The only way to challenge these thoughts is to put them in the mainstream where they will be mocked, chewed up, reviled, but READ and thought about by many. And hopefully agreed on by some.

  • http://ssofdv.wordpress.com/ Terry

    Well said! Thank you for speaking the truth. Now if only American churches that have a captive audience every week would be so bold.

    I read the Deadspin article and I am really saddened by all the victim blaming. Why would a woman not leave a junkie alcoholic? Especially if he is prone to anger and abuse? The truth shall prevail.

    When you get a chance, I wrote about this tragic situation as well. Here is the link, https://ssofdv.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/when-daddy-kills-mommy/.

    Peace

  • http://ywcavan.org Chantelle Krish

    I couldn’t agree more with your position and it is disgusting that this is being reported as anything other than violence against women. Take a look at this article which provides a similar and powerful perspective to yours.

    “honestly don’t care what he did prior to Saturday, because none of that matters. What matters is that he killed his on-again, off-again girlfriend in cold blood. I don’t need to hear that he was an exceptional student at university, or that he always tried to impress his mother. If he did, he failed miserably because he committed the most egregious, gutless and spineless act possible. He took someone else’s life.”

    http://www.canada.com/sports/Gregor+excuse+violence+against+women/7644742/story.html

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right on. Great quote, Chantelle.

  • marv

    “let’s please not pretend that the male-centric culture of professional sports like football and hockey don’t centre around violence and aggression. That it isn’t a blind celebration of patriarchal capitalism”.

    So much truth in so few words, Meghan. To men athletics is a form of combat, vanquishing the foe with armoured bodies. One rises against and subdues the other side. It posits competition as the central purpose of sport, using dominance and force to subject the opponent (enemy). Thanks to feminists for identifying the connection between these norms and rape, battering, sexual harassment, prostitution and pornography. Male power not only governs sport and women but unites them. Numerous players use pornography in their locker-rooms, sexually violate their wives, girl friends and female fans at after game parties or in private (or murder them), buy prostitutes and sexually harass women fans and women on the streets. Then there are the infamous “puck bunnies”: girls passed around from one player to another (and not to forget the vicarious and demeaning roles of cheerleader, adoring woman and trophy wife). The aggression is omnipresent and systemic (Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport, by Laura Robinson). I am not suggesting that male violence against men simply spills over unto women. I think that the spectacle of warfare sport would not exist without sexual inequality and violence.

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  • radicalwoman

    I think what made me most crazy about this article was the writer saying he was a “good, loving father” in spite of what he did – no! How low is the bar set for men that they can kill their child’s mother and STILL get credit for being a good father!?