The Gender Equality Movement

All inclusive gender equality, not one-sided hypocrisy

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Mel Gibson’s Whole Outburst

Posted by Curt on Friday, 16 July 2010

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s been some controversy going around over Mel Gibson’s outburst to his ex-girlfriend over the phone, which she recorded and made its way to the media for all to see.  In it, he apparently made threats against her, racist remarks, and the whole works.  And as you can imagine, there’s some backlash over the whole thing so, at the suggestion of a friend, let me give my take over the whole thing.

I know this is old news, but I feel it fits in well from my last post.  I typically understand what others are saying by browsing other blogs real quick and checking out what’s being said from the few people I have on my Twitter.  I do this real quick, so when I see something I don’t really disagree with, I pass it over.  This is one of the cases.  I really don’t disagree with what a lot of feminists are saying about Mel Gibson.  I don’t really understand how anyone could – what Mel Gibson was saying was fucked up.

Nevertheless, some have come to Mel Gibson’s defense.  Most of these are simple excuses.  Typically they’ll excuse his remarks and threats over his being mad.  While I can accept that he was certainly pissed off and how that anger caused him to lose his judgment, the anger in and of itself does not absolve him of the responsibility for his comments.  If he makes a threat or an offensive remark, even in anger, he damn well better own up to it.  Anger doesn’t excuse anybody for their actions or words, just as being drunk doesn’t, or having some kind of condition (like Asperger’s) doesn’t.  It might make it more understandable, but that’s an entirely different thing – that gets into how we sympathize with the person, not as far as their responsibility goes.

I was shown a video clip Whoopi Goldberg made on The View where it’s claimed that she defended Mel Gibson through trying to lay some blame on the ex-girlfriend, thus changing the focus.  My last post was all about victim blaming and here’s a real life example where it can be related to.  So here’s my take:

From that video I linked to itself, it does not appear to me that Whoopi was trying to suggest that she deserved it.  I do indeed think that she took some of the focus off of Mel Gibson and put it on his ex-girlfriend, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing – it is something which needs to be discussed after all.  People are naturally going to ask what exactly she did that may have set Mel Gibson off because, let’s face it, nothing is done in isolation.  Mel Gibson may have anger issues and I think this is rather well known already, but it is necessary to know exactly her part in the whole matter so it can be figured whether Mel Gibson’s outburst is all him or if it may simply have been triggered by his ex-girlfriend.  This doesn’t put any of the blame on her, but it grants us a deeper understanding of Mel Gibson’s position, and her understanding this would actually help her in the future if she was indeed in the wrong in some manner (even if that wrong wasn’t as great as Mel Gibson’s).

However, I think her questioning why the ex-girlfriend recorded it, with the implication of trying to make some money or exposure off of this by doing so, is totally bogus – it’s the perfect kind of thing you would give to the police and, if you’re going to bring it to the media as she did, you’d want to have some proof.  Otherwise, it would turn out like that case a month ago with that female massage therapist in Portland, OR accusing Al Gore of sexually assaulting her while she was massaging him, where it’s nothing but a he-said she-said dispute.

I don’t know what her motives are for bringing it to the media.  Maybe she was trying to get some attention.  Perhaps some revenge by exposing him publicly.  Maybe it’s a combination of things.  I don’t know nor do I really care; it’s beside the point.  It doesn’t change the fact of the matter that Mel Gibson went way over the line.  Even if the ex-girlfriend actually did something which would warrant some hostility from Mel Gibson, his remarks would still be unacceptable.  It’s just something you don’t ever do and I’m not entirely certain from that clip that Whoopi disagrees with that – I’d be very surprised if she did.

At the same time, I’m not going to assume that the ex-girlfriend is wholly innocent either.  I obviously don’t think she deserved any of that under any circumstance, but at the same time, it’s quite possible she went over the line in another way.  It may be very possible that Mel Gibson was justified in his anger but handled himself poorly.  I don’t know, I have no idea what the details are – thus I’m not assuming in her favor or against her favor.  I simply think we need to get out of the zero sum mentality as far as this goes; just because one is wrong doesn’t make the other right by default.  It’s quite possible that both are in the wrong in some way.  It’s possible that while both are in the wrong, Mel Gibson made the bigger wrong.  It’s possible that she’s completely innocent and Mel Gibson went way over the line.  There’s all this speculation of this, but whatever the case is, I think we must bear in mind that what Mel Gibson said was too much.

I’d also hesitate to associate Mel Gibson’s situation as a microcosm of “violence against women”.  You don’t want to take the individual circumstances out of this situation and broadly apply them to all others.  There are indeed a number of men like Mel Gibson out there who suffer from anger issues and may well take it out on their girlfriends or wives.  There indeed exist a number of women who do the same though, given the general differences in physical strength between men and women in our society, as well as the far lower rates at which men come out with domestic violence performed against them, it may not appear as much of a problem.  There’s also the power dynamics behind the whole thing, but I’ve already spoken about that.

I’d relate this whole situation to the bigger picture of violence in relationships, not just violence against women.  A number of people, simply put, do not know how to handle conflicts within their relationship properly, and occasionally their anger may get the better of them.  It varies so much from person to person that it’s difficult to say anything for certain on such a collective level.  But I will say this: Knowing how to control yourself isn’t just something which benefits you, but is something which benefits all of those around you.  If you have problems with getting angry like that, I’d strongly recommend figuring out ways to deal with it that doesn’t hurt the people you love.  This applies to both men and women.  You don’t have to physically hit your partner for this advice to apply to you – conflict resolution in our personal lives is something which we all could use better grasp of, me included.


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