By Raynard Jackson
Feminists claim that women should take more control of their lives, arguing that women are capable of making decisions about their lives and what is in their best interest without guidance from a man.
But White feminists and “strong Black women” are curiously absent when it comes to defending Janay Rice’s very personal and difficult decision to fight for her marriage. You know Janay – or you think you do. She is the wife of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Raven’s football running back. He was fired from the Ravens after the infamous video of him knocking out his wife in an Atlantic City elevator. The video, which is repeatedly aired on cable TV, shows Rice dragging her limp, unconscious body out of the elevator.
At the time, she was his fiancée. They got married a couple of weeks later. Since the airing of the embarrassing video, people – men and women – have called Janay everything but a child of God. She has be pilloried for purportedly “not knowing she was abused” and setting a “bad example” for other victims of domestic violence.
What was her offense?
Her grave offense was making the decision – a decision about her life – to work through the terror and shame of being knocked unconscious by her now husband in order to save and keep their marriage intact. Yep, what a “horrible” person she is. The nerve of her taking her marriage vows literally and seriously: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
It would have been so easy for Janay to walk away from it all. But she didn’t. She decided that after investing so much in her relationship with Ray Rice and for the sake of the couple’s young daughter, Rayven, she would stay and work through their issues.
In an interview on the “Today Show,” Janay said, “Everybody makes mistakes…After this whole situation, you would think that we lived in a country full of people who never made a mistake.”
The same qualities it takes to be a great football player are the same qualities it takes to be successful in the game of life. Janay is committed to her husband, she is focused on her marriage, and she is playing through pain. These are essential qualities both in football and in marriage.
Wow, what a woman. Janay, can you introduce me to your sister?
You would have thought that Janay would be heralded as a woman to be emulated but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, she has been called “crazy,” “a victim,” “delusional,” and “in denial.”
There was a time when women were praised for working through the problems everyone faces during the course of a marriage. Women used to be ashamed at the prospect of a divorce. As hard as it is for the public to understand, many of these women never bailed out because they still loved their husband, flaws and all.
There is the shining example of Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson, the wife of N.B.A. great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. She committed to working through Magic’s womanizing and contracting HIV in order to keep their marriage and family intact.
There is also the case of Elizabeth and John Edwards. She, an accomplished attorney, stood by her husband, a former U.S. senator, through a lifetime of cheating that included having a baby with of his campaign videographer. She stayed when he was running for president and she was dying from cancer.
Also, there is the case of top Hillary Clinton aide, Huma Abedin who is working through her marital problems with former New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner. And let’s not forget Hillary, who had to undergo the embarrassment of sordid details of President Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.
Janay should be looked at in the same light as other courageous women who have decided that they, in the words of an old cigarette commercial, would rather fight than switch. But she is not viewed that way. If Ray Rice were a Wall Street investment banker, and all other facts were the same, would people view Janay any differently? Just asking.
Despite constant talk to the contrary, divorce rates have been falling over the past 30 years. According to a study by University of Michigan economist, Justin Wolfers, only one-third of marriages end up in divorce, not the much touted 50 percent number.
Historically, Black women have been fiercely loyal to their men and have been the backbone of the Black family. Their loyalty was celebrated. So why is Janay not being celebrated by Black women? Where are the wives of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus? Why is Janay not receiving an image award from the NAACP? Why has the preeminent Black women’s group, the National Council of Negro Women, suddenly come down with a case of laryngitis?
All troubled couples need and deserve support. That’s what we should extend to Janay rather than scorn.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223.