Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen A. Smith Blame Women for Abuse, I Disagree

whoopi_goldbergI have been asked (many times) about my opinion on domestic violence and physical aggression against women. My opinion is clear: no man should ever put his hands on a woman. Ever. Under any circumstance. Period. And, after ESPN First Take host Stephen A. Smith implied that women can somehow fend off physical and domestic violence, The View host Whoopi Goldberg expressed a very dissimilar viewpoint than me. I can’t say I am surprised but I am certainly disappointed.

Here is exactly what Smith said about Ray Rice‘s physical assault of his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer.

“It’s not about him, then. It’s about you, and here’s what I mean by that… I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.”


He clearly implied that a woman’s actions immediately preceding any physical violence could be partially to blame for the violence she subsequently encounters. He attempted to couch his words in his sanctimonious backstory but we all saw what he was really saying. He devalued the body of the black woman who was knocked unconscious by Rice. And, he basically turned the assault (and battery) into a cause and effect scenario as if Rice had no other choice but to hit Palmer. Accordingly, Smith has since been suspended for this comments and Rice was suspended for two games.

Ever the anti-womanist, here is Goldberg’s reaction to Smith’s comments.


She was incredibly adamant about making her point. Even when her co-hosts tried to walk her down off the ledge, she wanted to clearly emphasize that women have to stop assuming that men are chivalrous and therefore violent. In other words, men are dogs and they will beat women to death so we should turn necessarily down before fights get too heated…for self-preservation. You know because the absence of chivalry in one’s person means that void is supplanted by violence, anger, and physical aggression.

She has previously vocalized her opinion on women hitting men after a video was leaked of Solange going ham on Jay Z in a hotel elevator.

As though she were there, she put words into Solange’s and Jay Z’s mouths always finding a way to make Solange culpable for the fight which ensued. Not only that, she claimed that Jay Z had the “right” to hit Solange once she hit him. I personally believe that a right to defend one’s self is different than the right to hit someone. She sees them as one in the same.

The problem with Goldberg’s logic is that it says men are blameless when physically assaulting and battering women half their size – or anyone for that matter. It almost implies that a beating is “what we get” anyway.

Smith issued an apology this week calling his comments the “most egregious mistake of his career.”

“My words came across it is somehow a woman’s fault. This is not my intent. It was not what I was trying to say. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders. To say what I said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious. To apologize, to say I’m sorry, doesn’t do the proper justice. But I do sincerely apologize.”

Now let me be clear here: I don’t think anyone should walk around hitting people, man or otherwise. But, I come at this from a very different perspective than either Smith or Goldberg.

I am a very large woman. Folks shush me when I say “large” and correct me with “tall.” But, that’s bull. I am large. I am over six foot three and haven’t been under 215 pounds since high school. That’s just a fact.

Every fight I ever had growing up was with boys. I never started the fights and I rarely lost them. But, my size made me a prime target for folks looking to establish – or even cement – their street cred. If they could knock me down, they figured no one would challenge them again. Luckily for me, that never happened.

I specifically remember two young women who attempted to fight me. One was in elementary school. Her name was Cynthia and she despised me. She harassed me for weeks and called me a “bitch” more often than she used my actual name. One day, I was sick of her verbal abuse. She kicked a ball across the yard and it was headed straight for me. Instead of grabbing it for her, I stepped out of the way and let it roll yards down the field. She was livid. She began the neckrolling verbal assault, finger in my face, demanding I go get her kickball. I laughed in her face. And, at about the twelfth “bitch” I calmly explained to her that if she called me that word one more time, I would slap the taste out of her mouth. She paused and said, “Bi-.” SLAP. It was almost involuntary. Put it this way, she never called me that word again.

Now, at the time, I was only eight years old. But, I knew my size meant that I couldn’t walk around slapping the taste out of girls’ mouths on the regular. My mother told me I had to be aware of my size and how dangerous it could be if I hit someone and hurt them. I got the message loudly and clearly.

It wasn’t until eighth grade that I figured out how to better handle those situations. A girl named Tiffany hated my guts for no real reason other than my presence probably annoyed her. One day, I put her backpack in the locker room showers instead of the closet where it belonged. It was rude but I was thirteen and thought it was funny. Then, almost the identical scenario to five years earlier jumped off. This time, instead of five-foot-five, I was six-foot-two. She was no more than four-foot-eleven and crunk as hell.

She stood as close to chest-to-chest with me as she could get. In all honesty, it was more like chest to abdomen. She called me names. She threatened me. I said nothing. Then, she hit me. Not in the face. I think she knew better. But, she hit my left arm. It really didn’t even hurt. I chuckled and told her to let it go. I told her she was too small to be starting fights with me. She hit me again attempting to draw aggression. I just looked her in her eyes and asked, “Are you done?”

And, although the instigators standing around waiting for a fight were disappointed, I was pleased to not have beat this pint-sized person to death.

Since then, I have never been in a physical altercation with a girl. Because of my size, I know it can mean life or death for anyone I might attack in anger and aggression. I am a woman and I know this to be a fact.

So, no one can tell me that a muscular man like Ray Rice who stands at five-foot-eight inches tall and over two hundred pounds hasn’t gotten that message. Should Palmer be assaulting him? No. Does he have to respond in kind? Certainly not. I figured that out at thirteen. No doubt we can all agree that adults know better. Anyone who argues differently is just part of the problem.


What are your thoughts? Are Smith and Goldberg right? Can women “provoke” violence?

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

4 Responses

  1. Truth_Real says:

    Let me start first off by saying I am a guy and I have never hit a women a day in my life and I am the type that never will. But everyone is totally missing the whole point. There is no use in arguing over who is stronger. We all know that men are stronger than women. But the point to be made and understood is do not hit anyone. It is simple cause and effect. Becasue she hit him the reaction was he hit her back yes it was with a greater force and you can argue all day about what other options he had etc. But the fact remains she initiated the cause and therefore there was a reaction. If she did not create a cause there would be not reaction to even discuss. Like W Goldberg said just keep your hand to your self. You cant go around living with the idea that any grown person can hit another grown person and not get hit back. Everyone in this world reactes to things diffrently hints the word reaction. So be prepared that no matter what your cause is be ready to accept any reaction as you may not know what it will be. And this goes for guys and girls , there is no guidelines or discriminations for cause and effect.

  2. Matt says:

    This is my thoughts on the topic. Solange should have been arrested for assault, plain and simple. People almost laughed about the whole thing, when what she did was extremely wrong. In my view a women should never hit a man unless, he’s touching her inappropriately or is a threat to her. Clearly in the video Jay Z wasn’t a threat to her. I don’t think, just because a women is called a name, that she is justified in hitting/slapping a guy. It’s just not ok.

    Now, I agree with Whoopi’s comments she made Monday. If a women hit’s a man, then the man has a right to hit her back. Size doesn’t really matter, if you’re big enough to hit somebody, there’s a chance you’ll get hit back. Now clearly Ray Rice used way to much force, he was wrong for that. But his wife was wrong for hitting him in the first place.

    So I believe if a women hits/slaps a man, he has the right to hit her back. But I personally, would just have her arrested for Battery. I know if I hit back she would have me arrested and she might not even get charged. Which is a big problem with the law, women get away with slapping/hitting men too many times.

  3. Dennis Palmore says:

    I agree that anyone can be provoked into doing something wrong under certain circumstances. I think what Stephen and Whoopi were trying to say was, not so much that women can provoke violence but that they can contribute to a situation escalating to a point that may become volatile. A violent altercation can be initiated by either man or woman and in either case it’s wrong, however it’s a man’s physical strength which can cause the greatest harm when inflicted on a woman and rarely the other way around, so whether right or wrong it probably makes sense for women to consider the possible consequences of a heated argument or physical confrontation with a man before being led down that road. Whoopi and Stephen A are just saying women should be cautious because, s woman can be right but that doesn’t stop a man or anyone from reacting violently towards you. Crimes are committed everyday against people who are “right” but they’re still victims. For example, there has been an escalation of sexual assaults against young women on college campuses and administrators have installed call boxes on campuses and have instructed women to be careful when going out at night alone…why. Men know that it’s wrong to assault women like this but it continues to happen, therefore young women have been asked to take precautions so as to help keep them safe when being “right” is simply not enough.
    We just need to be realistic, the Ray Rice incident is not the first nor will it be the last. I know people especially women want to believe that all guys are created equal and should walk and not engage in this kind of domestic violence but as Whoopi stated all men are not chivalrous, as we know many have serious issues and will not simply walk away or refrain from hitting a woman. You can’t always rely on some men to react calmly and exercise restraint, sometimes women have to take matters into their hands especially when their safety may be at risk. If it means toning down your voice or walking away, anything to diffuse a situation from resulting in violence should be employed in my opinion.

  4. bmmg39 says:

    I’m not a very large guy; that doesn’t give me the right to go up to people who are larger and stronger than I am and strike them, and then hide behind my smaller size as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. If I attack someone, that person has the right to self-defense. Yes, even if that includes striking back.

    I just bristle at the notion that a woman who beats on a man and then faces his self-defense is somehow still the “victim.” She’s the perpetrator, not the victim.