Rant: The Junior High Boys Club and Domestic Abuse and Violence

Rant in Progress Every misogynistic rant from Rush Limbaugh gives them permission to slap the little woman around.  Every hyperventilating right winger who spouts off on the wussification of America gives them permission to use a belt on the kids. 

Every time the buddies excuse his behavior with anything from “Boys will be boys,” to “she had it coming,” he feels more entitled to demonstrate his God-given authority over women.  “I’m a real guy! And, if she doesn’t want it she must be frigid or a lesbian.”  In other words, some fellows never really got out of junior high.

The Junior High Boy Boors Band

So it’s no surprise to find we have a  hedge fund employee at Swiss Performance Management & Fiduciary AG who thought it amusing to grab the posterior of a female bartender, and then rage when she publicized his behavior.

“That f–king c–t, for her to do something like that is pretty ridiculous, I will make sure she doesn’t get another job in New York City. I know everybody. The bar owners, the club owners – that’s a terrible thing to write about somebody.” [C&L]

His Twitter buddies found his comments acceptable, and worthy of encouragement.  Do we suppose it would curb his performances if the firm were to sit him down for a one hour sensitivity training session?  Two hours?  This appears to be the answer the National Football League is giving to the question of domestic violence, to wit:

“The memo he issued Thursday says: “These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault. We will work with the NFL Players Association to develop and present this training in the most effective way.” [ESPN]

Thus, in the next 30 days the League personnel and its staff will “undergo training in on the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault.” [ESPN]   Let’s indulge in some speculation.  First, most of the people undergoing the training don’t need it.  Most of them understand what outrageous and disrespectful behavior is when they see it.  Most don’t condone it, and most will sit politely through whatever sessions are provided because they already know that domestic violence and the degradation of women is unwarranted; and, they already have the information necessary  to “understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Secondly, the Junior High Crowd won’t get it.  They already know what domestic violence is, and they are perfectly aware of what constitutes sexual assault.   They, like the Entitled Hedge Fund employee, simply don’t think the rules apply to them.   When she says, “NO,” it means “YES,” because having no self restraint, little self control, and still less self esteem they have to have what they want when they want it.   If they can’t dominate the ‘weaker sex’ who can they dominate? – and they have to dominate someone.

If she rejects them then she’s a C—, or a B—, or a D—because surely no right minded woman would fail to be impressed by their righteous hyper-masculinity?  If she fights back physically, then “of course, she’s asking for it” if she doesn’t accept her beat down, by their dim lights.  Surely, the Junior High Boys reason, if she’s fighting back then that means she’s participating in domestic violence too!  Their imaginations don’t take them much further than, “I have money,” or “I have power,” or “I have the world’s coolest job.” How could anyone not do exactly what I want, when I want?

One ESPN analyst, former coach Herman Edwards, nailed it this afternoon  when he opined that some players came to the NFL having never been held accountable for their actions or their attitudes, and he’s right. However, others offered excuses such as the horrible home lives some NFL players have endured as a possible reason for their criminal conduct.  Slow down here a moment.  Do we suspect that the obnoxious hedge fund manager comes from a dysfunctional home?  Do we automatically assume the posterior grabbing boor in the bar comes from a poverty stricken, violent home? Probably not. 

If poverty and broken families were the drivers of domestic violence and sexual assault then why do the statistics demonstrate conclusively that this behavior cuts across ethnic and  economic lines?  Women aren’t necessarily at greater risk from a Black, White, Rich, Poor, man.  They are at risk when they are in the company of a Boor/Goon, and Boors/Goons come in all types imaginable.

Changing the Cheers

Assuming we want the Boors/Goons to change their behaviors: What factors drive changes in behavior? We know from research since the 1950s that there are some basics: 

“Behavioral change theorists now agree on eight factors known to influence behavior: (1) intention, (2) environmental constraints, (3) skills, (4) attitudes, (5) norms, (6) self-standards, (7) emotion, and (8) self-efficacy.” [HarvardFRP]

So, we know that a well intentioned individual, who is not stressed by environmental factors, who has developed some coping and interpersonal skills, and who has positive attitudes is not going to be a member of the Junior High Boys Band of Boors.  Nor will a person who has internalized the norms of acceptable social behavior, has high expectations he can meet his own personal standards, and who feels empowered to reach those goals.

Yet here’s the problem for the Wall Street Hedge Firm, the National Football League, and perhaps even Bill’s Garage on South Elm Street.  How do you hire people who aren’t going to drive customers away, who aren’t going to tarnish your brand, your reputation, by being Boors?  Here’s where ‘corporate culture’ comes into play.

“Sometimes people change their behavior depending on whom they are with.  They might want to behave in a certain way to fit in with their friends and then start taking those behaviors as habits of their own.  They may learn by watching others and decide that they want to do those behaviors as well.” [Sci360]

If the behaviors are ‘good’ and socially acceptable, not to mention legal, then all’s well. However, if the negative, unacceptable, behavior is being rewarded by peers and co-workers,  and  even some elements of the media, eventually the firm, the league, or the garage owner is going to be faced with public humiliation.  He might have been one of the best money men, transmission specialists, or interior lineman – but once he humiliates the boss all bets are off. Or are they?

When the NFL initially handed down a two game suspension to Ray Rice the reaction was swift and vehement.  [USAT]  Unfortunately, there were those who pontificated that the actions were part of the “feminizing” and “chickifying” of football.

“We’re feminizing this game. It’s a man’s game and if we keep feminizing this game we’re gonna ruin it. If we keep chickifying this game we’re gonna ruin it. It’s gonna become something it was never intended to be, and so many men now, executives in the league and sports Drive-Bys are in a race to see who can be the most politically correct feminized guy. It’s comical to watch this.” [Limbaugh, WaPo]

No, there’s nothing comical at all about reinforcing socially unacceptable, or downright criminal, behavior. There’s actually little to differentiate Mr. Limbaugh’s comments from those made by the friends of the odious bar patron from the hedge fund.  What the hedge fund, the National Football League (and perhaps our hypothetical garage) needs to decide is whether the opinions expressed by the associates of the repellant bar patron, like those expressed by Mr. Limbaugh, are representative of the corporate culture.

Changing the Culture

On the bright side, the NFL Commissioner announced the hiring of staff whose task it will be to advise the league on domestic violence and abuse issues – a former prosecutor with the Manhattan DA’s sex crimes unit, a former Liz Claiborne executive who founded an organization to alleviate domestic violence, and a former head of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  All women. Additionally, Anna Isaacson will move from “neighborhood affairs” into a role as VP of Social Responsibility. [DailyNewsSen]  The Commissioner also suggested the formation of a committee which will deal with domestic violence and abuse (and other) personal conduct considerations, on par with the Competition Committee.

The not-so-bright side of the NFL seems to be that it takes something like an off the Richter Scale earth moving event to get its corporate attention – former players  had to commit suicide or delve into the depths of dementia before the Health Committees decided to get serious about the dangers of concussions.  The national audience had to be witness to the miserable treatment and abuse dished out by locker room bullies in Miami before the League investigated.  Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Campbell Soup, and Radisson had to firmly and publicly disavow the lenient policy on domestic abuse of any kind before the League decided it needed a Social Responsibility Office.

This suggests one more lesson for the hypothetical garage, the hedge fund, and the NFL – there’s an inconvenient but useful management style, once popular but now somewhat out of date; it was called Management by Moving Around – literally telling managers to get out from behind the desk and find out what was happening on the shop floor.  Perhaps the individuals in the new Social Responsibility office will move from 280 Park Avenue and into venues in which they are more likely to come into contact with players, coaches, and team owners.   The distance problem isn’t anything the NFL hasn’t dealt with before.

Team owners and coaches were “shocked, Shocked I say” to find out that bullying, harassment, and intimidation were happening in the Miami Dolphins organization.  National media attention, a nasty scandal, and some personnel changes later and  the League office got at least a tenuous grip on the issue.  More “management by moving around” might have prevented that issue  from becoming an embarrassment, as it might alleviate some of the problems associated with boorish and violent players.

It shouldn’t take national mortification before corporations, companies, and professional athletic leagues understand the dangers of negative behavior on the part of their employees.   However, once in the limelight we can only hope the chorus from the righteous makes the lamentations from the Boors imperceptible.

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