Early each year, I experience heightened sensitivity to feminist foibles. The month of January brings the anniversary of the Big Lie that Super Bowl Sunday is the annual high-water mark for the beating of American women by their husbands and boyfriends. On Super Bowl Sunday testosterone-besotted men celebrate the violence of professional football by assaulting females. Feminists find this oppression of women to be self-evident. This is necessary for their argument, because there is no actual evidence for it now, nor was there in 1993 when they kicked it off.
The Super Bowl Hoax was initially perpetrated on January 28, 1993. The perps were FAIR, an organization allegedly dedicated to “Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,” along with several women’s groups. They called a press conference in Pasadena, California, promoting an unexceptional 30-second Super Bowl public service announcement opposing domestic violence.
Did I mention the PSA wasn’t hyperbolic? So, during the press conference it became necessary for FAIR associate Linda Mitchell to go over the top. “Many women’s shelters report as much as a 40 percent increase in calls for help on Super Bowl Sunday,” she said. The press ran with it – AP Wire 1/28/93. No reporter even said, “Name one.”
To be sure, this whopper wasn’t entirely Ms Mitchell’s invention, FAIR had previously mailed to its activists a letter stating, “women’s shelters report a 40 percent increase in calls for help during Super Bowl Sunday” (American Journalism Review, 5/93).
The principal study cited to support this claim was conducted by Virginia’s Old Dominion University in 1988-89. This study was claimed to have found a 40 percent increase in beatings and hospital admissions after games won by the Redskins.
But Ken Ringle of the Washington Post was skeptical. He took the time to check the sources. He spoke with one of the principal authors of the Old Dominion study, Janet Katz. She said: “That’s not what we found at all.” Instead, she told Ringle, they had found that an increase in emergency room admissions “was not associated with the occurrence of football games in general.”
Ringle followed up on other “studies” referenced and found that none supported (or that they did not exist) the claims of increased violence against women on Super Bowl Sunday. His story was published on the front page of the Washington Post on January 31st.
Steve Rendall, FAIR’s “Senior Analyst,” was asked by a reporter from the Boston Globe about the 40 percent claim. Rendall admitted, “It should not have gone out in FAIR materials.” (Boston Globe 2/2/93) Where did FAIR get the figure? According to Rendall, it came from a book of photo essays called “Living with the Enemy.” So much for “accuracy” and “fairness” in reporting.
In the ensuing 20 years no one has established a link between the Super Bowl and violence against women. And now US News & World Report tells us that the idea of a huge spike in wife beating on Super Bowl Sunday is known to be an “urban myth.”
“Urban myths rarely have a useful purpose other than to confound, outrage, and frighten people into passing them along. But there’s a silver lining to this one—the idea that Super Bowl Sunday is linked to the highest incidences of domestic abuse in the country.
While experts in the field dismiss that theory, they value the increased attention paid to domestic violence on the occasion.
“The Super Bowl does not cause domestic violence, and it doesn’t increase domestic violence, but it does increase the public’s awareness of the issue, which will help victims learn about help and resources,” says Cindy Southworth, vice president of development and innovation at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.”
Nice. It takes 20 years for a propagandist lie to comfortably transform into something akin to a story about alligators in the New York City sewer system. It’s all good because it keeps the curious from wandering around the sewers, or wondering if we really need a Violence Against Women Act. No alligators were harmed in the making of either myth, but a misandrist agenda was advanced by one of them.
They’re defending 20 years of cultural poisoning, of course, but it is amazing they’re even finally admitting the lie. US News & World Report just matter-of-factly announces that feminists have been lying about domestic violence for decades. Their conclusion, apparently, “What difference does it make?”
It’s OK because the ends justify the means. The gratuitous male bashing, the whining about VAWA; It’s all good. Not to have lied would have been the evil.
I have news: Lying in support of your moral superiority damages your moral status.
The Super Bowl Hoax is not an urban legend with benign consequences. It’s a lie that has damaged our culture, our polity, feminism’s credibility and, most egregiously, the actual victims of domestic violence for 364 days out of 365.