I posted this two years ago on Super Bowl Sunday, just a month into my blogging career. It of course remains salient today. I really have to hand it to the femin-activist community, as they are truly adept at inserting canards into our thinking in all sectors of society. (A “canard” is a widely-held legend/belief that is actually false. If you ever hear someone warm up their rhetoric with “everybody knows…,” you’re probably about to hear a canard. Or as Mark Twain put it, “things you know that just ain’t so.”)
Once again, I draw attention to the way the lie is not just an overstatement – it’s an overstatement that directly indicts American masculinity, by falsely linking woman-beating with the mother of all sporting events. This is of course by design, furthering the feminist contention that men are intrinsically malevolent and violent creatures.
I never understood why the anti-DV movement would want to flood society with false messages about assault, as it’s likely to produce a callous backlash when people discover they’ve been lied to. The truth should be enough for most people to sign on to – people are being hurt, and the perpetrators should be discouraged and prosecuted. But with Vox Day’s recent focus on logical versus rhetorical argument, things makes more sense to me. These sorts of activists aren’t interested in presenting rational arguments in favor of their efforts and earning supporters piecemeal; they want to whip people into a frenzy, a mass emotional machine unto which the movement can be carried forward. With any crusaders, untruth is just collateral damage.
If you’re like me, more than once in your life you’ve been told that women are at their highest risk of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday.
It’s total bunk.
Put exactly, there is no statistically significant change in domestic violence incidence during the Super Bowl. There is less truth to this rumor than there is sex in the champagne room.
I was all ready to do some heady research on this repeatedly-disproven canard, but it turns out that our friendly rumor-demongering website Snopes.com has succinctly summarized the case.
Claim: More women are victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year.
Origins: The claim that Super Bowl Sunday is “the biggest day of the year for violence against women” demonstrates how easily an idea congruous with what people want to believe can be implanted in the public consciousness and anointed as “fact” even when it has been fabricated out of whole cloth.
A more accurate description of the issue is difficult to fashion. This story was probably an example of what journalists call “too good to check” – a lead that so resonates with the reporter’s sensibilities, or will provide so much publicity, that standard journalistic procedure is short-circuited in a vortex of zeal and confirmation bias. What better ammunition could domestic violence activists have for their cause than a study proving that the biggest game in the most archetypically masculine sport in America was inspiring enthused or crestfallen men to smack their wives from coast to coast? What better indictment of modern masculinity itself could they have asked for to justify social reprogramming like the Duluth model?
The facts of the case are well-covered in the Snopes link but I will repeat the skeleton for good measure.
- In late January of 1993, three days before Super Bowl XXVII between the Cowboys and the Bills, a Pasadena press conference put on by women’s groups declared Super Bowl Sunday “the biggest day of the year for violence against women” and cited an Old Dominion University study claiming that northern Virginia domestic violence statistics rose 40% in the wake of Washington Redskins victories.
- Television and print media exploded with the story; NBC, who was broadcasting the game, ran a guilt-presuming pregame public service announcement telling men to keep their hands to themselves.
- Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle contacted three principal sources, two of whom had been key to the original story. The first, a coauthor of the ODU study, said the study’s actual data flat-out contradicted the story sold to the media. The second source told him that quotes attributed to him were fabricated and that systematic data examining the hypothesis did not exist. The third source also said he had never seen substantive data on the issue.
- Predictably, the fact-based backpedaling retraction stories received far less attention than the original falsehoods, allowing the myth to burrow itself into the public’s mind.
No one should be surprised that it is male-friendly feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers whom Snopes quotes as the chief tracker of the mendacity. Sommers doesn’t seem to have much tolerance for academic mythmaking; as such, she has been all but ejected from “mainstream” feminist scholarship. (To call it a pity is tepid, but to call it an outrage gives the mythmakers too much credit.)
It’s easy to sympathize with reporters downstream from the study itself – they got leads from people they trusted and work under deadlines that don’t leave room for secondhand fact-checking. That doesn’t change the fact that somewhere, somebody took the unabashed liberty of lying about the study results to fit an agenda. The first question a reporter needs to ask with blockbuster stories like this is “does this story sound too good to be true?” Do you think you are that lucky of a reporter that a perfect story that exactly lines up with activist ideology (of any stripe) will simply fall into your lap? The better a story looks, the fewer loose ends, the more you have to drill down and make sure somebody hasn’t cut the loose ends off themselves.
Interestingly and pleasantly, the second link that came up when I Googled “super bowl domestic violence” (the first was the Snopes post) was a PsychCentral story citing the falsity of the myth, and digging up some other interesting health data as well:
On Super Bowl Sundays, compared to non-Super Bowl Sundays, Redelmeier & Stewart (2003) found a 41% relative increase in the average number of [driving] fatalities after the telecast on Super Bowl Sunday. So if there’s one piece of actionable advice you can take from the research, it’s to be very careful driving home after a Super Bowl Sunday get-together or party.
The researchers found a tiny positive effect for a rise in domestic violence dispatches on or after Super Bowl Sunday. By comparison, they found a much bigger effect for a rise in domestic violence calls around major holidays like Christmas though — nearly fives times as many. So while they did find a small but significant relationship there, it must be tempered by the fact that this was never peer-reviewed research and that most major holidays throughout the year have a much bigger domestic violence impact.
[A study of World Cup games] found that men’s risk of having a heart attack was 3x higher while watching their team play, while women’s risk was 2x higher. Something to keep in mind while watching the game this year — be aware of heart attack symptoms and take them seriously if your heart suddenly doesn’t feel right.
So if anyone at your Super Bowl party tries to pull this crap out of their tail, just tell them they’re wrong, and maybe let them know that wearing a holiday sweater might be more risky than putting on that Packer gear.
Snopes gives Sommers the last word and she delivers:
“How a belief in that misandrist canard can make the world a better place for women is not explained.”