World champion boxer Billy Joe Saunders has had his license suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control following the release of his video instructing men on how to hit their female partners.
Below is an expanded version of a piece that first appeared on RendezView.
I just wanted to make a little video for all you dads, husbands, if you've got girlfriends etc.
In a video circulating on WhatsApp, world champion boxer Billy Joe Saunders has some advice for male viewers on how to deal with COVID-19 induced isolation.
If your old woman is giving you mouth and you try to be patient, you try to be calm, cool, but after the sixth day you’re just about to explode...
All of a sudden she’s coming at you, spitting a bit of venom in your face, ready to say something, you may have left the dishes out, I don’t know what you’ve done but you’ve upset her.
Using a punching bag, Saunders demonstrates how a man could beat his female partner.
As she comes in, she’s coming at you and you’ve lost it, just keep it safe with the hands. So as she comes in, she’s just about to say something, all of a sudden you explode (Bam!) and hit her on the chin.
At this time she may flash and see white and think, ‘What’s happened?’, she’s in a state of a horror.
She doesn’t know what’s going on and all of a sudden you dip down on that knee and you finish her off. That should do the trick.
In the days since the video began circulating, Saunders has been met with a wave of negative coverage. In response, Saunders posted the following ‘apology’ on Twitter:
Saunders then appeared on TalkSport radio, where instead of apologising unreservedly, he claimed the video had been taken out of context.
I said it as a bit of a joke at first. I wasn’t obviously thinking. It was a silly mistake but I didn’t mean to cause any harm to anyone and I certainly wouldn’t promote domestic violence.
I think if it is took out of the gesture of what it was meant to be and out into something else then yeah I can clearly see [the offence] but when someone is only looking at it as a joke when we are all locked away. I thought I would make a few people laugh but obviously it has flipped on the other side with people.
Saunders: "I would never condone domestic violence"
While it’s easy for Saunders to claim he doesn’t condone domestic violence, that’s precisely what his video did.
It perpetuated a harmful narrative of men’s violence against women and relied on the classic abuser tactic of reversing the victim and offender, painting female victims as aggressors (“she’s coming at you, spitting a bit of venom in your face”) while simultaneously framing their male partners as victims who had merely “left the dishes out”.
Saunders not only condones violence against women, he presents it as a reasonable and justifiable response to a ‘nagging’ wife.
Unfortunately for Saunders, the British Boxing Board of Control also missed the joke and has suspended his boxing licence “pending a hearing under the board’s misconduct regulation, at a time and venue to be confirmed as soon as possible.”
So while Saunders appears to be on-board with male violence against women for entertainment purposes in the video, or for a bit of a laugh, the idea of his daughter being victimised in that same way is somehow unthinkable. Essentially, for Saunders, it seems men’s violence against women is a trivial matter unless it impacts on his loved ones or income stream personally.
Saunders is quick to distance himself from the kind of man who would perpetrate violence against women, going as far as to say that if he ever witnessed a man engaging in violence against a woman - the very behaviours he just modelled - he would take action.
But it's not that simple. It's impossible to challenge or address men's violence against women while simultaneously justifying, trivialising or glorifying this very abuse, treating it as 'just a joke' or fodder for entertainment.
Saunders apologised “if [he] offended any women”. But this is not a matter of offence or hurt feelings, which take place in one’s mind, it’s about actual harm to women as a whole. Encouraging men to beat women has real implications for women's lives.
A number of tweets in response to Saunders’ fauxpology were from young men defending their idol. It was just a joke, they said. People need to lighten up, get a sense of humour, see the funny side of a public figure endorsing violence against women.
But this is exactly where Saunders has likely done the most harm – reinforcing sexist attitudes, helping to normalise the degradation of women as humorous and entertaining, and emboldening misogynists and abusers who feel comforted in the belief that their views are widely held.
The promotion of violence against women is always reckless and dangerous, but in the current climate, where women around the world are facing lockdown with their abusers, and with escalating rates of domestic violence and little recourse available, it is unfathomable.
Men's violence against women is not a joke, it is a matter of life and death.
Sydney bar slammed for ‘To-Kill-Her’ cocktail- Collective Shout