Conflict-Free Divorce Is Just As Damaging To Children As Conflictual Divorce? Really? And Is It More Damaging Than Living In A Home With Both Parents But Filled With Conflict, Rape, Abuse . . .?

A child’s brain

 

A recent article suggests that what used to be called “European divorces” – where the parents act civilized and put their children’s needs first and foremost – is just as damaging to kids as conflict-driven divorce.

 

Ha. Ha. Ha.

 

When my eldest daughter was a college first-year, early on in the fall semester she and her hallmates engaged in a meet-up moment in the dorm, trading histories in a circle with coffee. Many of them had divorced parents. Lots of those parents had handled the circumstances badly, despite their educations (high) and wealth (ditto). The girls spilled tales of nastiness, verbal abuse, can’t-be-in-the-same-auditorium-together and vengeful holidays.

 

When my daughter’s turn came, she hesitated, then told of her parents: how they not only attended her sports events but actually sat together; how holidays were conflict-free; how they worked hard to make sure the children whose lives they had disturbed experienced as little pain as possible.

 

Wow, said her listeners. We would give anything if our parents would act like that.

 

In my work as a mediator, I’ve seen too many divorcing parents who are at each other’s throats, with – as we examine the effect – surprise that their children are hurt by their immaturity. Sometimes one ends up murdering the other – and/or the children, too.

 

I’ve also seen collaborative parents whose older children actually tell them how pleased they are to be living with less furor than their peers.

 

Case closed.

 

Yet there’s another aspect of this: Even if conflict-free divorce were hard on children, would it be harder or more dangerous than life for children where both parents stay married to each other, but where the family home is rife with conflict, abuse, assault and rape?

 

That cannot be. Because living in those homes is terrible for kids. Sir Patrick Stewart, now age 74, still recoils from memories of his father’s physical rages against his mother, beatings that local police did nothing to help, for which local ambulance staff even blamed the victim.

 

Because Ray Rice is in the news, let’s think for a moment of his little daughter’s experience of life. So far, her parents have been in conflict. There’s been verbal abuse. There’s also been horrifying physical violence perpetrated by her father. Since it was clear from Rice’s behavior on that dreadful video that it was not the first time he had punched the mother of his child, chances are that their toddler, Rayven, has already witnessed violence.

 

Every act of violence, every word of conflict, acts on children’s minds just like a drug does. Agitation and fear wash through them, setting up a cascade of neurochemicals that have the power to change circuitry. It alters their brains.

 

If the abuse is directed at them – physical abuse like that suffered by Adrian Peterson’s little four-year-old son, whom the football player (6-foot-1 and 217 pounds) assaulted with a whip-like branch; rape and sexual assault; the daily slaps common in some cultures – children’s brains receive an even greater neurochemical flood. Now the brain itself is under attack. The changes in it may never recede. It may be primed to run, to attack, to freeze, rather than rationally approach life. It is no longer a healthy brain. It is the damaged brain of a survivor. Just as a scar tells of a wound to the skin, a child’s behavior can reveal what she endured at the hands of people bigger than she.

 

So, is conflict-free divorce worse than that?

 

I don’t think so.

 

 

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Bring Back The Fichu

 

 

In this season of hyper-bad news and ultra-serious posts, it’s time for a little levity. We need it, what with ISIS and Ray Rice and Rotherham and all.

 

For those “Game of Thrones” fans who are in hypoxia-mode because their favorite characters won’t return until OMG next spring, there’s a fix: turn to the Starz.

 

I mean “Outlander”, now in its fifth week on Starz.

 

Based on the series of books by Diana Gabaldon, translated into umpteen languages and beloved all over the world, this well-planned and cinematically gorgeous show displays all the suspense, romance, intrigue and 18th-century violence of its literary parent. Though I look forward to the boxed set – captions for the Scots Gaelic! – even the fact that the protagonist Claire Beauchamp Randall (played by Caitriona Balfe) only half-understands the people into whose midst she’s been flung by time travel works well. We don’t understand either, so her confusion mirrors ours as she navigates the 1740s Scottish Highlands with 1946 sensibility and knowledge.

 

Superlative casting also nets us handsome Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser, the young Scotsman who marries Claire to save her from torture, as well as Graham McTavish (the tall dwarf  Dwalin of The Hobbit) who plays Jamie’s conniving uncle Dougal McKenzie.

 

Acting is great. Scenery gorgeous. Sets and locations fabulous.

 

Caveats:

 

We could do with fewer candles (candles were expensive, no one would light one in daylight – if they needed extra light then, they might fire up a small lamp with oil in it, or even a simple handmade lamp).

 

In addition, at a time when every woman and most girls would have worn a hat or lace or even a canvas hood, as a matter of keeping warm but also mindful of the Biblical injunction that a woman’s hair must be covered, Claire wears precisely nothing atop her shoulder-length brown locks — short by 1740s standards, but they might have been purposely cut because of a fever. Oy vey.

 

All right, I understand, the producers want us to be able to pick her out from the crowd.

 

However, two things are not only historically inaccurate, but would have seen Claire verbally chastened if not beaten at a time when men felt it was their business to criticize women’s choices in hairstyles and clothing. (Wait, they still do that.)

 

Number one, she occasionally wears her hair down.

 

No. Just no.

 

A grown woman (Claire is 27 and claims to be a widow, her husband having been left behind in post-war Britain), would never do that in 1743 except in severe Catholic penance, or, as in the legend of Lady Godiva, in order to achieve some nearly impossible goal. Let-down hair was for girls – that is, female people who had not yet married – as we see from young Laoghaire who has a crush on Jamie Fraser. Laoghaire’s blond tresses tumble down her back. However, grown women, especially widows, would have always pinned up their hair. They would no more let it brush their shoulders than they would wear skirts up to their knees.

 

Then there’s the matter of the fichu. Ah, the fichu. Or lack thereof.

 

A fichu was a piece of fabric like a kerchief or shawl (shown here), usually white and triangular, worn over the shoulders with its ends crossed over the breasts so that their upper part would not be exposed to view. (The lower part was covered by the bodice and underlying chemise.) In the photo above, Claire wears no fichu. The same goes for many other times. Within Castle Leoch, where she is first taken, on the road, wherever. The fichu is on-again, off-again, when by rights it should be definitively on, at least during daylight hours.

 

Again, it would be partly to keep her warm, and partly to cover her breasts. Even in the early 19th century, in Jane Austen’s time, women wore such covers. Only they tucked them into their low-cut bodices and called them, well, tuckers. Readers of Pride and Prejudice may remember that the elder Bennet sisters criticized young Lydia for purposely omitting her tucker during the daytime. (Lydia, only 15, was unconcerned.)

 

One might show a bit of breast after supper, but as long as the sun was shining – unh-unh.

 

Claire, doing the same thing (time after time), in real 1740s life, would have been roundly critiqued by the women around her and told to go dress herself by the men in power, like Dougal – and men who thought they held power, meaning every wearer of trousers or kilt.

 

I realize it’s too late – and it’s Starz, known for nudity – to set the loose hair and fichu-gone-AWOL in their proper places. It’s not too late for Season Two, however, already greenlit for next year.

 

Long live the fichu!

 

 

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Are Hormones Weapons? If Not, Let’s Use Them.

 

Drawing of a molecule of oxytocin.

 

Today, I’m writing about ISIS.

 

First, a small segue (hang on, there’s a tie): This article, and this, and this one, too – oh, and this, as well – all from the British press, reveal that in the manufacturing town of Rotherham in Yorkshire (the largest county in England, the county of James Herriott, the beautiful Lake District, The Dales) over 1400 people have been repeatedly terrorized, tortured, gang-raped and threatened with death. The police response: zero. The reports were dismissed, whistleblowers tossed out, details buried. Why? Because the victims were children. The attackers, Pakistani-origin Muslim men. Officialdom makes the excuse that it was reluctant to roil multicultural waters, though many people wonder if there was a money aspect, if they were being paid off to look the other way. We have to assume, as well, that the people responsible for not arresting the perps right away were several eggs short of a dozen and thus should never have had any sort of power at all. Also, that they were minus compassion. The biggest cop is refusing to resign his current post, despite repeated calls to do so, reported here. Finally, after weeks, the New York Times began to pay attention.

 

Now. ISIS. A larger group of Muslim men. Opportunists, again.

 

I hope someone from the US military or Big Pharma is reading this – feel free to send links, readers – because this is a eureka moment.

 

“Fight fire with fire” is an old saying. With wildfires, sometimes it works to dig trenches and then set light to the ground beyond, so it roars up to the larger fire which then runs out of fuel.

 

It’s the same way with firepower. The classic response to military assaults has been . . . more military assaults. From land, sea, air, space, as technology improved through millennia. More weapons, more pain. More death to innocents.

 

There’s another way we fight fire, though. We use water or chemicals. We spray them, dump them, stream them down. They put out the blaze even more effectively.

 

In response to the use by Germany of mustard gas during the First World War (1914-1918), the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which governs rules of warfare, bans the use of chemical and biological weapons. Substances that can harm human beings are prohibited from use (though oddly not from manufacture or stockpiling – consistency, please, people). Thus when Iraq used multiple chemical weapons against its Kurdish population in Halabja in 1988, that genocidal act was roundly condemned.

 

A chemical or biological weapon is a substance alien to the human body. What if the substance used, however, were produced within the body? A non-harmful compound. Pleasant, in fact.

 

I’m thinking of oxytocin. Oxytocin is on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) List of Essential Medicines. It’s a neurohypophysial hormone, produced only in mammals of both sexes. The hypothalamus makes it, the posterior pituitary gland stores it and releases it. It’s common in childbirth (its name means “fast birth” in Greek) and is associated with lactation. The pharmaceutical form given to people in “slow” labors (it can be injected or sprayed into the nose) speeds up uterine contractions. I can attest to this myself; they accelerate like a bottle rocket.

 

Oxytocin promotes maternal-infant bonding. It also influences social bonding between adults. It allays anxiety with a rush of wellbeing. People who are genetically bad at oxytocin reception and uptake tend to display aggressive behavior even when their bodies produce the hormone. (Maybe that’s all of ISIS, oxytocin-deprived because of their genetics?)

 

So here’s the suggestion: Stop thinking bombs and bullets. Start thinking very mild, aerosolized oxytocin.

 

Sprayed from above, it would help every member of ISIS feel better. Much better. Their weapons would be stripped from them by gas-masked opponents, and they would be taken prisoner without spilling a drop of blood.

 

Let them breathe oxytocin.

 

We achieve a bloodless victory, using a hormone found in our own bodies. It’s called working smart. And that’s a breath of fresh air.

 

 

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To Slice Or Not To Slice

Waiting to contract

 

If you are pregnant in the US, if you know someone who is, or who wants to be, read this. It will give you some idea how much Caesarean section – heavy-duty abdominal surgery designed to help a baby live when the mother cannot give birth vaginally – depends, not on medical emergency or advice, but on culture. Yes, within America.

 

In order to avoid “but the patient wanted it” whingeing, let’s first take a look at who has the power in childbirth and Caesarean sections.

 

One can give birth by oneself. Alone in the woods, within an earthquake-devastated building, in a cave while fleeing rapacious soldiers. All have been done. On the other hand, no one can perform a Caesarean section on herself. Not one person. With that kind of surgery, there must be a practitioner. That puts that second person in charge. No one is holding an IED to physicians’ heads to demand that they slice. Obstetricians (obstetrics is a surgical specialty; historically, few female medical students have been encouraged to specialize in surgery) have the power to just say “no” to a medically unnecessary request or demand for Caesarean section. They have every right to do so – pointing out that the patient shows no risk factors to indicate it – and they have the power. They alone.

 

That takes care of the whinge. Now:

 

Recently, much has been made of the fact that the American C-section rate is quite high. This nation is #15 from the top in global high section rates, and its rate of 30.3 is significantly higher than in other first-world nations.

 

It has been observed that of the top 10 countries worldwide, in terms of high C-section rates, eight have Roman Catholic majorities. (The remaining two high blade users are Iran and South Korea.) Eighty percent of the nations where a person is most likely to undergo C-section with its attendant risks – shock and sepsis; developmental harm to newborns; longer maternal recovery – and extra expense, have high or very high populations identified as Roman Catholic. Clearly, then, that religion and/or its physician adherents are somehow driving the C-section rate to much higher levels than the 15% recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In Brazil, which stands at #1 in the world, the rate is an alarming 45.9; nearly half of Brazilian births happen under the knife.

 

The C-section rate in the United States varies up to 15-fold. Some states have very low rates. Yet some – see this graph – have rates that rival the highest global rates (New Jersey’s extraordinary C-section rate is nearly equivalent to #2 Dominican Republic and #3 Iran, where over 41% of people in labor are cut). Those states pull the US average up.

 

From the graph, there are 19 states (plus the District of Columbia, making 20 data-specific areas in all; they are listed in order at the end of this article) whose rates exceed the American average. As noted above, that US average is already high compared to other first-world nations. I wondered what cultural effects could be driving these very high rates of abdominal surgery, so I examined graphs and maps.

 

What I found is this:

 

Of those 20 areas with high C-section rates, three states also hold high percentages of residents who are Roman Catholic (3 million people or more): California, New York, and, as mentioned above, New Jersey. Only three. How, then, do we account for the remaining areas? Is there some distinguishing cultural “mark” common to them?

 

There is indeed. If we examine the pre-Civil War slave status of these high C-section districts – where legal ownership of human beings was permitted – we find that 14 of them were slave-holding at the start of hostilities in 1861. From lower percentage of C-sections to highest, bearing in mind that all these states’ rates surpass the US average, they are: Tennessee, Georgia, District of Columbia, Virginia, Arkansas, Maryland, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, West Virginia (which broke from Virginia during the Civil War, but prior to it had been the western portion of that “slave” state), Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana.

 

Note that Maryland and Kentucky were among four “slave states” that remained in the Union. Nonetheless, both permitted the ownership of human beings in 1861.

 

That is an extraordinary commonality.

 

There are, however, three states remaining of the 20 with higher-than-US-average rates of Caesarean sections, and these three – from lower to higher C-section rates they are Nevada, Oklahoma and Connecticut – seem to have nothing in common.

 

However, each of these three high C-section states borders at least one state noted above.

 

Nevada shares along border with California (with a high Roman Catholic population). Oklahoma borders both Arkansas and Texas (both former slave-holding states). Connecticut’s western border runs along New York State (with a high proportion of Roman Catholics).

 

It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that high C-section rates  in Nevada, Oklahoma and Connecticut are due in part to the cultural influence of their neighbors. It is worth noting that California has an outsize cultural influence on Nevada; New York impacts the most populous areas of Connecticut, in the southwestern section of that state, where many commuters live; and despite sports rivalries between Oklahoma and Texas, the latter sends thousands of its residents north to the former.

 

As others are doing, we can speculate what it is about Roman Catholicism that encourages, absent medical emergency, slicing into a laboring person rather than allowing her to labor and give birth vaginally. It could be institutional disrespect. Women are not yet allowed to be RC priests and are permitted only minor roles in the church. It could be a continuation of the cult of Eve-like and Marian suffering. A Caesarean section is so painful it requires anesthetic, and the recovery period is long and arduous – these new mothers must struggle to rebuild their abdominal muscles. It could be that Roman Catholicism encourages a mindset that rewards male intervention (nearly all obstetricians are male) and denies female bodily integrity and power.

 

What of the former slave states? There, too, we see a history of power inequities. Pre-Civil War, the dichotomy between the influential and those who had little say in their lives was much starker than in states where slavery had been abolished. It takes little effort to note the transition from imposing on vulnerable people who were black to imposing on vulnerable people – the hours of childbirth put one at risk – who are female. It puts the obstetrician in control of a process he normally would simply observe. He inserts himself into the labor and is thus in control of a person’s life and health, just as slave owners were in 1860.

 

To those who protest – “hey, what about all those obstetricians who aren’t Roman Catholic, who aren’t descended from families that owned other human beings?” – you’re right. However, when one enters into a culture, and wants to fit in, one adapts. One adopts the customs and traditions of the culture. Fail to do that, and you risk being considered a dangerous renegade. Of course there are physicians in all areas who are not Roman Catholic; likewise, some obstetricians in former slave-holding areas are descended from ancestors who never lived there.

 

To get along, go along. There is pressure on obstetricians. Patients apply some, but there is  more from the culture they work in. If fellow obstetricians are posting high C-section rates, and you’d rather not, how do you become what Australians call the tall poppy – reducing your section rate to the WHO-recommended 15%, or lower – without getting cut down and criticized?

 

Probably, you don’t. Most likely, you make excuses to yourself. You look for aspects of the labor, or the pregnant person, to blame. You form a foundation on sand before you slice.

 

That’s unethical and unnecessary. It harms both the patient and the new child.

 

As a society, we need to make Caesarean sections dependent not on culture but on true medical necessity. That means insisting on all levels – grassroots to hospital to national watchdogs – that obstetricians just say no to cultures that encourage appallingly high C-section rates.

 

Note: The 19 states (plus District of Columbia) whose C-section rates exceed the already high US average are (from lower to highest): California, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, District of Columbia, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Arkansas, Maryland, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Kentucky, West Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey.

 

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Let’s Stop Saying Women. Let’s Say People.

These are people, people.

 

 

The minute you say “women”, all of a sudden listeners place them in a separate mental pocket.

 

Close your eyes for a moment. When you imagine people, you see all sorts of humans, right? (Some of you may envision only men. Men are not the default, so go back to your caves.) Nevertheless – eyes open – the humans pictured above are people first. Yes, they’re people who are female, granted. Still, human beings, people, first and foremost.

 

An interesting thing has been happening over the past few years with regard to humans who were bought and sold prior to the Emancipation Proclamation in the US, and those who now live the same tragic existences all over the world, primarily in India.

 

They used to be known as slaves. These days, most journalists and even the guides at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, refer to them as people held in slavery or enslaved people.

 

You can tell the difference, right? A slave is not as human as an enslaved person. The latter is a person held in a temporary state of non-liberty. The former is, perhaps, subhuman and born to be owned.

 

Huge difference.

 

Think how a similar enormous difference impacts the human beings shown above. Referred to as people, they remain human. Called women, however, and something happens in the mind of the listener, particularly if dangerous cultural or political baggage gets in the way, as in this article regarding the politics of sexual violence in Egypt.

 

They become something less than people, as if we were speaking of dolphins or aardvarks.

 

Farfetched? No. Language carries enormous cultural weight and can cause confusion. In Spanish, for example, mujer is the word for both woman and wife. Asked by authorities if she is the “wife” of an injured man – spouses may give consent for medical care – a woman may well answer “yes” even though she is not legally married to him.

 

Language gives order to how we learn and remember. Language has power, and it offers power, as well. Witness the rise of Welsh-language schools in Wales, the persistent efforts of French speakers to make Quebec a separate country, and the efforts of billions of people to learn and improve their English, the current linguistic coin of power.

 

It’s just not wise to dismiss how we use words when their use either reduces power or increases it.

 

We should not have to keep making signs saying “Women Are People, Too!”. That’s so 20th-century.

 

We do need to begin replacing the words woman/women with person/people as much as possible.

 

It might sound awkward at first to talk about pregnant people, people with breast cancer, people who have survived FGM.

 

Though we do speak of pregnant whales, giraffes giving birth, and elephants that have survived poachers’ attacks.

 

If one, why not the other?

 

Doing so would point up the humanity of people who are female, rather than consign them to a lesser status in the mind of the listener. Calling them people gives primary acknowledgement to their personhood. Qualifiers – like the word female – are the secondary identification. Then again, speaking of people means that if they carry XY chromosomes, they too will need a qualifier. Male.

 

When we talk of people, we’ll make more sense than if we used words that mistakenly relegate others to a status below humanity.

 

Words like slave. And, unfortunately, women.

 

Stand firm. Use words with care. Up with people !

 

 

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We Need to Stop Obsessing About Marriage

 

Pause. Think.

 

How many truly good marriages have you known?

 

Straight, gay, even long-term partnerships. How many have been really happy and respectful?  Yes, of course, relationships over years contain ups and downs, but of the ones that make it through, how many are not just long in years, but healthy?

 

Not many, right?

 

This amusing-but-true Slate article demonstrates what can impel someone to want to blow up their marriage after kids arrive.

 

Beyond sharing the inevitable work that comes with children, there are other reasons for marriage break-up. Two people marry who really shouldn’t. One partner changes so much that the relationship is harmed. Or events outside the marriage impact it terribly. Or mental illness erupts. Or. Or.

 

There are lots of reasons for people not to be joined to each other. And really only one – that they do better together than apart – for them to stay married.

 

Unfortunately, the American obsession with preserving the two-parent family is hurting women who are being abused within their marriage, and their children, as this article demonstrates.

 

Researcher Sara Shoener, from the article: “My point . . . was that when we as a community frame marriage as a universally good thing for families, we bolster the obstacles intimate-partner-violence survivors must overcome to secure safety for themselves and their children, no matter their place in the social structure.”

 

We all know of low-income women who hesitate to leave abuse, who figure they must sacrifice their own health and safety in order to give their children an in-home father figure. Note that the sons of these abusive fathers can grow up to be abusers themselves, that daughters accept more abuse, and that men who abuse their wives are often also assaulting their children in hidden ways.

 

But what of higher-income families? They’re not as violent, right? Not necessarily.

 

Shoener notes, “Since the op-ed ran, I have been inundated with messages from women in upper-middle-class families who have been hiding their partners’ violence. Particularly for women who have dedicated their lives to raising children while their partners were the primary wage earners, leaving a violent marriage would entail an upheaval of their entire social and economic lives. For example, one woman wrote and said she was afraid that if she left her violent husband, she wouldn’t be able to afford her children’s school and extracurricular activities, thereby disadvantaging her children and removing herself from her support network. She described a life filled with tennis lessons, PTA meetings, afternoon play dates, and couples’ activities that would have to be sacrificed. The disadvantages of single motherhood look different for different women, but are frequently a factor in their decision-making.”

 

The reality is that the system, and the US insistence that marriage – any marriage – is better than two single parents, exposes children to violent fathers in order to attempt to buttress unhealthy marriages.

 

Shoener: “I observed a lot of social service and court systems [where] safety considerations were often overlooked . . .. When survivors [of abuse] resisted this arrangement, they risked being considered uncooperative or vindictive. In fact, many attorneys who represent survivors told me that they try not to bring up their clients’ experiences of abuse to avoid being seen as selfish or petty. Abusers could exploit this reality to garner more power.”

 

And the system allows them to do this, thus endangering not only the survivor of abuse, but the children.

 

In fact, men who have been demonstrated to be violent can still have legal access to guns and go on to commit murder, as this article shows. In the US, it happens every day.

 

How to change this marriage obsession in a reality of politicians who extol marriage per se as an intrinsic good rather than placing weight on the quality of the union?

 

“I would absolutely agree that children who are lucky enough to have two loving parents [in the home] are going to fare better on average than those who do not,” Shoener says. “But I’d argue that value is derived, in large measure, from economic and social resources — a house in a good school district, money for extracurricular activities, time to check homework — that single parents have a more difficult time accessing. There’s a large body of research that suggests that abusive relationships drain those resources, rather than contribute to them . . .. In my estimation, we could build a stronger community by better meeting the needs of parents in a variety of family structures, rather than focusing solely on incentivizing one that isn’t going to work for everyone.”

 

If we look at nations that prioritize children’s well-being (the Scandinavian countries, where parents’ marital status is unimportant compared to how they nurture their children), we see that there’s a stark divide between them and us.

 

Prioritize marriage – no matter what – or prioritize kids? It really can’t be both.

Let’s stop regarding a marriage license as proof of family health.

It’s never been that.

 

 

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The Truth Bites

On the left, marks of a bite to Italian footballer Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. On the right, the perpetrator.

 

In the recent World Cup 2014 group match between Italy and Uruguay, Luis Suarez (URU) viciously bit Italian player Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder. This was no nibble. It was a full-on bite that left deep marks on Chiellini’s body and he will no doubt carry the scars for the rest of his life. After the assault, Suarez dived for the floor, claiming his teeth had accidentally come into contact with Chiellini, and that he was the wounded party.

 

He forgot the now-standard cameras surrounding the stadium. The game was taped. Although the Uruguayan press is downplaying the incident, we can see from replays that Suarez deliberately bent his head to sink his teeth into Chiellini.

 

Nor was this the first time Suarez bit an opposing player. As a professional he’s done it twice before. In 2010 (then with the Ajax team in Holland), he bit Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven (also on the shoulder), and was banned for seven games. In 2013, playing for Liverpool, he was suspended for ten matches for biting the right arm of Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovich.

 

(In 2011, Suarez was suspended for eight matches for using his mouth – that time, for racially abusing Manchester United’s left-back Patrice Evra.)

 

This was not even the first time Suarez had attempted to orally rip into Giorgio Chiellini. Here’s a photo of that initial try last year at the Confederations Cup.

 

Social media has exploded with outrage and condemnation. Twitter is especially fruitful.

 

FIFA is trying to decide how to discipline Suarez. A few matches’ suspension? Ban him outright?

 

Meanwhile, professional and armchair psychologists are weighing in. One says adult biting is an impulse born of fear and panic. Others claim that the intensity of matches makes male athletes automatically clamp down.  Yet another theory is that Suarez’s biting erupts from memories of an impoverished childhood’s humiliation and frustration.

 

What are these people thinking?

 

Suarez is 27. He has been for many years a well-paid and idolized footballer. His childhood is past. And the intensity of matches? How about when Mike Tyson marched over and with his teeth tore off Evander Holyfield’s ear? No one blamed intensity then. Fear and panic? Suarez is a professional. Yes, it’s the World Cup, but no other player on the pitch is biting.

 

At least 160 people won money by wagering that Suarez would bite someone – anyone – during the match against Italy. (A Norwegian gambler received the equivalent of US $912.) They considered it inevitable, not because Suarez would lose all sense of proportion, but because they correctly predicted he would choose his moment and clamp down in an act of aggression and control and humiliation.

 

Think about it. What does it say when an unprovoked adult who is not in fear of injury or death bites another person?

 

It sends messages: You are less than I. I control you. You are subhuman, you are meat.

 

It is not that different from the dreadful South Asian rapists’ custom of biting their victims over and over, face, chest, wherever their teeth reach. Like here. And here. And here.

 

You are meat. I control you. If you live, you will forever wear the scars of my mouth.

 

That’s what Suarez’s bite is saying to Giorgio Chiellini and the two other people we know he has bitten.

 

How many more Suarez football bites have been hushed up? How many times has he bitten women? Children? I hope those whom he has scarred go to the press – in Uruguay, in England, the Netherlands, wherever Suarez has lived or visited – to tell us.

 

Chiellini’s outrageous wound might be just the tip of a rotten Suarez iceberg.

 

 

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