Wednesday, July 6, 1994 -The Michigan Daily-- 5
death: turning point?
T he woman who met meinthe front office wore glasses and a reddish suit-one
of those skirt/blazer combinations which became the uniform for working
women in the 1980s. She was the editor in chief of my hometown newspaper in
Texas, andI was thrilled when she said she'd be happy to give me a few assignments
over the summer.
Her name was Louise Whitmer. She was the first professional woman I ever
met, and two years later her husband shot her in the face during a domestic
She died instantly, but the shock waves of her death lasted for weeks. Icouldn't
stop thinking about the delicate balance of a woman's life, how the most admired
and professional of women can still be beaten and humiliated at home. Or killed.
Enough ink has been spilled already about O.J. Simpson and his slain wife, but
it did bring to mind this gruesome story bom of a conservative Texas town. (You
had to think about something else during that utterly boring car "chase" - at 45
m.p.h.! -on live TV. The baby boomers get Oswald shot on television, and all us
lousy Generation X-ers get to see is a white car on an L.A. freeway and then a white
car in a driveway. By the time O.J. came out, it was too dark for the helicopter
cameras to record anything. Thrilling.)
Despite the garish, tabloid nature of the entire affair (not to mention the racial
overtones), it did do one good thing: It brought wife battering to national attention.
Not thatthetopic hasn't beendiscussed before-this and ahorde ofother issues
which the media is just now "discovering" were discussed quite openly and loudly
by feminists in the 1960s and '70s. Betty Friedan, the founder of the National
Organization for Women, was a battered wife herself - she took to wearing
sunglasses to feminist protests to hide her bruises and black eyes. But progress
comes slowly, and it takes a national confrontation like Anita Hill and Clarence
Thomas to bring an issue like sexual harassment out into the open.
The death of Nicole Brown Simpson may be doing the same thing for spouse
abuse. Local hotlines have been swamped with calls the past few weeks, with many
women saying that they finally have the courage to speak out against their abusive
Many women who do so face disbelief and incredulity - how could this nice
man, this pillar of the community, do such a thing? O.J. Simpson is the classic
example of such a man: Known for his kindness and hard work as a football player
and public figure, he apparently possessed a darker side as well. This is the seamy
underside of human nature where jealousy, possessiveness and aggression run
Most marriages, fortunately, do not involve such harsh cruelty. But the laws of
some states and countries once specified the maximum thicknessof the stick a man
used to beat his wife, condoning the practice while supposedly regulating it. It
continues to be an issue clouded in secrecy, and more than anything else, shame.
As always, the question is: "What is to be done?" Some states now can
automatically arrest the offenders in domestic disputes, requiring an ovemight stay
in jail. This is a considerable improvement over the former police attitude toward
spouse abuse, which ranged from "Uppity bitch, she had it comin' to her" to "We
don't get involved in domestic disputes." Police forces across the country have
begun to take spouse abuse seriously, and they are to be commended for their
The cases are often complicated by the victim's reluctance to press charges -
sometimes because they hope they can work things out, others because they fear
retaliation. And rightly so. "I've been beaten up five times with an order of
protection in my hand," said one woman in Chicago.
Romantic relationships are a naturally rocky terrain, engendering disagree-
ments about living arrangements, money, sex, child-rearing and just about every-
thing else two people can argue about. Couples will and should go on arguing -
by most accounts, relationships are improved by fair fights. But any fight which
gets physical has crossed the line of fairness.
A man I knew once asked me if I thought a husband should ever hit his wife.
When I said no, he said that a lot of the women he knew could get really verbally
abusive, and shouldn't they be slapped a little forthat?I still said no, andI can only
hope that other people he asks will give him the same answer.
Zero tolerance - that is what is needed here, on the part of both sexes. For the
victim of spouse abuse, walking out on an abusive partner is the best form of zero
tolerance, one that requires an extraordinary amount of courage and strength.
Nicole Brown Simpson had that courage and strength, and she paid for it with her
World Cup soccer: Un-American
DUBLIN, Ireland - Maybe
you've noticed, maybe you haven't.
With all the pomp of a world event
that not even the Olympics can boast,
World Cup '94 is on. The world is
tuning into the U.S.A. and watching
with passionate attention, ready to
cheer on their team. Here, in Ireland,
there's no loss of support anywhere.
At every turn, a new and evermore
garish T-shirt, poster, flag or hat
visually assaults the senses with
shamrocks and soccer balls. Every
shop window is proudly dressed with
crossed Irish and American flags and
"Here we come America!" slogans.
Yes, people are definitely hyped up.
Except the one group that has yet to
grasp the concept of professional
soccer: Americans. Although more
lamentable about our awareness of
current events than our soccer savvy,
65 percent of Americans can't even
name where the World Cup is being
held this year. "The World what?"
At first, I was extremely dis-
gruntled by our country's seeming
ambivalence toward what is beyond
all, the world's most popular sport.
Two billion people are expected to
watch the Cup live on TV. No matter
where you go, no matter what you
call it, soccer is king. But then you
go to America. Sure, everyone liked
it as a kid, buta fan today? Interest
beyond youth soccer is zero.
So what is wrong with us? Why
can't we get our act together and
enjoy some real fun: a prosperous,
professional soccer league like that in
virtually every other country.
Supposedly, basing World Cup 1994
in the States is designed to do exactly
that. In a strategic marketing gamble,
a new U.S. professional soccer
league is to be launched in the wake
of the World Cup. Look out NFL,
there's going to be a new kid on the
So the question remains: Will the
World Cup finally rouse American
interest in soccer? After pondering
the question for a while, I began to
lose my anger at our lethargic
disinterest in the sport. After seeing a
few re-runs of previous Irish matched
on the "tele," I began to see the
reality of it all: Soccer isn't that
much fun to watch. You seem to
have this gigantic field in which 20
players, spread far apart, run around
passing the ball to each other. They
do this until occasionally the ball
goes into the net. It's not unlike
hockey, but at least in that game, you
have full body contact, and of course,
the fights (admit it, we all love to see
a fight). With the wide camera angle,
the vista just doesn't seem to work.
With all the professional sports
already entrenched in our culture, is
there room for a new comer? Most of
us enjoyed soccer as a kid, and the
newest generation is more familiar
with the sport. So we're not com-
pletely in the dark about the rules and
concepts of the game. Unfortunately,
that doesn't necessarily translate into
an instant soccer fan. There are a lot
of sports Americans play, but only a
few they'll pay to watch. Profes-
sional soccer may last a few years,
but I don't think that it'll fly. It just
doesn't seem to have the tradition of
baseball, the intensity of basketball
and hockey, nor the excitement of
football. This European import will
be fighting for its life.
I may be wrong. But in the
meantime, I'll enjoy watching the
Irish squad here from Dublin. With
soccer fans like these and a pint of
Guiness, things are bound to get a
little wild. 016 U.S.A.!
Keating is a European correspondent
for the opinion page.