Though long ago debunked, the myth that more women fall victim to domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday still persists — ironically, according to some experts, to the detriment of women.
The myth dates back to 1993 when, like a game of telephone, anecdotal evidence became conflated into a statistical fact parroted throughout the media without confirmation. That year, The Associated Press and CBS labeled Super Bowl Sunday a “day of dread” for women across the country. Women advocates spoke of a “flood” of calls to domestic abuse hot lines and media mailings warned women “Don’t remain at home with him during the game.”
Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and equity feminist, tracked the rumor from its inception and, along with such journalists as Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle, demonstrated that despite the hysteria, women have never been in any greater danger on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day.
Sommers explained to The Daily Caller that while such dramatizations may serve a purpose for some activists, domestic violence is too serious a problem for such exaggerations and opportunism.
“Women who are at risk for domestic violence are going to be helped by state of the art research and good information,” she said. “They are not going to be helped by hyperbole and manufactured data.”
For just those reasons, Philip W. Cook, an investigative journalist affiliated with Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), told TheDC that domestic violence is a topic that often requires a great deal of fact-checking.
“There are more myths, misinformation and half truths about [domestic violence] than any other significant social issue,” Cook said. “So this is simply part and parcel of a tremendous amount of myths, misinformation and half truths that get accepted without critical journalistic thinking and inquiry.”
Propagation of such fallacies such as the “Super Bowl hoax” helps perpetuate negative stereotypes, said Sommers.
“If you look at these myths they almost all promote this idea that women are victims and men are brutes. The ‘Super Bowl hoax,’ for example, depicts the average guy sitting in his couch watching the Super Bowl as a violent predator and I think this promotes prejudice,” Sommers said. “This view has been popular among hard line gender activists who want to depict masculinity as pathological.”
One of Cook’s concerns has been the manner in which false data inform policy makers and the harm it can cause for real victims.
“[The myths] translate into public policy that directly affects people’s lives,” Cook said, pointing to ineffectual programs and agencies. “When it comes to domestic violence policy, there is more misinformation out there and in particular the media tends to accept it without any scrutiny.”
While some may view America as a patriarchal nightmare, by comparison to much of the rest of the world, it is an oasis of gender equality. According to Sommers, such falsehoods work to harm America’s reputation.
“These false claims about violence make our society look dangerous for women, when in fact American society…is a place where women have achieved great success stories for feminism,” said Sommers. “In Pakistan and Iran they will defend their societies by saying women are imperiled in the West, that …women are beaten — especially Super Bowl Sunday! — there can be no distinction between women who are free and are oppressed.”