Guys (and Ladies, Too), It’s OK to Be a Feminist

You don’t have to be as handsome as Benedict Cumberbatch to be a feminist, ladies and gentlemen—you just have to support equal opportunities and rights for women. (Photo retrieved from

In social politics today, there seems to be an additional “F-word” that people dare not speak without looking around nervously or others getting downright angry. I’m talking about “feminism,” a term which conjures up some powerful imagery both for its supporters and for those who resist its use and its underlying motivations. Part of the strong reactions a dialog about feminism, gender, and “women’s issues” provokes, I believe, is related to the confusion about what this decades-old—if not centuries-old—movement entails. That is, different groups and individuals tend to define feminism differently. Kellyanne Conway, who, like so many members of the Trump administration, evidently can’t help but put her foot in her mouth—you know, when she’s not putting her feet on the couch in the Oval Office—and gave her own definition of feminism that invited due criticism. Conway, when interviewed recently at CPAC 2017, this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, said she rejected calling herself a “feminist” because the term has been tainted by the left and because the nature of the movement has become exclusionary and anti-conservative. The counselor to the President had this to say when prompted about feminism:

It’s difficult for me to call myself a “feminist” in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male and it certainly is very pro-abortion in this context and I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. So there’s an “individual feminism,” if you will, where you make your own choices. I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances, and that’s really what “conservative feminism,” if you will, is all about.

Wow. As self-professed intellectuals like myself would put forth, there’s a lot to unpack here. Kellyanne Conway’s makes a number of suppositions that require one’s assent or tacit agreement. Let us first enumerate them, and subsequently address their potential veracity.

1. Feminism is anti-male.

This is a persistent criticism of the feminist movement: that those who subscribe are a bunch of man-haters who wish for the advancement of women at the expense of men who work very hard and are just minding their own business. This is not merely an oversimplification of feminist positions, however, but skewed to the point of absurdity. Might some feminists see patterns of patriarchal oppression and sexism where perhaps they don’t exist? It’s possible. Not all revolutionaries wave their banners for the same reasons, after all, and some might do so for the wrong ones. To a large extent, though, feminist arguments would appear to hit the mark given the pervasiveness of gender inequality across continents. At any rate, calling feminists “anti-male” makes about as much sense as calling Black Lives Matter activists “anti-police.” Feminists are not calling for violence against or abuse of men. It’s about equality, and addressing institutionalized forms of prejudice against women. Criticism does not necessarily equate to hate, and if those targets of criticism are indeed wrong, to defend them puts the defender at fault also.

Often, rejection of feminist views betrays a defensive attitude on the part of he or she expressing the rejection. For example, how many times have you heard “feminism” and “shrill” in the same sentence? Breitbart’s readership, for one, seems to dine on this stereotype like Garfield the cat dines on lasagna. Here’s a gem from the unholy pseudo-informative spawn Stephen Bannon helped nurture: “License to Shrill: Feminists Can’t Stop Whining about Their Fake Problems.” In this piece, the author suggests that feminists fret and whine about their “frivolous” problems like “the Democrats talking about climate change as a security threat when the country is under attack by illegal immigrants and radical Islamic terrorists.” And this from a female writer, no less!

2. Feminism is very pro-abortion.

It is, in fact, possible to have a nuanced set of views on abortion. I personally wish there were fewer unplanned pregnancies in the world, and I certainly don’t encourage men and women to be reckless in their sexual activity. However, I wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman not to have an abortion in deference to my beliefs, because I believe the matter of choice is sacrosanct. I’m sure many card-carrying feminists share these sentiments, at least to an extent. An abortion is not a procedure to go about willy-nilly, but to make a value judgment about someone else’s situation and to thrust those values upon the other person unsolicited is a sin in its own right, and can make what may very well be an emotional and stressful decision that much more difficult. People who vilify the “godless left” for being pro-abortion might just as well look at themselves and their aversion to a woman’s right to choose.

3. There is an individual feminism where you make your own choices.

Yes, there is. It’s called feminism. I just talked about it. You make your own choices. Like, say, those involving your body.

4. Liberal feminists view themselves as victims of their circumstances.

Bear in mind that Conway is making a distinction between feminism and “conservative feminism” in the first place. And they call us liberals the ones who are divisive! The “liberals play the victim card” charge is one that has been made numerous times before irrespective of gender and circumstances. Those college students who want an affordable education? Playing the victim. They’re just asking someone else to foot the bill. Those protestors going after police officers for doing their job? Playing the victim. It’s the fault of those resisting. Blacks upset about slavery? Hey, that was a long time ago—quit your bitching! Are you overweight? Get on a treadmill already, fatty! And I’m sure we can think of any number of barbs to throw at women and the issues they care about. Need an abortion? You should’ve learned to keep your legs closed in the first place, slut! Want to be taken seriously as a professional? Don’t dress in such provocatively tight clothing, provoking lustful eyes, OK? Upset about y0ur pay? Get a better job! Stop crying. Get over it. Welcome to the real world.

Let me say a few things about these things—chiefly with respect to how wrong-headed they are. On the subject of sexuality, specifically women’s sexuality, I would argue it is incredibly unrealistic to insist on all or even a majority of sexually mature women to adhere to an abstinence-only lifestyle. This is not a commentary on females’ lack of control of their bodily impulses, mind you—I would say the same thing for men, too. Especially men. It’s not that they can’t choose not to have to sex, but they shouldn’t be expected to, and that there is a profound double standard in our society concerning moral judgments of others’ sexual activity—men tend to be lauded for their sexual prowess, while women are shamed for their lasciviousness—speaks to a normalized attitude, once again, of dictating to women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.

On the subject of women in the workplace, um, the glass ceiling is pretty well documented by now. In the United States, women, on the whole, make less than men, and once more, there is a gender-based disparity in perception at work under the subheading of leadership. A male taskmaster is a strong, determined leader. A female in this same role is labeled a bitch, a cunt, is on her period, or needs to get laid. It’s boorish, quite frankly, and incredibly unfair. Moreover, on the literal subject of “victimhood,” women are disproportionate targets of physical and sexual assault, with college campuses across the U.S., in particular, seeing exceedingly high levels of violence against women and men. What is perhaps worst of all herein is the idea that with too many college and universities, there is neither an established environment of acceptance for victims of sexual violence nor a tone at the top which signifies a demand for justice in all cases. In some cases, these institutions charged with safeguarding the well-being of their student body appear more interested in protecting the school’s image. After all, donors are less liable to open up their purse strings or wallets if their would-be donee is regarded as a proverbial viper’s nest of danger and iniquity. Better to make young women jump through hoops to report cases of rape/sexual assault and slut-shame them to the back pages of the newspaper.

So, yeah, feel free to opine on the liberal victim mentality. But conservatives play the victim, too, especially when taken to task for blatant sexism and other forms of prejudice. If anything, it’s a pot-kettle sort of situation.

Emma Watson all but bared her breasts for Vanity Fair. That doesn’t preclude her from being a feminist. (Photo Credit: Tim Walker).

At the very least, Kellyanne Conway’s understanding of feminism as an abstract concept seems incomplete. So much so that Merriam-Webster’s official Twitter feed took to defining “feminism” for her and others’ benefit: “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Nothing about hating men. Nothing about separating one feminist from another based on ability to choose for oneself. Nothing about viewing oneself as a victim or blaming others for one’s position in life and set of circumstances. And certainly nothing about the Women’s March, undoubtedly awash with feminists, being proof that those involved and many women in general have an issue with women in power, as Conway herself suggested. Unless Donald Trump is, in fact, a woman, and let me say that he doesn’t make a particularly fetching one if that’s the case.

Suffice it to say, though, that both men and women may misconstrue what feminism entails and what does or does not constitute a violation of feminist principles. Recently, Emma Watson caught flak for wearing an outfit for a Vanity Fair photo shoot that featured her wearing no bra and very little else covering her breasts. The argument from her online detractors was that Watson, a self-identifying feminist, is a hypocrite for decrying the objectification by men on one hand and dressing in a way that, as they would describe it, encourages objectification. As these critics see things, her revealing garb is a betrayal of her principles and sends mixed messages. Emma Watson, for her part, was taken aback by the negativity, mostly because she expressed a sense of frustration about these critics misunderstanding feminism to begin with. Or, in her words, from an interview with the BBC:

Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women. I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it. It’s very confusing.

Very confusing indeed. Some might philosophize that by dressing sexy, Watson is no better than the the male behavior she discourages, but a key difference here is the matter of choice. Whether or not you agree with it from a moral standpoint, Emma Watson is choosing to dress this way, a notion she herself reinforces. As if she were making a choice about whether or not to have an abortion, it’s her body, and furthermore, one might argue that by exercising her free will, she is disempowering those who would seek to objectify her without her consent. In this context, control is everything. Otherwise, Beyoncé fans have taken to pointing out Watson’s reversal on this position. About three years ago, Emma Watson noted she felt conflicted about Beyoncé referring to herself as a “feminist” and having her (Beyoncé’s) 2013 visual album appear as if shot through a voyeuristic lens and from the perspective of the heterosexual male libido. First of all, um, that was three years ago. People’s opinions can change a lot in that span, especially for someone of Watson’s age. Second of all, Watson acknowledges her opinions about the subject matter were not really “formulated” at the time. Call her a hypocrite or “flip-flopper” if you want, but regardless of what she said then, she has the right attitude about it now. The woman has breasts—what do you want her to do about it?

The “if she didn’t want to be objectified, she wouldn’t be leaving her flesh so exposed” argument, by the by, is a logically weak one, akin to the idea that women are “asking” to be raped or otherwise assaulted based on how they dress. What’s more, this is not the first time Emma Watson’s feminist credentials or even her use of the term has been questioned. Watson was invited to deliver a speech on the fight for gender equality worldwide for the launch of the HeForShe initiative at the United Nations, and reportedly, was asked not to use the “F-word.” As in “feminism.” She did anyway. Even for an occasion designed to mark a movement for men to advocate for and support women in the fight for gender equality, that Watson received this “friendly advice” signifies the overall discomfort both women and men have in using the term based on its negative connotations. Emma Watson noted in an interview with the London Evening Standard that she debated whether or not to comply with this request, but that she ultimately chose in favor of using the term, explaining herself thusly:

I was encouraged not to use the word feminism because people felt that it was alienating and separating and the whole idea of the speech was to include as many people as possible. But I thought long and hard and ultimately felt that it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on Earth are men supposed to start using it?

Watson makes an excellent point. If feminists themselves are afraid to use the term and extol the virtues of their worldview, this risks dissuading men who are more amenable to the feminist cause from lending their support, and moreover, gives those who reject feminist ideals, chief among them conservatives and males who reflexively view any pro-female movement as a threat to their way of life and therefore in need of neutralization (see also alt-right, Gamergate) ammunition in further weakening their (the feminists’) resolve. Though not to equate the two movements and the struggle for mainstream acceptance they face, democratic socialism is another term which is assailed by its opponents to the extent people who might otherwise be sympathetic to its cause are alienated from the theory. Democratic socialists believe in a democratic form of government alongside a socialist economic system, rather simply.

As author and journalist Dan Arel explains, democratic socialism is, in many ways, not what you think it is. It is not Marxism, in that democratic socialism does not advocate for workers controlling the means of production. It is not communism as we would commonly understand it, that is, as manifested in China and the USSR. It is not a replacement for capitalism, but rather a more responsible, one might argue, version of capitalism that would restrict the excesses of corporations and their owners and would act to safeguard employee rights. It is not pure socialism, as democratic socialism believes that consumer goods/services and certain societal elements should be approached democratically rather than from a central government. Perhaps most importantly, it is not incompatible with modern American economic and political structures. As Arel suggests, democratic socialism already exists within the Democratic Party—it just isn’t embraced by all its members. Universal health care, free college tuition, a stronger social safety net—these are not pipe dreams for many developed countries around the world, especially in Europe. Yet people hear “socialism,” and either because they conflate it with communism or simply believe that industry in the United States is overregulated as it is, condemn democratic socialism in a reactionary way. Bernie Sanders and his crazy ideas! Why doesn’t he just move to Sweden if he loves it so much? Never mind that benefits such as community development block grants, the Earned Income Credit, educational grants, family planning services, food stamps/SNAP, the Head Start program, Job Corps, Medicare, public housing, Social Security, and weatherization services for low-income households are all social programs used by Americans of all different economic backgrounds and political affiliations. Um, you’re welcome.

Back to the role of feminism in America and in the world today, though. Feminism, at its most basic and essential, speaks to equality of opportunities and rights irrespective of gender. As suggested earlier, some men, notably those dyed-in-the-wool, old-fashioned sexists—whether they are conscious of it or not—view the advancement of women as a threat to them and their way of life. Feminists also face obstacles from institutions primed to favor men, chief among them the world of business, rigid standards of morality and religious conservatism, and even censure from other women who view their lot as whiny man-haters. In the discussion of not wanting to give the haters more fodder, though, certainly, card-carrying feminists must stick by their principles and do so without concern for excluding those uncomfortable with calling feminism by its rightful name. They should not have to fight this fight alone, however, and with a new generation of young men more sensitively attuned to ideas related to female sexuality, gender equality, and women’s issues, it would appear necessary that they recognize women’s struggle for equality as one which affects them as it does the women advocating for greater autonomy of self, and without concern for their (the men’s) immediate personal benefit. Their mission is our mission. Their losses and gains ours as well.

Now more than ever, with a man in the White House who identifies as pro-life to court religious conservatives despite expressing support for a woman’s right to choose in the past—not to mention boasting about being able to grab women “by the pussy” and defending his words as “locker-room talk”—and a Republican-led Congress which has targeted Planned Parenthood’s federal funding despite it not being used for abortions, already a small portion of the organization’s total services, men must support women’s rights as part of a unified front against others who would seek to abrogate these liberties. Accordingly, the following points should be considered non-negotiable, and let it be stressed that the feminist/women’s rights agenda is not limited to just these items:

  • Constitutional equality. I’ll speak briefly about equality in pay in a bit, but for women across demographic lines, constitutional guarantees to educational opportunities, full Social Security benefits, and job opportunities and political opportunities/power, are lacking. The Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress in 1972, has yet to be ratified in a three-fourths majority of states (only 35 of the 50 have ratified it), but efforts continue at the grassroots level to get its language specifically into the U.S. Constitution.
  • Control over reproductive rights. This includes access to safe abortions and available, affordable birth control and reproductive health services. I know I specified earlier that men should advocate for these points irrespective of any immediate benefits, but as they stand to, ahem, benefit from women’s healthy expression of their sexuality, right off the bat, this should be an easy sell.
  • Ending violence against women. Domestic violence and violence against women in college settings jumps to mind, but across international and cultural borders, there unfortunately are too many instances of the subjugation of women by physical and other means. Female genital mutilation sticks out in this regard, being inflicted on upwards of 200 million women and girls worldwide, chiefly in the regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It is deemed by the World Health Organization as unnecessary and dangerous, and by the United Nations and other international bodies as a human rights violation. Violence against women in its various forms is a serious problem in our world today, a reality that is made all the more disturbing by all the underage females who are targeted because they can’t protect themselves and/or to satisfy some illicit trade, as in the sex trafficking of young girls. This should not be considered a remote problem for distant continents either. This is a human problem and one that affects all of us.
  • Equal pay for equal work. Seems fair, right? Arguing against equal pay for women on the basis of their supposed inferiority is outmoded and foolish thinking, plain and simple.
  • Freedom from stigmatization of normal bodily functions. Earth to Donald Trump and some other men—women menstruate. This is uncontrollable, and symptoms of PMS shouldn’t be assumed against them when they dare to show emotion or, you know, do their job as female reporters/news personalities (what up, Megyn Kelly?) Also, women breastfeed. They shouldn’t have to hide this fact, especially given the idea babies need sustenance to survive and thrive. Stop, ahem, being such babies about this.
  • Justice for women of color and for the LGBTQ community. In the pursuit of gender equality, those who champion women’s rights are usually not provincial in their focus. Though they might frame their discussion of job discrimination, pay equity, Social Security and pension reform, and what constitutes a “living wage” in terms of women’s issues, these topics are applicable to the larger conversation about income and wealth inequality that pervades societal problems in the United States and elsewhere. Part of the women’s rights movement is addressing opportunities for women of color in all areas, especially education, employment, and health care, and for the LGBTQ community, notably with respect to child custody, employment, health services, and housing.

Again, these are not strictly “women’s issues,” but ones that affect all of us, considering how they impact and have impacted the lives of the women around us—our mothers, our grandmothers, our wives, our daughters, other female family members, our female teachers, our female nurses, and so on and so forth. Furthermore, despite the progress we have made in this regard, there is much work to do, and realistically, we should be further along than we are. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when asked two years ago about why gender parity in his Cabinet is so important to him, responded simply with the line, “Because it’s 2015.” It’s 2017 now, and the vast majority of us—women and men, men and women—should be proud to say we are feminists. I certainly am, and you should be too.

Winning, but at What Cost? On Jose Reyes, The Mets, and Domestic Violence in Sports

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets
Jose Reyes just re-signed with the New York Mets, the organization that first signed him, and he should be able to help a team that could use an offensive spark. However, as someone who not long ago was arrested and charged for assaulting his wife, should the Mets have brought him back? (Photo Credit: Debby Wong/US Presswire)

Though I write mostly about social, political and economic issues for the purposes of United States of Joe, one of my most passionate interests is following professional sports. Being a resident of the proud state of New Jersey (motto: “Take our governor—please!“), my favorite teams are based either in the Garden State or close by: New Jersey Devils, New York (despite the fact they play in East Rutherford, NJ) Giants. I am nominally a New York Knicks fan, but as someone who is not a huge fan of pro basketball, and as the Knicks of late have only nominally resembled a professional sports franchise, I’m OK with being only a casual follower of the cagers who call Madison Square Garden home.

I also happen to be a fan of the New York Mets. In a house of Yankees fans, which is interesting enough in itself, but that’s a story for another blog. As a Mets fan, I, like many opinionated bleeders of blue and orange, possess my fair share of ideas for how the team may be improved in light of its apparent needs. Thus, when the Colorado Rockies designated shortstop José Reyes for assignment and ultimately put him on waivers, I, again, like any number of Mets fans, thought it would be a good idea to re-sign the speedster.

I say re-sign because, for those readers who may not be aware, José Reyes started his Major League Baseball career with the New York Mets, playing in most, or at least part, of nine seasons with the team. In fact, he was signed by the organization at the tender age of 16 out of the Dominican Republic. It is not a stretch to say that for much of his tenure as a professional baseball player, the Mets were like a second family for Reyes. So, certainly, there is a personal history for the player, as well as for the team. Moreover, for those who remember the “good times”—however rosily they may recall them—there is a certain fondness factor there for José Reyes.

Speaking of Reyes’ history, it is a more recent chapter in his larger life saga which is a point of contention for many. Prior to his designation for assignment, José was involved in a physical altercation with his wife while in Hawaii. As Chelsea Davis reported for Hawaii News Now, Reyes was arrested and charged in the wake of the incident. According to his wife, Katherine Ramirez, while in their hotel room at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, José grabbed her off the bed and shoved her, and later grabbed her by the throat and shoved her into a sliding glass door to the balcony. As Ramirez told police, she had suffered injuries to her neck, thigh and wrist.

Since the events of the assault, which occurred on Halloween in 2015, the domestic abuse charge against José Reyes, as reported by The Associated Press in March, was scheduled to be dismissed by the office of the Maui County prosecuting attorney, owing to a lack of cooperation on Katherine Ramirez’s part. Thus, within the sphere of the criminal justice system and courts of law, Reyes is apparently free of any further obligation. However, pursuant to a recent amendment to Major League Baseball’s policy of player conduct concerning domestic violence, José was suspended through May 31, retroactive to February 23, when he was placed on leave by the Rockies.

The suspension has since passed, and as noted, there is no longer concern about a criminal trial for José Reyes. Meanwhile, the events of that fateful Halloween still linger in the minds of fans, and certainly, Reyes continues to be tried in the court of public opinion. Such that, with the Mets actually moving to re-sign him earlier this week, a number of the team’s fans as well as other concerned parties have voiced their displeasure with the roster move. Olivia Devlin, a Mets fan, actually started a petition addressed to the team’s general manager, Sandy Alderson, asking him to refuse to re-sign Reyes, insisting that support for him is support for domestic abuse and violence. Devlin has stated she will refuse to support the Mets, least of all refusing to go to games, in the event they do bring José Reyes back. Which they have. Not sure if Olivia will live up to her promise, but that’s neither here nor there. I respect her position immensely.

It’s more than just one woman and a petition, though, as noted. Melissa Mark-Viverito, Speaker of the New York City Council, for one, expressed her anger at the New York Mets, saying in a statement, “It’s outrageous how little women’s lives seem to matter when someone can throw a baseball really hard, wins Super Bowls, or has a good jump shot. Domestic violence kills thousands of women every year and it’s time professional sports actually takes it seriously. The Mets should be ashamed. We need to be better.” ESPN senior writer Keith Law, in a piece published on Monday, believes that the signing of Reyes sends the wrong message to fans and the Mets organization, writing:

The Mets bear a responsibility to be leaders in the community. Instead, they’re baseball’s Dallas Cowboys, who signed Greg Hardy on the cheap because his own domestic violence incident made him a pariah to other clubs, then telling us all how Hardy was a changed man. The team’s owners and front office made the active choice to pursue a player with no current ties to the organization in spite of his recent arrest. Doing so makes it clear that winning one more game is more important than taking a stand on domestic violence.

Other teams, including the Colorado Rockies themselves, the last team to contract with José Reyes, wanted nothing to do with him. Of course, in the Rockies’ case, it helped to have rookie Trevor Story, unexpectedly putting up All-Star-type numbers, to fall back on, so to speak. If Colorado were hurting at the shortstop position, perhaps their sense of morality might not be as strong.

From the baseball fan’s perspective, I believe the ultimate decision to bring Reyes back to the Mets, in terms of one’s reaction to the move, rests on three questions: 1) Do you believe José Reyes expresses true contrition for his actions? 2) Does he deserve a second chance? and 3) Do the first two questions even matter?

Even after serving prison time for running a dogfighting ring, Michael Vick faced protests upon his apparent reinstatement by the NFL. Jose Reyes, on the heels of a suspension for domestic abuse, likely will too. (Photo Source: David Handschuh/New York Daily News)

On the first count, one can only know what José really feels. Though this is purely conjecture on the part of a number of us following the story, we would believe that Sandy Alderson believes he (Reyes) regrets what happened in that hotel room in October, and is not merely putting the team’s record above all other concerns. We all can decide for ourselves whether or not we think José is being genuine with his mea culpa, but without knowing him personally, this, too, is conjecture.

On the second count, well, it’s complicated, and may be, in large part, related to what you believe about Question #1. From my purely anecdotal research, it would seem the majority of Mets fans do feel José Reyes deserves another chance, but much may depend on whether or not you think the offense is too severe to merit forgiveness. I’m immediately reminded of the controversy surrounding Michael Vick when he applied for reinstatement to the NFL following his serving 18 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring. In light of the time he served and his pledged commitment to be a voice in promoting awareness of animal cruelty, many thought Vick’s reinstatement was a fair deal, but for conscientious objectors whose love for animals is their overriding concern, the decision of the Philadelphia Eagles to sign the quarterback (the irony of a team with an animal mascot signing someone who had just gotten out of jail for running a dogfighting ring not withstanding) was worthy of much scorn. Indeed, there were protests outside the Eagles’ stadium following Vick’s signing, as there were when he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers—years removed from his initial suspension from the National Football League and his arrest. Some will neither forgive Michael Vick nor forget, and I don’t know that they’re wrong on that end.

On the third count, yes, it does matter what José Reyes did, and it should. This is why Major League Baseball and the National Football League have taken steps to address the pervasiveness of domestic violence in the United States today, and why Aroldis Chapman (MLB) and Ray Rice (NFL) received suspensions regardless of being found of any criminal wrongdoing. Some would argue these disciplinary measures did not go far enough, and that may well be, but at least the commissioners of these leagues are acknowledging the problem in some respect. But there are some baseball fans and Mets fans who take a purely utilitarian view of the situation, or even suggest Katherine Ramirez may be at fault. I saw one Twitter user recently post something to the effect of “I would let all 25 members of the team beat their wives if it would win the Mets games.” Brutal, disturbing, but someone actually took the time to write that out and make it public.

So, what do I believe? Since I’m asking the questions, it’s only fair I answer them, too. On the first count, again, one can’t truly know what José Reyes believes, feels or thinks, but the cynical side of me can’t help but think he would say anything if he could play major-league baseball again. On the second count, the optimistic side of me believes that people can change, and accordingly, Reyes should get a second chance. On the third count, I believe sentiments like the one above are reprehensible—that winning counts more than the bodily and mental well-being of women. No partner or spouse—man or woman—deserves to be abused emotionally, physically, psychologically, or sexually.

In the end, though, I can’t pretend like my perspective is an objective one. As a Mets fan, I want José Reyes back because I feel he would help the team on the field. By the same token, Olivia Devlin’s viewpoints are colored by her own subjective experience. As she writes within her petition:

I used to work in a domestic violence shelter.  I know women who went back to partners because of societal or family pressures, or because the abuser convinced them that they would change or that it was their fault.  I know women who died at the hands of their partners, and I once dated a man who thought it was OK to hurt me. Every woman – OR MAN – who suffers this indignity deserves to have their voice heard, and their trauma recognised.

Why Katherine Ramirez was uncooperative with the Maui County prosecutor’s office one can only venture a guess, or for that matter, why she has chosen to stay with Reyes. I would hope it is not because she feels she has no other option, which would go to Devlin’s point. Then again, maybe that much is immaterial in the decision about whether or not the Mets should have taken José Reyes back. Once an abuser, always an abuser, etc., etc.

Regardless, the onus is on Reyes and the New York Mets to, as Keith Law put it, “be leaders in the community.” Going back to the tale of Michael Vick, the former star NFL quarterback has been a messenger for The Humane Society of the United States and a supporter of their Pets for Life program. In this way, perhaps José can be a role model to others on the subject of domestic abuse and violence, teaching others while he learns to live with his mistake. Then again, as some might argue, he can just as well do that as a free agent.

Ultimately, we are left to wonder whether or not there is a “right” course of action, and who decides such matters anyhow. I don’t know that there is one, in all honesty. Many will be cheering when José Reyes finally takes to the field for the major-league New York Mets. Some, like Olivia Devlin, will likely be protesting outside Citi Field. I will still be watching games on TV and going to games. But I will be doing so with that much more weight on my conscience—and hoping those of us supporting Reyes’ return aren’t terribly wrong about him in the process.