Men’s Rights Activists have a new hero: a Cleveland bus driver who punched and choked a belligerent female passenger who had apparently refused to pay her fare.
The top post in the Men’s Rights subreddit at the moment, with more than 500 upvotes, links to a petition urging the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to reinstate the bus driver, Artis Hughes, who was suspended after video of the incident leaked out. (See videos here and here.) According to the petition,
As a bus driver, mr. Hughes was lied to, insulted, threatened and eventually attacked by one of the passagers. He was clearly justified in striking back. Were he to suffer any negative consequences to his employment as a result of defending himself and striking back, this would set a disasterous precedent: he and other employees would legitimately believe that their workplace expects them to put up with harrassment, and that they will lose their jobs if they choose to stand up for themselves. …
As well as being a bus driver, mr. Hughes is a man, and [Shidea N. Lane, the passenger] is a woman. We continue to live in a world in which some people see fit to scold men for fighting back against the women who abuse them. After mr. Hughes struck ms. Lane, a woman could be heard protesting about it, saying “That’s a [censored] female”. Mr. Hughes responded by saying: “I don’t care. You want to be man? I’m going to treat you like a man!” This is a healthy attitude: if men refuse to strike back, fearing that the law will favour their female abusers over them, we create an environment in which women can harrass and victimize men with impunity. Instead, a man’s decision to fight back against a woman should be respected.
It is for these reasons – the fact that the bus driver was the real victim and was justified in hitting back; that he and other bus drivers should not fear the legal consequences of responding to attacks by passagers; and that men in general should not fear the legal consequences of responding to attacks by women – that we urge you to reinstate mr. Artis Hughes following the investigation on the incident, and hope that future policies will safeguard him and other bus drivers from legal assault whenever they respond to a passager’s physical assault.
There are a lot of things wrong with this statement, up to and including the spelling. But perhaps most germane to the discussion at hand is the fact that the various videos of the event circulating on YouTube make very clear that Hughes was not acting in self-defense.
Yes, it’s clear from the videos and the police report on the incident that the passenger was acting obnoxiously. And according to witnesses she struck first, spitting on Hughes, pushing him and apparently punching him in the head. (All I saw in the video was her pushing him.) That would be more than enough to charge her with assault, though Hughes declined to press charges.
But after she allegedly assaulted him, she backed off. When Hughes punched and then choked her, he was not defending himself; he was retaliating, and with disproportionate force – his punch literally knocked her to the floor.
In this case, Hughes’ victim was a woman. But what he did would have been equally wrong had he punched a man with similar force.
This isn’t the first time, by a long shot, that MRAs have defended the idea of responding to violence from women with disproportionate force. A year ago, you may recall, Men’s Rights Redditors and other MRAs jumped to the defense of Rayon McIntosh, the McDonalds employee who responded to an assault by two customers by beating them with a metal rod – and continuing to beat them after he knocked them to the floor. (See video of the incident here; TW for extreme violence.)
And as longtime readers here know, in one now-infamous post Paul Elam of A Voice for Men suggested that it would be proper for men abused by their female partners to
beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.
And then make them clean up the mess.
In the wake of the bus incident, a number of commenters in the Men’s Rights subreddit reacted to Hughes’ assault on the young woman with something close to glee. (Click on any of the yellow comments to see them in context; they’re all from different parts of the thread .)
True, some suggested that the response was disproportionate, but they tended to get a much less enthusiastic response from the regulars than those reveling in the punch:
And MRAs wonder why some people describe their movement, such as it is, as “the abusers lobby.”