I'll probably get slaughtered for this, but I have to say there should be a distinction.
the bottom line ... is that no man should ever hit a woman
I agree with that statement in a general sense; however, there are women out there who specifically push buttons when their significant other or brother or whomever is irritated about something. Whether verbally or physically, the deliberate "poking the bear" onto another person who, most of us could agree has a breaking point, even as he is attempting to remove himself from the situation, should be treated wholly differently.
We are all human and have a point where the rage finally boils over and folks who deliberately push a person over that point deserve whatever happens to them.
No man should ever hit a woman is a very generalized and blanket statement. I have personal experience with this as a guy who was WALKING AWAY from a chick who was FOLLOWING and punching me in the head, I had ZERO leeway to defend myself based off of that generalized statement that existed in my school, and again, because I was the guy, I was suspended from school, not her. I was the one in trouble.
I personally KNOW women, in their 30s, who do this intentionally and then cry foul when she is finally pushed down or the guy fights back to continue his getaway.
Each situation is different and needs to be treated as such.