So yesterday afternoon, I was out for a walk, listening to a new album I downloaded onto my iPhone and a song came on that I thought was very pretty. Nice beat, lovely lyrics and above average vocals. The man singing had a very soulful, smooth voice and I pulled my phone out of pocket to see who this undeniably compelling singer could be.
You know who that is, right? He’s the guy who did this to Rihanna’s face.
My initial reaction was to feel disgusted that I had inadvertently given that dickbag money, but then I got to thinking. Why am I boycotting Chris? I wrote before that I think a lot of the opprobrium and scorn Chris has earned for his unquestionably violent attack on Rhianna is motivated by racism. People who give Sean Penn or Mickey Rourke a pass for beating the shit out of their wives/girlfriends, but NOT Chris Brown are probably just reacting to a cultural trope that loves to paint black men as animals.
I kept walking and started to unpack my assumptions and then it hit me: I’m engaging in exactly the same thought processes that I rail against daily on this blog!
JudgyBitch: giant hypocrite!
Hey, life’s a learning curve. What can I say?
My hatred of Chris Brown is first and foremost a visceral reaction to the fact that he beat Rhianna so badly. I want to kill him for that, which makes perfect sense, right? I object to violence and my first reaction is to go Reservoir Dogs on his ass. But underneath that are a couple of assumptions that are not justifiable and play into the kinds of stereotypes that do more harm to women than good.
My first assumption: that Rihanna is completely innocent in all of this.
I mean, look at her. She’s so beautiful and slender and small and how could she possibly be an accomplice to her own destruction? How? Oh, rather easily. The reality is that domestic violence is perpetrated EQUALLY by both men and women.
Did Rhianna provoke her attack? Did she throw the first punch? Was she a full participant in the altercation? I don’t know. But the automatic assumption that she is a completely innocent victim denies that women are just as violent as men. That perpetuates the idea that women are innocent and men are evil and that is just the kind of thinking that permeates the culture and makes it acceptable to express an open hatred and disdain for men.
How thoughtful of me to help spread that ideology.
Erin Pizzey, who founded the first shelter for female victims of domestic violence in the US has a good deal to say on the subject of violent women, and her writings at A voice for Men are well worth a read, especially if you find yourself, as I did, axiomatically buying into the idea that women are always the victims and men are always the abusers.
My second assumption is that Rhianna is incapable of understanding her decisions and that going back to Chris Brown is a cry for help and we must all intervene to protect her from this violent predator who is certain to hurt her again.
This particular assumption is one that is incredibly damaging to women. Rhianna is a grown woman with agency and intelligence and responsibility. EITHER she is an adult fully capable of understanding the consequences of her decisions OR she is a helpless child who needs an authority figure to intervene in her life and make decisions for her and protect her from the consequences of her actions.
You can’t have it both ways. Are women adults with responsibilities and obligations, including the obligation to face the consequences of their decisions? I certainly think they are.
It’s hard to throw off the idea that women ought to be protected from their own bad decisions. A natural instinct to protect and shelter, especially when a woman is beautiful, kicks in and it takes a conscious effort to stop and reconsider how we feel. Rhianna does not need our protection. She needs to be held accountable for her decisions and face the consequences and in doing so, she will learn and grow.
That’s how life works. You make a choice, that choice ends up being really stupid, you learn from that, try to make better choices, and you carry on. You don’t look around for someone to blame. That someone is YOU.
I made a choice to boycott Chris Brown, it turns out that in doing so I am helping to perpetuate the very ideology for which I have nothing but withering contempt, I spent some time thinking about that decision and today I am going to download and pay for ONE Chris Brown song.
Here’s your money, Chris. I still hate you, but I refuse to hold you accountable and give Rhianna a pass. Now that’s equality.
Lots of love,