Wednesday, March 11, 2009

5 Myths About Domestic Violence: Rihanna and Chris Brown

Thanks for the heads up Feministing. A couple weeks ago, R&B pop star Chris Brown choked, bit and beat his girlfriend, R&B pop star Rihanna to the point of filling her mouth with her own blood. Shocking photos of her battered face have circulated the world. (i figure you don't need to see it here).Well intentioned people are stepping up to rightfully denounce this behavior. And Newsweek just floored me with a really insightful article about the myths that a lot of us are perpetuating while trying to "use this case as something the educate kids with". Chris Brown carries/carried a lot of cool cred with kids, so it is definitely important to be clear to them that this is a toxic, unacceptable expression of masculinity. Also being clear about our inherent sexism while discussing this is also very important.

Here is an excerpt of myth number 1:
Myth No. 1: It was a domestic argument, and she provoked him
We need to remember that any discussion of domestic violence should not revolve around what the couple may have been arguing about, or as one CNN anchor put it: "the incident that sparked the fight." Nor should we be using the word "provoked" when describing this case, as in the Associated Press account that said the "argument" was "provoked" by Rihanna's "discovery of a text message from another woman." Domestic violence has to do with, well, physical violence, not arguments. There isn't a verbal argument that should "spark" or "provoke" an attack of the kind that leaves one person with wounds that require medical attention.
And an excerpt of myth number 3:
Myth No. 3: People make mistakes. Give the guy a break
When singer Kanye West talked about the Rihanna-Brown case with his VH1 audience recently, he asked: "Can't we give Chris a break? ... I know I make mistakes in life." Kanye's not the only one saying this kind of thing, so let's get something straight: People leave the oven on or fry turkeys in the garage and burn their house down. One may even accidentally step on the gas instead of the brake and run over the family cat. Mistakes resulting in tragic consequences happen all the time. But one cannot mistakenly beat someone up. You do not accidentally give someone black eyes, a broken nose and a split lip.
Kanye?!? C'mon now. I'm almost more disappointed in him than Chris Brown.

Newsweek however, stealthly extorts kudos from my unsuspecting person. Props.


Tanginika-Simone said...

It is unfortunate that violence toward women is still dispersed with myths such as the ones you described. VIOLENCE IS NOT AN ACT OF LOVE!!!! Men and women should understand that once and for all. Violence is wounding, detrimental, and scarring at all levels and should never be tolerated. I bet Rihanna also thinks she provoked Chris Brown, otherwise she would not have come back to him.

richard said...


Amen! Violence is NOT Love! bell hooks really addresses that in her book "all about love".

I think the 5th Myth addresses some of the issues about Rihanna staying with Chris Brown:

"Myth No. 5: She's young, rich and beautiful. If it was really as bad as the media says, she'd leave
The secret to the abuser's power is not only making his victim dependent on him, but convincing her that she is to blame for the attack. No amount of money or fame can protect someone from the terrible cycle of emotional dependence, shame and fear that keeps them with abusive partners. Women who are abused look for ways they may have "provoked" an attack, finding fault with their own behavior to explain the unexplainable—why would someone they love hurt them? And it doesn't help when people outside the relationship blame the victim. In this case, Phylicia Thompson, a cousin of Brown's, told "Extra TV" that, "Chris was not brought up to beat on a woman. So it had to be something to provoke him for Chris to do it." As the rumors swirl about whether Rihanna is back with Brown, understand that those who are abused do not stay with their abusers because they want to be beaten again, or because they are really at fault; it's usually because they feel trapped and guilty.

You may have noticed that the words power, control and domination running through my rant. That was purposeful. What we need to remember, and what we need to teach our children, is that yes, you should never hit anybody and you should never let anybody hit you. But, we also need to tell them that love does not guarantee respect and that any relationship they find themselves involved in should be based on both equally."

Lala said...

I'm sick of this case of a lot of levels. I'm sick of people using it to promote their political agendas under the guise of giving a damn about them most. I'm sick of hypocrites like reformed crackhead Oprah acting like God. I'm sick of folks acting like all cases are the same. And feministing? Really?

richard said...

Lala: This case has definitely gotten a LOT of exposure. I'm not up on what Oprah or many others have said about this case, i have actually avoided "debate" and "perspectives" on it, cuz it seems pretty clear, this was not ok. For sure, all cases are not the same, but we can still say that Chris Brown's behavior was not acceptable. I appreciated the Newsweek article, which also told me some of the prevailing ideas going around.

I'm not sure if i fall under the grouping of people who use this "to promote their political agendas under the guise of giving a damn about them". I don't know them. But I loathe injustice, and i loathe violence to women. Most of the people closest to me in my life are women. May they (and you) be protected from such brutality.

One thing is for sure, i've noticed more people clicking through to my blog for this post. Not so much when i post about the crisis of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I take it you aren't a big fan of Feministing :)

Lala said...

My thing is I am in Chris and Ri's age group. What he did was completely unacceptable. Now what? If he were 25 I'd feel differently. But he is a 19 year old who has been on his own since he was 15 or 16. And if he were a female he'd be considered a victim of sex abuse with what they say about his 40 year old manager and 38 year old babymomma. Imagine if he was a girl. This was a chance to remove the shame out of seeking help for victim and abuser and it was pissed away. Rather than teaching lessons in dealing with conflict and anger we got he is a monster/I hate him and she is a fool/or deserved it. This to some degree goes on all the time and it just got stigmatized more. Couples still fight and not one thing has been done to help.

...and it goes beyond couples, seems everytime I go into McDonalds or board a bus/subway there is a tired stressed out mom screaming/cursing or whacking the hell of her kids. But that is tabu to talk about especially in minority communities. But is it not violence? And you for sure won't ever see it on Feministing ;/

richard said...

Lala: You are touching on something that i have also been concerned about. Most men who abuse have been abused themselves. There need to be more initiatives that deal with this reality.

I admit that i do not know about Chris Brown's history. All I saw was the unacceptable behavior. But i agree, some process that holds him *accountable* while affirming his *humanity* and his own survivorship status is needed.

Peep what this sista shared around her own process with her perpetrator, its deep. look in the comments section of this post: