Regarding Rihanna and Chris Brown
I’ve been thinking about this way too much. It sucks. I get that. Honestly, it makes me feel nauseous. I don’t like to see anyone who I love and respect work with Chris Brown because I don’t think he’s been genuinely repentant over beating, choking, biting, and, by most objective standards, attempting to murder his girlfriend. I am a giant advocate of rehabilitation and, ultimately, forgiveness, but those words demand a perpetrator who understands why what they did was wrong and wants to avoid repeating their mistakes. I don’t believe Chris Brown falls into that category and I don’t think that even his defenders and fans really believe that he does, unless they are just willfully ignorant regarding his blatant petulance.
That said, posts like this — while I know that they have good intentions at heart — are not helping Rihanna or any person who has experienced abuse. First of all: letting your kids know that not all famous people are “good role models” is your responsibility, and those famous people shouldn’t and don’t have to worry about what affect they’re having on “the children” cause those aren’t their damn children. Rihanna didn’t ask to be a spokesperson for abused women and forcing her to do so is punishing her for being victimized. Eff that noise.
Rihanna is a grown ass woman who gets to make her own decisions and while being concerned for her welfare is a natural and probably almost universal response, it really is none of your business. And I don’t say that because I think abuse and abusers should be “family matters” that are kept hidden. I say it because NONE OF US ACTUALLY KNOW RIHANNA. This hand wringing, in the case of a total stranger who will never see or be affected by it, is really just judgement in disguise.
And that judgement is the part that really irks me. Rihanna is not culpable in Chris Brown’s horrific actions, and her deciding to work with him again has ZERO to do with whether or not what he did was wrong, or whether he should be forgiven by society or the Grammy Awards or Jay Z or whoever. The idea that Rihanna’s decisions about how to interact with someone who beat the shit out of her necessarily dictate how “we” should feel about them is a much of a fallacy as instituting the death penalty simply to appease victim’s families. The person closest to the situation, the person who has been abused and beaten to a pulp, is the LAST person who should be held accountable for what the abuser did. There’s also the chicken-or-the-egg question: maybe, just maybe, Rihanna came around to this way of thinking because so many people around her were showing her that, clearly, what Chris did was “not that big a deal.” (see: Usher being forced to apologize for giving CB a hard time for going jet-skiing with his pals right after it happened). In any case, she’s still an adult who gets to make her own decisions that are none of our business, and Chris Brown is still a fucking asshole, and those two things don’t have much to do with each other.
I will say some of the comments on the article posted above that mostly agree with me are nasty as well: although I agree that there are some racial issues here (as Dan pointed out on FB a couple weeks ago, can you really imagine Chris Brown EVER being invited back to the Grammys if it was Taylor Swift he had beaten the shit out of?), telling everyone who disagrees with you to “check their white privilege” probably doesn’t really help to encourage thoughtfulness. I think that the people who are concerned and even the people who are pissed at Rihanna are feeling that way because they do care about abuse and they want to help. They are allies, not enemies. But unfortunately, wishing abuse out of sight and out of mind and actually giving abused women respect and support are two very different things that don’t mix well.
Rihanna’s decision to forgive Brown does not impede us from deciding not to, nor does it turn her into an accomplice to his crimes. If he does hit her again, it will not be because she is “stupid” or “stubborn” or “weak,” it will be because he is a violent attacker who hurts women. The end.
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