I think a lot of things that a lot of people do are ridiculous. I have strong opinions, and some of them are not necessarily close to the opinions of the people I interact with the most. This is okay, and is, in fact, preferable to living in a world where everybody believes the same thing. This is what America is about: freedom of belief, of thought, of expression. WITHIN REASON.
Here’s an example of what I mean by “within reason”: This week, Reddit banned all subreddits focusing on the sexualization of minors from their website. They didn’t do that until two days ago. The site is anti-SOPA and didn’t want to regulate their users— okay, sure, fine, I get that. But there must be a line drawn somewhere, and I’m pretty sure that line should have been drawn before child pornography and before 2012. It probably would have been reasonable to say, look, y’all, I love you and your rights, but it’s illegal for you to look at naked pictures of preteens on our website so we’re going to have to take those down. Right?
Unfortunately, “within reason” means different things to different people. Sunday afternoon, before the award show, I read an article that mentioned Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich’s thoughts on Chris Brown. Ehrlich thinks it’s reasonable not just to allow Brown to perform after being blacklisted from the show for only two years, but also (although this wasn’t mentioned in the article, obviously) to give him one of those coveted golden gramophones for best R&B album. I haven’t heard anything off of the album; maybe it’s amazing and deserved to win. I get that the entertainment industry is full of apologists, that celebrities (athletes included) get special treatment, that as part of the unwashed masses, I don’t really know the whole situation. But to have him and Rihanna perform doesn’t seem right. And, most importantly, to say that it’s time to have Brown back, to be glad to see him and to say that it took you a while to get over not the fact that he hit a woman, but the fact that he “victimized” you and your show? That doesn’t seem reasonable to me at all. It’s appalling. The producer was quotes in an ABC article.
I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.
We were the victim, he says. The Grammy Awards was the victim. Not Rihanna, who was hospitalized, but the award show, which wasn’t violently abused but did get left in the lurch when two of its performers suddenly couldn’t make the 2009 show after one of them was violently abused by the other. That definitely makes you a victim, Grammys. Except, wait. No, it doesn’t. Calling you or your organization a victim of what happened was an insensitive, stupid thing to say. It may have, in the best-case scenario, been a very poor choice of words from Ehrlich. Maybe he was coached by PR people and had to say things like “What he’s done and what he’s done to reclaim his career…make him—I don’t want to use the word eligible—but, you know, it’s time,” instead of saying something that would actually make him sound like he cared about Rihanna or victims of domestic abuse. Maybe he just wasn’t allowed to get involved. Maybe.
That isn’t what it sounds like, though. Sasha Pasulka wrote a long piece on this subject and included the following quote:
We’re accepting the message that women just aren’t that important, that their health and their safety and their self-respect is only important until it stops being convenient for everyone. We should be angry about this, and we should be angry publicly about this.
Domestic violence is wrong, but it still happens every day. I’ve worked with and listened to the stories of women who have been abused by their husbands and boyfriends; I’ve taught and done crafts with their children. They do not deserve what has happened to them. They have families who love them and friends who would do anything to help, but this still happens. I feel as if the entertainment industry and the media could have done so much to educate the youth about domestic violence and why it’s wrong, but they didn’t. Chris Brown could have actually been kept in jail. Artists could have held a benefit concert to show support for Rihanna, with proceeds going to an organization working to stop domestic violence. Rihanna herself could have become the spokesperson for such an organization, or at least made public comments to set an example for her fans.
Rihanna is a celebrity and therefore a role model, whether she likes it or not. People look up to her, and many of those people are still-impressionable preteens and teenager who want to emulate the stars they admire. Some of them come from broken or nonexistent families and have no one to teach them values, so they learn from celebrities’ actions instead. Some of them face or watch abuse at home, and if they see it in the media as well, they might begin to think it’s normal. As a public figure and role model, I believe Rihanna had a duty to speak out and let the world know that it’s not okay to treat people the way she was treated. What happened to her was horrible and wrong and is difficult to talk about, yes. Of course. But Rihanna educating the public could have such an impact, and I wish she had done it. That’s just my opinion, but maybe then there wouldn’t be a list conglomerating all the people who said they wished Chris Brown would beat them up after his performance tonight.
Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday coincided with the show this year, said, ”We— even we here— hold the power, and bear the responsibility.” It’s our responsibility to do what we can to spread the word that domestic violence is wrong! It should be everybody’s responsibility, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. Many things about this situation bother me. I wish domestic violence wasn’t an issue at all, let alone one that occurs multiple times every minute. I wish Chris Brown hadn’t assaulted Rihanna. I wish Rihanna had spoken up. I wish the industry approached the situation in a different way. But what almost bothers me more than all of those things is the fact that I have friends and acquaintances who don’t seem to care at all. People I interact with on a daily basis would rather see a good performance (was it good?) than address the fact that what Chris Brown did was wrong and that he got let off very easily. Apathy is not attractive. Far too often do I see people say things like, “I don’t really like politics, but…,” because they think it makes them sound cool. How do they not realize how important elections are in this country? And that’s just politics. It can’t kill somebody the way domestic violence or a back alley abortion can. I’m amazed by these people, who make excuses for not knowing things because of the way they were raised or who ignore issues because they’d rather watch a damn concert. These things matter, y’all. To everybody.
Do something! Contact your local battered women’s shelter, if you’re so inclined— you may be able to donate clothes, books, funds, food, toys, or time. Old phones, computers, and USB drives are also typically in need. Here’s a list of women’s shelters by state and city. Teach your children that violence isn’t right. Treat everybody with respect. Stop using the word rape to mean you won— I raped that test, I raped him in Mario Kart, and don’t laugh at your friends when they make stupid jokes or say they wish famous musicians would beat them up— that’s trivializing the situation. Make a difference.
Edit: Here’s Sasha Frere-Jones from the New Yorker on Brown at the Grammys. I didn’t watch the show, and his slightly facetious piece from this morning reminds me why.
Woman-beating rage-broccoli Chris Brown lip-synced his single “Turn Up the Music” (without being threatened by Sir Elton John) and danced roughly as well as a third-rate Chicago footwork dancer. He ended his performance by back-flipping off the stage, though sadly not off the earth.
Edit: This open letter to the girls who want Chris Brown to hit them by Roxane Gay is a must-read. Perfectly done.