We need to stop kidding ourselves. We don’t actually think there is much wrong with domestic violence.
No, seriously. An objective observer would look at our swift re-embrace of Chris Brown after his brutal beating of Rihanna and think that beating women is no big deal. How else do you explain it?
The message could not be more clear to abusers. Beat a woman, swiftly apologize as abusers often do and get back to your normal routine. No one in society is going to really hold you accountable for your behavior especially if you can sing and dance. Redemption is a tricky thing.
There’s also a powerful statement to our young women and girls here: get beaten up by your boyfriend and not only will your peers and society blame you for letting your face get in the way of his fists, but he’ll be able to get right back to living life. And be prepared to explain just what you did to provoke him…because you know you provoked him.
At this point, it is no longer about Chris Brown or Rihanna. It’s about violence against women and why we can’t take the issue serious enough to even think that perhaps requiring real remorse and rehabilitation for abusers before they can just reenter society is necessary. Folks wanted to exile Michael Vick for longer than three years for what he did to dogs. Dogs!
The Grammys’ decision to allow Brown back in the fold (certainly because it’s good for ratings) ignored the message that would be sent society’s young women. Perhaps it’s true that it’s not their job to protect the girls of the world, but that doesn’t mean that nothing could have been done to acknowledge the real reason the singer sat out the previous three ceremonies. Brown was welcomed back like a hero, as if he’d survived a car accident or battled some sort of debilitating illness.
It is society’s failed response to the issue of domestic violence that allows young women to live tweet the Grammy awards and say, “I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime.” Earlier this year, NPR interviewed young female Chris Brown fans outside one of his concerts in which they expressed continued support for the singer and said about the beating of Rihanna, “Obviously she played a part in getting beat, or whatever…However you want to put it.” The lack of true accountability for Brown, particularly from industry peers and leaders, has given these girls little reason to feel he needed any sort of redemption at all.
When Chris Brown is celebrated as some sort of survivor who pulled himself up from the ruins without the acknowledgment of that 2009 assault, a grave injustice is committed. Yet those who bring up the incident are accused of rehashing ‘old news’ and preventing a young man who deserves another chance from moving on. Brown’s smash records, film roles and successful tours (not to mention rumors that he continues to see ex-girlfriend Rihanna) make it quite clear: he’s not having a hard time moving on at all. Yet, if that terrible abuse could have at the very least been a lesson for young women and men, that lesson was largely lost to the cult of celebrity worship and our unhealthy tendency to accept and excuse domestic violence.
Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and staff writer for The Loop 21. You can follow her on Twitter: @ZerlinaMaxwell