* A relatively rough rant. I may come back and edit it tomorrow. Or I may just leave it entirely.
I have been ranting to friends/relatives/colleagues about this pretty solidly since yesterday morning, although I haven’t had the time to actually blog about it*.
*Which reminds me, I have a backlog of material – blog, work and personal – to get cracking on. I should probably invest in a day-planner. Do those things actually help?
I am not okay with Rihanna and Chris Brown’s new collaborations.
I am not okay with the fact that in an attempt to “shock the world” (according to one of the producers, Kosine, on the remix of Birthday Cake), Rihanna has made a pretty public statement: It’s okay to go back to the man who abused you.
Court documents in Chris Brown’s 2009 trial made it clear that he beat Rihanna repeatedly. Photographs from that night – the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards – show a Rihanna that is almost unrecognisable.
Rihanna after Chris Brown's assault of her in 2009. <i>TMZ</i>
The recently released documents made for absolutely terrfying reading. You can read the full report on Perez Hilton’s site but I’ll give you highlights.
He punched her repeatedly, smashed her head against the window, bit her left ear and two of her fingers, threatened to kill her, had her in a headlock and tried to strangle her.
(And yes, all you Chris Brown “fans”, he was also injured. Those are called “defensive wounds”. You find them on rapists, murderers, robbers and abusers. They’re caused as the victim tries to defend him or herself.)
It’s been just three years since that night – and, in fact, Chris is still serving a five-year probation for the felony assault. He made an extremely controversial return to the Grammy Awards last week – he performed twice – and his appearance raised the ire of a number of celebrities, music fans and critics.
They questioned the appropriateness of his inclusion into the ceremony, and his reaction does not seem typical of a man who is remorseful of actions. He tweeted, “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF!”
And you know, in the interests of not stirring the pot without due cause, I kind of left it after the Grammys. It made my stomach churn to watch him parade around the stage, but I could have been being over-sensitive. It happens.
But then Rihanna tweeted her two collaborations with the man that beat her within an inch of her life. And I was unbelievably disappointed.
In 2009, Rihanna said: “I don’t want to be the big domestic-violence spokesperson, because that doesn’t define who I am. But if I can help young women in any way, and that being one of the things they need help with, then I’ll do that.”
Rihanna had a perfect chance – whether she wanted it or not – to make a statement, be a role model. She had the chance, through her actions, to say: What happened to me is not okay. What he did was not okay. I do not need to stand for it. I do not need to go back.
But these two songs have sent a very, very public message: I have forgiven my abuser, and want him back in my life. Even better, I can cash in on the controversy and the abuse.
These were my thoughts before I had listened to the remix of Birthday Cake. And yes, while Chris’ contribution to the song is keeping with the hardcore, S&M style of the original’s lyrics… Well, Jesus H Christ in a handbag, it is not okay for the man that abused you to be singing those lyrics.
“Girl, I wanna f*** you right now. Been a long time. I been missin your body … give it to her in the worst way. Can’t wait to her blow her candles off.”
I was surfing for various opinions on the tracks, and an article on the Boston Herald site really stuck out. The author had interviewed one Wendy Murphy, who apparently teaches a seminar on sexual violence at New England Law School.
“I don’t even have words to describe the perversity of (the collaboration),” she said.
“The obvious message she is sending isn’t that violence is bad, it’s that you need to find a way to enjoy it. … Someone should confront her and say, ‘Women are dying from the same violence you are celebrating’.”
“To do a song with the man who beat the hell out of her is exploiting her own victimization for money,” Murphy said.
I am not okay with Rihanna’s collaboration with Chris Brown.
I do not care – and I suppose it is none of my business – whether she has forgiven him for what he did. I don’t think that I would ever forgive abuse dished out to me. I would never record a fucking song with my abuser. But that’s just me.
And if they are all happy-and-back-together? Well, for god’s sake have some tact about announcing it. Release a statement instead of dropping two unnecessarily controversial tracks. They both owe it to their fans – whether they think they owe anything to the people who keep buying their records or not.
Rita Smith, the executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, seems to agree with me.
She told MTV News (and I bold this for the tl;dr among you):
“I don’t know what the message is. I would like the message to be: People can change, and I will never be treated that way again and I will never treat anyone that way again.
“If they had released a song saying this is what this represents for us, that would be such a much more fabulous, powerful story than not saying a word,” she said.
Instead, Rihanna’s stand-alone collaborations with Chris Brown are a public statement – that she endorses the man that abused her.
Smith also said that, given Rihanna’s history with Chris Brown: “I think the message she’s sending is that the feelings of being in love are more important than your personal safety.”
Like so many other victims of domestic abuse, Rihanna returns. Convinced he has changed, perhaps, or convinced that she can change him.
And what if, like so many other victims of domestic abuse, it happens again?