Most American popular celebrities–and most of us, if asked–would profess to be pro-women. Last night showed that we are liars.
Facebook is generally a good measuring stick of one’s peer zeitgeist. The other week on Facebook, many of my friends were up in arms about the Komen-Planned Parenthood funding flap. They proclaimed with great ardor that this was a terrible blow to women. They got on soapboxes and decried the move as a calamity. Similarly, I read at least one post a day about the insidious nature of the princess industry, bemoaning how if we dress our American girls in glitter and pink, we are slowly wending our way toward an overly sexualized culture.
Both of these issues clearly hit sensitive buttons with most people.
But when a woman is hit–ACTUALLY hit–we are appallingly, disgustingly silent.
Oh, I’m sorry–that’s not true. We’re not necessarily silent. Sometimes, instead, we stand up and applaud the man who hit her.
For those out of the pop culture loop, I’m speaking of Chris Brown, the ex-boyfriend of Rihanna who, in 2009, hit the pop star so badly in the face the night before that year’s Grammys that she went to the police. Pictures on the Internet showed her battered, swollen, bruised face. It was all the more shocking because we were familiar with her regular beauty, and were forced to face a terrible truth. Chris Brown–a singer in his own right–was prohibited from performing at the Grammys that year.
But now, two years later, Brown was welcomed back on the Grammy stage last night. He performed, and won best R&B album, to loud applause. Apparently two years of exile is sufficient if you beat your girlfriend’s face in. Then you can come back to the standing ovation of your industry and receive awards for your music.
As a mother, I’m far more worried about this than your 3-year-old wearing a tutu and some glitter.
Sasha Pasulka wrote a brilliant piece on the topic. In it, she wrote:
“We–the grown-up influencers in this country, the people with platforms and with educations and with power–are allowing a clear message to be sent to women: We will easily forgive a person who victimizes you. We are able to look beyond the fact that you were treated as less than human, that a bigger, stronger person decided to resolve a conflict with you through violence. We know it happened, but it’s just not that big of a deal to us.”
I posted on Facebook that I found womens’ silence on this issue appalling. People told me they aren’t so into pop culture, that they don’t have time for the Grammys. Believe me, I’m not an Us Magazine devotee myself. But as a parent, you need to be made aware of the message that is being sent to girls everywhere by a huge, pervasively powerful institution. The music industry last night eloquently told all of our girls, and, for that matter, us: You Don’t Matter.
Unlike apparently everyone in the universe, I don’t give a crap that Adele won. Big deal: a larger-than-anorexic starlet with a deep voice picked up a bunch of awards for songs that bemoan the ending of a love affair with typically insipid lyrics (“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead”? To which the obvious reply is, “No shit, Sherlock.”).
No, what I care about is that less than 24 hours after a truly great vocalist (with a far greater range than Adele, by the way) died before her time, after a life in which she was repeatedly abused by her husband Bobby Brown, an audience full of powerful posers stood and applauded a man who hit a woman in the face.
“I Will Always Love You,” my ass. Why even bother with the Jennifer Hudson tribute to Whitney Houston? Wouldn’t a better tribute be to say that abusers have no place on the pedestal of celebrity triumph? Apparently, there’s no cognitive dissonance between moaning over the untimely death of Whitney Houston and standing up to applaud a man who beat his famous girlfriend black and blue.
We should give ourselves a big round of applause, too, if we as parents remain silent in the face of such things. By standing by and doing nothing as people allow people who victimize women to be celebrated on an international stage, we’re just as bad as the self-involved morons who make up our recording industry. In fact, I’d argue we’re worse.
As parents, we must model the kind of behavior we want our boys and girls to emulate–and condemn, vociferously, that which we find reprehensible.
Or, God forbid, we shouldn’t be surprised if in a few years, another black and blue face emerges, and it’s our daughter’s. Or, God forbid, another man who perpetrated such a terrible thing might be our son.
The Rachel Coalition is one of many Jewish organizations devoted to responding positively to domestic violence and their victims.