At last night’s Grammy Awards, Chris Brown took to the stage after a three-year hiatus. Because he now has a successful album for sale and has been on “good behavior” it is apparently acceptable to reward him with a platform such as a performance at the Grammys. Some people in last night’s audience even gave him a standing ovation.
In 2009 Brown physically assaulted his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna, shortly before the Grammy Awards of that year. Since then he has released a high selling album and now he is allowed to perform again at a huge venue. In granting Brown this kind of platform, the entertainment industry is sending the message that beating his girlfriend is totally excusable. It is not.
HelloGiggles ran a post before the performances last night detailing the response in the media to Brown’s assault on Rihanna. Rather than supporting Rihanna and speaking out against domestic violence, by and large the media did little to speak out against his crime, even despite the horrific photos of Rihanna post-assault that later surfaced. Even worse, Rihanna herself was subject to backlash:
In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.
BuzzFeed ran Twitter responses that sadly confirm just how dangerous this message is. The tweets from accounts that appear to be run by young women say things such as:
I don’t know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.
Chris Brown could serenade me and then punch me in the eye.
Considering the spotlight Brown has been given, it is no surprise so many fans have reacted this way. He is once again being held up as a pop star worthy of adoration. What he did is inexcusable and yet the fall-out was minimal and he is allowed to proceed with business as usual.
HelloGiggles asks if things would have been different if Brown had hit Taylor Swift, instead of Rihanna. Swift, like Rihanna, is a young successful pop star, but her public persona is “pure” and virginal, while Rihanna’s is built on overt sexuality (if you need proof of this, just look at what Swift and Rihanna wore to last night’s red carpet). Maybe the media would’ve reacted differently, maybe the blame Rihanna faced in her own assault wouldn’t have befallen Swift.
No matter what, Brown’s actions were permissible under no circumstances. The entertainment industry has rewarded Brown, however, thereby sending the message that his commercial success makes his violent attack on his girlfriend totally OK. This message is detrimental to any survivor of domestic violence. It makes it far more difficult for victims to speak out and seek help. And it makes it far easier for people such as Brown to continue to commit assault on their partners with little to no repercussions.