Friday, March 20, 2009

Weighing in on things I know nothing about

I don't purport to know what goes on in other people's relationships. Okay, that's a lie. Sometimes I do. I'm human, after all. But I obviously don't know what goes on in the lives of Rihanna and Chris Brown anymore than the next person. In fact, I probably know less than the next person because I wasn't entirely aware of who either of them were until the domestic violence story hit the news.

So I'm not going to make any comments about what really happened or how things should be or should've been handled. But I am going to say that I'm really disturbed by the comments of the teenage girls quoted in this article. The girls interviewed are students at Hostos-Lincoln Academy in the Bronx, and here's a little sampling of their statements.

“I thought she was lying, or that the tabloids were making it up,” one girl said.

Even after they saw a photo of Rihanna’s bloodied, bruised face, which had raced across the Internet, they still defended Mr. Brown. “She probably made him mad for him to react like that,” the other ninth grader said. “You know, like, bring it on?”

Should he be punished? No, said the girls, whose names were withheld at the request of the school. After all, they said, Rihanna seemed to have reconciled with Mr. Brown.

“So he shouldn’t get into trouble if she doesn’t feel that way,” one girl said. “She probably feels bad that it was her fault, so she took him back.”

What I keep coming up against is that the girls aren't supporting Brown because they think he didn't do it. They think he did it; they just think that it was Rihanna's fault.

Several in the magazine industry have put forth explanations for the behavior of these adolescent girls:

Mimi Valdés Ryan, former editor in chief of Vibe magazine and the one who put Chris Brown on the cover in 2006, said the defense of him by so many young girls can be understood in part because they are adoring fans.

Even before this incident, Mr. Brown’s core fans didn’t like Rihanna, said Ms. Valdés Ryan, now editor in chief of Latina, a magazine for young women. “His posters are on the bedroom wall, the last face they see before they sleep,” she said. “They’re feeling, ‘Why is he with her, not with me?’ ”

As word of the incident spread, girls could not believe he could wreak such violence, she said. After all, sweet Chris Breezy — his nickname — even appeared in a music video with Elmo of “Sesame Street.” Acknowledging his attack would make them feel vulnerable: How could they have a crush on someone who could do that? It was less terrifying to blame Rihanna.*

Their response makes total sense. Who wants to believe that someone they love, admire, care for, adore could do something like that? It's part of the reason that violent relationships continue, that parents and friends look away, that the problem keeps playing itself out. I know the experiences of all women aren't the same - that you don't just have to support other women because you're both women. But what is happening when adolescent girls are so quick to blame a woman whose boyfriend has beaten her up? Why does a girl EVER think that's it's acceptable for a guy to hit his girlfriend?

*The article lays out several other possible reasons for the girls' behavior, including societal attitudes about men in the African-American community.


Merrily Down the Stream said...

Like when a rape victim is questioned about what she was wearing or were she was - maybe she was asking for it? {{{shudder}}}


T said...

those comments make me sad.

there HAS to be a way to communicate to girls (and women!) that abuse is never acceptable and never the victim's fault. it's so frustrating that this message - that seems obvious to us - is so hard to get out there.

(In)Sanity Gal said...

Sometimes it feels like a battle that can't be won - all the public service announcements and after school specials and in-class exercises - how can those compete with entertainment and friends and the life messages?

the babe said...

you're not the only one thinking about this exact phenomenon. thought you might be interested.

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