Traci C. West: Rihanna and violence against women

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Chris Brown’s alleged violence against Rihanna has sparked intense debate and discussion about these celebrities.
I decided to ask Traci C. West, PhD, a professor of ethics and African American studies at Drew University’s Theological School, for some perspective on the violence and the public’s reactions. She researched the historical legacy of violence against black women for her book, Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence, and Resistance Ethics.
Here’s Traci…


From your work and the research you conducted to write Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence and Resistance Ethics, what are some critical perspectives you think many in mainstream media haven’t yet touched upon when discussing the alleged violence Rihanna suffered at the hands of Chris Brown?
I am saddened by the ways the media has sensationalized this horrible incident of violence that Rihanna has suffered by an alleged perpetrator who was someone she trusted and loved. At the same time, I am always hopeful that when the silence is broken by the media on the pervasiveness of male violence and abuse against women and girls, it will push our society to be less tolerant of it.
There’s been a lot of media coverage so I cannot say that I have seen all of it. But, based on what I’ve seen, I am disappointed that the media pundits, talk show hosts, and so-called experts seem to be stuck on the same wrong questions that were asked about women in the 1970s and 1980s — What did she do to provoke him? What is wrong with her if she stays with him?
I think the focus needs to instead be on what’s wrong with the perpetrator’s behavior — on why male violence is wrong, and on how the community holds the perpetrator accountable for his violent behavior to prevent any more violence from taking place in the future.
I’ve heard and read personal accounts of young girls defending Chris Brown and blaming Rihanna for the violence that she suffered allegedly by Chris Brown for various reasons I won’t repeat here. I’ve also seen photos of mothers and daughters with signs in support of Chris Brown. What do you think about these acts of protest? And why do you think they feel Chris Brown is the victim and not Rihannna — despite the physical evidence?
Unfortunately, public support for alleged male perpetrators of violence together with the shaming and blaming of the women who have been victimized is all too common. This response is very painful to witness. It is a painful reminder of how we, women and men, in the broader society are the ones who are “the problem.” We are a big part of the reason why it is so hard to truly eliminate male violence.
Too many women (and men) do not believe that men who batter and rape should ever be held accountable for their violence because the women bear the responsibility for the violence. Woman-blaming excuses for the men are almost always given, such as she provoked him, she stayed with him, she started the argument, she should have known that he would react in that way, and other similar responses we teach our daughters and nieces, sons and nephews.
What do you think are the differing views among men? Black men? P.Diddy recently said he loaned his house as a space for Rihanna and Chris Brown to “work through their issues.”
I think that there are a range of responses from men. Some black men, like Kevin Powell, have been trying to offer constructive responses that hold men who are violent accountable. While others, like P.Diddy, seem to be indifferent to the suffering of Rihanna and extremely ignorant about how potentially dangerous an active, unchecked batterer can be.
Most of your research is based on African-American women in the U.S. Have you looked at Christian ethnics and domestic violence in the West Indian community at all? What particular cultural practices or institutions may be affecting Rihanna?
No, I have not focused specifically on Caribbean-Americans within black communities. Unfortunately, woman-blaming attitudes that reinforce the culpability of women who are victimized instead of the men who are the perpetrators, are found in all racial/ethnic groups.
I do not know Rihanna so I hesitate to speculate about the cultural influences that have helped to shape her. However, cultural and racial stereotypes seem to underlie the public’s response to her. For instance, it is common for black women, from varied black ethnic groups, to be seen as “strong” survivors who should just “move on” after experiencing intimate violence. Christian leaders also sometimes reinforce this problematic attitude by telling women to “bear their cross like Jesus did” and just keep going.

What advice do you have for Rihanna?

I do not have advice for Rihanna, but I would offer words of encouragement, support, and affirmation for the brave way she fought for her life when she was attacked. I hope and pray that she will find a way to take all of the time that she needs to deal with the deep emotional and spiritual wounds that can result from the kind of attack that she apparently suffered from a trusted, intimate partner. I hope that she will have a chance to be part of a confidential, support group comprised of other women who have had similar experiences.
What do you hope readers will keep in mind as the details of this violence unfold, and future decisions are made?
I hope that readers will: 1) sit down and make a list of 10 reasons why male violence against women and girls is wrong and causes harm to those who are victimized and the whole community, 2) make a list of 10 different ways that male perpetrators should be held accountable and make restitution 3) make a list of 10 different things that friends, families, and community groups should say and do with men and boys to prevent the violence from occurring in the first place. Then, I hope that they will share these lists with others and work together on making some of the necessary changes.
Going forward, what does our country need to still work on to combat domestic violence and empower survivors?
I will be concise instead of making the very long list I would like to make for your readers that would include a range of steps. From a much stronger, more comprehensive Violence Against Women Act, to many more media images of tender, kind, non-violent masculinity. In this country, one fundamental step we must take is to decide that male violence against all types of women and girls, is always, in all times and places, and under all circumstances, morally reprehensible and shall not be tolerated.

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52 Comments

  1. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I definitely have a lot of hate for Chris Brown and all who are like him, but I can’t help but to be more pissed off at Rhianna at the moment because I feel like since she is in the spot light she could have set a great example by, not only leaving Brown, but also by standing up for herself and women everywhere. I’m even angry at myself for feeling this way, but I can’t help it. After I heard that she had gone back to Brown on the radio, I felt as though I had been kicked in the face.

  2. danielle
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    photos of mothers and daughters with signs in support of Chris Brown
    I’m really glad I didn’t see those.
    Oh, and did anyone catch P.Diddy on Ellen (I believe this past week)? I wasn’t expecting it, but Ellen asked him about the whole loaning his house thing, and eventually made the comment that “I don’t want any girl out there to think it’s ok to go back to a guy that hits her.” It made me happy that she took the time to say something about it. And Diddy went on that we should pray for the two of them, we don’t know what happened, etc. I understand the sentiment behind praying, but all I could think of was “praying is not going to stop him from hurting her again.”

  3. digitalkath
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s hard not to be disappointed in Rihanna for continuing to see Chris Brown.
    However, it is extremely normal for women to return to their abusers before leaving them permenently.
    eventhough she is a celebrity – she is still a human being and i don’t think she should have to be worrying about being a role model at this point.
    that’s just my opinion…i’m interested in what other people think…

  4. Jeanette
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I usually just lurk here because I’m not expert in Feminism, but the Rhianna/Chris Brown situation is making me insane.
    I’m not sure where to start because most of what I’m thinking has already been covered.
    Ok, first, I just saw a story at IMF Daily (are we allowed to post links?) with a picture of Rhianna getting out of a limo, wearing sunglasses at night and her hair covering her forehead. The headline read: “EXCLUSIVE – RIHANNA LOOKING HOT IN NYC!” and there were links to “shop this look” (actual quote).
    To me, she looks like domestic violence victim covering her bruises. Is that the “look” are we supposed to shop? Or is it that we’re supposed to forget that she went back to the boyfriend who beat the shit out of her and see her as someone we want to emulate?
    No, I’m not blaming the victim. I know that there is a slew of emotional baggage that goes with abuse and many reasons the abused stay with the abuser. (Been there. Done that.) And maybe, right now Rhianna is not in a place where she’s thinking about the message that she is sending to the public by going back to Chris Brown.
    But what about the media? Dr. West is right. They are not asking the right questions, if they are asking questions at all. Now that the the bruises have healed enough that she can be photographed looking “hot”, it’s back to business as usual. IMO, that’s extremely irresponsible. I’m not saying I want Rhianna punished for going back to Brown. But with fame comes responsibility, and I do not want my young niece seeing a woman who is basically saying “Stand by your abuser” as someone to emulate.
    Then there’s P. Diddy. What did hope to accomplish by loaning them his house? Does he think that Rhianna could talk Chris out of being an abuser on her own? Even if I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he had good intentions, he should have educated himself about Brown’s history and DV in general before he got involved.
    His comment about not knowing what happened really bothered me, though. What part of the incident don’t we know? Did she run into his fist? It seems like most people who say things like that are really asking “Was it her fault because she provoked him into it?” I don’t see what else there is to know. Even if she hit him first, he tried to kill her. There’s no excuse for that. I just hope she gets out before he succeeds.
    Anyway, excuse my rant. I had to get it out. If anyone disagrees, feel free to let me know.

  5. jaja
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    despite the underlying incident, I don’t see where ellen gets off asking diddy about whom he allows at his house. i think the focus on this couple has gone too far and too long. sometimes i wonder if it would be so if they were white ( was the same done with sean penn and modanna, josh brolin and diane lane). I know josh brolin was on the ellen show and even the oprah show and he was even featured in her magazine http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/readingroom/pkgbooks/200810_omag_books_brolin yet the noise around his incident was absent. i feel the black couple in this instance are not beign given the same distance whites are given in this situation.
    and frankly we don’t anything since none of us were there. with celebrities there is a tendency ti think we know about them because so much is publicised, but frankly you weren’t there

  6. Edgy1004
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    It is a very sad situation but I think that it is important to note that 1)Domestic Violence (DV) is an issues in all socio-economic level, for all races, and at all ages. 2)Although poverty is often and hindrance to getting help it is not the only reason women stay with their abusers. 3) DV is about power, not love, not anger, and not circumstance.
    Finally, No one (not even Oprah) can make decisions for anyone else. At the end of the day Rhianna must chose to leave.

  7. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Dude, wth?? They are all over the media… people look up to them… especially young people. This IS very important. It’s not like we are talking about what they wore to the grammys. It’s not like we are talking about an innocent break-up. This effects us all. By the way, the Madonna/Penn situation happened quite awhile ago and I’d like to think that we, as a society, have evolved a little since then. And the whole reason we are wondering why diddy loaned them his house is because it is basically saying what he did was ok. It’s never ok to hit another human being unless it’s self defense period.

  8. danielle
    Posted March 14, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    I think Ellen’s reason for asking, as she kind of pointed out was ‘this guy hit a girl, and you’re letting him stay in your house and have fun?’

  9. Liza
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I agree. I know she’s following the typical pattern (I’ve seen it firsthand) and I know the simple fact that she’s famous doesn’t make this situation any easier for her to deal with (in fact it probably makes it worse). I also know that she has a right to her own business and the fact that she’s famous doesn’t have to mean she should be held as #1 example to all women everywhere. But I wish the same thing.
    I wish she could have taken the opportunity to use herself as an example for young women that may be in this situation, or for ones that are really young now that find themselves in this situation when they grow up. Someone who’s 10 now and a huge fan of hers might be in an abusive relationship 8 or 10 years from now and think back, like, I really liked and respected this woman when I was a kid and she got herself out, maybe I can draw strength from that and get out too.
    But yeah, she’s human and she’s in a bad situation that happens to far too many women every day. We can’t blame her for what has happened (I’m certainly not doing that) but I think it’s OK to be disappointed or unhappy about her decision. Hopefully she will eventually wake up and leave him; maybe knowing she has support around the world (from people who don’t even know her, jeesh) will help her in the long run.

  10. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    It’s not Rihanna’s job to be a “role model” or to “set an example” for anybody.
    She’s a young woman who grew up in a sexist world that justifies and apologizes for male violence to women, who’s in a relationship with an abusive man.
    It doesn’t help that her abusive boyfriend is adored and worshipped by millions of women (who now hate her for sullying their imaginary fantasy of who he is).
    It also doesn’t help that both Rihanna and Chris Brown are HUMAN COMMODITIES – their looks and talent have made quite a few people very rich, and pay the rent of literally hundreds of other people.
    Those factors put Rihanna under even more pressure than the average domestic violence survivor.
    So cut the sista a little slack….

  11. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    I imagine P. Diddy has a commercial stake in either one of both of their careers.
    This would explain his attempt to quickly get them back together, and get the case out of the papers.
    P. Diddy is a businessman, and business is all he cares about.
    I remember, many years ago, in 1992, back when he was still Sean Combs, he promoted a celebrity basketball game across the street from my house (I live next door to City College of New York).
    He gave away 4,000 tickets to a 400 seat arena – and then tried to let in 2,000 of those people.
    Six people got trampled to death in the ensuing stampede – and P Diddy spent the next 17 years trying to dodge paying their relatives.
    So you really shouldn’t expect a whole lot of morality from P. Diddy.

  12. Qwerty
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    The vast majority of men who act ‘masculine’ aren’t wife beaters. Virtually everybody knows DV is illegal, and Masculine cultural norms make it shameful for a man to hit a woman. (besides the pimp/ho kind of thing)
    I don’t believe Masculinity, in itself, is solely responsible for domestic violence. I cant help but wonder if masculinity, although obviously problematic and arbitrary, is just unfairly demonized.

  13. danielle
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:21 am | Permalink

    How does it make it shameful, though? Male aggression is glorified, violence is seen as an acceptable way to handle problems, and I think the masculine cultural norm contributes significantly. I have never seen the cultural norm say “violence is unacceptable, and if you have issues, get professional help.” It’s saying “yes, women are beneath you, and if they step out of line, put them back in their place-you’re the MAN.”
    No one’s saying “masculinity” (what is it, any way?) is the problem-but how our culture defines it is beyond fucked up. I don’t see it being unfairly demonized, I see it being completely acceptable to way too many people.

  14. Tea
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:26 am | Permalink

    Disclaimer: This is pretty raw and without a lot of reflection so sorry if I repeat anybody’s points or offend anyone.
    My first response is {without following the details of this story much} that the media frames the questions in a warped “public interest” frame as an attempt, maybe, to get girls to think what they would do to protect themselves in that situation. Never mind that it’s hetero-normative and unproductive, it’s “well intentioned”. IF that is the case, the first thing I would ask myself is, as a member of the “public” is, what would I do in that situation?
    What if someone I loved, someone I trusted and had forgiven for pass, comparatively minor, transgressions, hit me? Honestly, I know I would forgive him.{We can argue about that blunt statement but let me explain.}
    I would never respect him again and our relationship would never be the same after that but after letting him know that I know he didn’t intend on hurting me I would let him know, in a long, drawn out process that we couldn’t be together anymore. And I think that’s the problem with social judgment.
    People expect some immediate, dramatic result. And the truth is you need time to think and question him and ask yourself some really tough questions at the same time. This girl has to judge his character and decide for herself whether he’s just a Neanderthal or just under the influence of really bad drugs or alcohol. Or whatever.
    That’s the only way male abuse is excusable in my book (personally) and even then the issue becomes how can we get him help. Not, how can I forgive him so that we can go back to how it was before he had a drug/alcohol problem. Our relationship prompted him to go over the edge, somehow. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to “deserve” to be hit. I didn’t “provoke” him. His mental constitution didn’t allow him to transcend his anger {or whatever!} and he degraded himself by hitting me. End of story. I’m tired of hearing the same thing too, but ladies if we don’t come up with a better argument than, “That’s just WRONG!” no one’s going to listen to us. (Sister who made a point about demonizing masculinity is on to something.)
    Ladies (and gentlemen??) it may seem condescending but in every conversation try to breakdown the moral implications and consequences violence has in a relationship,like the lost of respect and trust and maybe the “Qumunnity” will start to listen after a while. As an African American woman I tend to think the idea of respect is really important to black men and the need for a woman to respect them is just as important as anything else, whether they realize it or not. Aretha Franklin may have made it cliche but maybe it’s time for men to get comfortable with saying, and if they have to, spelling the word too. Respect starts with dignity and dignity in conflict is often expressed through nonviolent resistance. Brothers, please don’t hit us. Don’t watch other men do it and don’t argue with yourselves over who’s right and who’s wrong in a DV case. You know who’s wrong.
    Good luck out there everyone.
    In peace and struggle,
    With love,
    G’nite!

  15. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    So far two people think masculinity is demonized… what fairy tale are you living in and can I please come live with you?
    Querty believes that cultural norms make it shameful for a man to hit a women… … … I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve encountered that have said “after a women hits you, it’s fair game.” And look at how many men and women have taken Brown’s side. Disgusting.
    And what do you mean “come up with a better argument then that’s just wrong” Tea? What better argument is there? Hitting a human being, especially a man hitting a woman, IS wrong and anyone with a conscious knows that. Seriously, why do we need another argument?

  16. Tea
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    Hi Amber,
    Don’t know if this will be clear or not and sorry that it didn’t come off the first way but I’m going to try to say it a different way. In the “political discussion” or debate or what have you a lot of times what you hear are the same points and counterpoints to arguments that don’t seem to be getting us anywhere or making the media spin it a different way so I thought I’d try to propose a different way of speaking about this –sorry, it’s late — shit.
    When you tell a friend or a child or a coworker something is wrong or that it hurt you, a lot of A-type “me-first” a**hole personality types look at you with a blank face like “Why?” and I know I’ve found myself in situations where I had to justify my feelings. Instead of dwelling on how inept they are, if we really want to move the Domestic Violence Debate along, I’m suggesting we just get back to the basics of why violence is wrong when dealing with confrontation period.
    “Violence is wrong because it hurts people. Hurting people is wrong because it destroys trust. Trust is important if you want someone to respect you. Respect is important if you want to advance/gain ground/ move up — whatever lingo you want to use — in society.” Things like that. Instead of shaming people into behaving better, which hasn’t worked in the public debate apparently and doesn’t work in the personal arena sometimes either, I’m suggesting we use reason as a starting point.
    As simple and naive as that may be.
    The thing about masculinity is that I think that at it’s base it does support women’s rights in a way. Not in a fundamental, “We want to be equal with you” but in a early 1900′s American labor movement “we want you to have your place so we can make money off of you too” kinda way. The conservatives out there can’t seem to wrap their heads around equality but that doesn’t mean there’s room for gradation and subtly. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying if men can be feminine and women can be masculine on an interpersonal level there must be some redeeming elements to the macho gender role if there are some redeeming elements to the Suzy Homemaker stereotype. Masculinity is essentially an identity that is dependent on women. What it means to “be a man” in stereotypical, traditional terms is largely based on how males treat women to reflect their status and prestige in the work force. You’re the “provider” and all that. It’s also a measure of your moral character and it’s here in interpersonal relationships that this idea that you also “protect” women comes from. Generational shifts have changed the focus somewhat but the fact remains that for heterosexual men the biggest measurement of personal success a lot of times is their popularity with women. But to be fair, this wasn’t my point and I haven’t given much thought to it. I just thought it was an insightful comment and was hoping to hear more.
    But, yeah. No shit men argue the “who hit first” defense. That’s lazy and besides the point. That’s why you have to get ready to get down to basics and argue moral points about enlightened self-interest, and avoid biological stereotypes.
    I didn’t mean to spend so much time on this, so sorry if it reads long-winded. But I hear how angry you are and I’m sorry for that so maybe somebody else can chime in on the idea of masculinity being demonized or other ways to argue against domestic violence?

  17. julia
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    we shouldn’t be expecting rihanna to be the domestic violence poster child if she doesn’t choose to be. when someone has been stripped of their dignity and rights via domestic violence, it’s the role of the supporter to empower the survivor to make her own decision. if she chooses to be with chris brown (whether or not we agree with her choice), the worst possible thing to do is to tell the survivor that she’s making the wrong choice. the people supporting her can give her advice, but ultimately leave the decision up to her.
    hopefully this isn’t too off topic, but this is just a response to a sentiment (found often in regards to sexual assault) in some of the earlier comments that i find a little troublesome: that we’re expecting her to make a decision that is only hers to make.

  18. Tapati
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    What I hate the most about this whole story as it has unfolded in the media (and felt sorry for Rihanna that she couldn’t deal with it privately) is the constant judgment and surprise that she resumed her relationship. No one seems to understand why it takes time to sever the ties of love and affection. It would be nice if the very first incident of violence (if this was the first) would just kill all the love we feel and have built up over months of better treatment. This new, violent person seems like a momentary aberration. Surely that kind, gentle person we know and love will overcome this transitory monster. Imagine, for a moment, that the person you most love gets angry and hits you several times during a heated argument. Do you really have a zero tolerance policy that enables you to never speak to them again for the rest of your life? Do they deserve one more chance if they get help? Do they get as many chances to relapse and try again as any alcoholic or drug addict?
    It is so easy to see that SOMEONE ELSE should leave their repeatedly violent boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Why is it so easy? Because you don’t feel any love for that person! One battered woman can often see that another should leave–right away!
    Leaving is a process, just like any other relationship we know deep down we ought to leave for our own good. The one with the alcoholic who won’t seek treatment, the one with the gambler who promises to do better, the one with the guy who can’t hold down a job and lives off his girlfriend, the one with the verbal abuser, the one with the cheater–all of these relationships are doomed and in all of them the partner hopes that the loved one will change, that the final pain of losing their beloved can be avoided or postponed.
    If abusers hit you on the first date, of course you’d rush out the door and never come back, and count yourself lucky. It rarely happens that way.
    I once wrote an article for a local feminist paper, drawn from personal experience:
    http://www.labyris.com/jerk.html
    It’s entitled “Why Don’t You Just Leave That Jerk?”
    If society ever gets over that question, maybe we can talk about why people batter the ones they love and how we can most effectively treat them and prevent our children from growing up like them. Just shaming women into leaving sooner isn’t enough to solve the problem.
    If Chris Brown doesn’t change, sooner or later Rihanna will leave him. Love dies a little with every blow that’s struck, every name that’s called. Let’s hope the public focus serves as encouragement for him to work on changing and taking responsibility for his behavior.

  19. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    are these the only two celebrities that have been caught in a DV situation? and if not, how were the others treated? were they also made into a case study? did oprah and ellen make an example of josh brolin who likewise was arrested for hitting diane lane? http://forum.dvdtalk.com/archive/t-401450.html his didnt happena while ago so why the relative distance given the couple.
    my point is this thing is taking on another michael vick type of feel, where the black parties are held to a totally different standard, made out to be case studies and things taken to a level that it wouldnt be taken to if they were white. i wonder how oprah’s or ellen’s fans would react to her if she put brolin on the spot, or asked sean penn about his abuse of modanna. if oprah cared so much about Dv she’d raise this issue when others are accused of it, or at the very least no feature an accused abuser on her show or magazine. this pile on is etting ridiculous. do we even need courts anymore

  20. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    its not of her concern. it’s one thing to ask the parties themselves, but because of a DV situation diddy isn’t allowed to have these two at his home. the justification of the question makes no sense. nor does the constant pressure being put on this situation, which is not particularly unique. like i pointed out ellen had the actual accused abuser on her show, brolin, and didn’t say jack to him. why does she feel the need to ask diddy about this? double standards.

  21. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    do you have any proof he has a commercial stake? if anything those like ellen or oprah who are making shows about this thing have commercials takes and are taking advantage of the popular interest in the situation. wanna bet oprah will run commercials on that show?

  22. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Work on your reading comprehension skills.
    I said “I IMAGINE” that P. Diddy has a commercial stake in either Rihanna or Chris Brown – not “I KNOW” or “I CAN PROVE”.
    In other words, I was expressing an OPINION, not a FACT.
    And while we can only say things are true if we can prove them, we can have any opinion we want on any topic.
    Example – I CANNOT say that ‘I know the sky is purple” because that’s not true.
    But I can say ‘I think the sky is purple’ or ‘the sky looks purple to me’ because those are OPINIONS.
    Understand now?

  23. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Qwerty, you know as well as I do that domestic violence is perfectly socially acceptable – it’s only been a crime for the past 30 years or so (before that, at best it was a civil tort handled in the divorce courts) and if you’ve ever been around married guys, you know that they all quietly accept the idea that it’s OK for men to beat their wives, under certain circumstances.
    Tragically, if you’ve ever been around a group of married WOMEN, they also accept the idea that a man has a right to beat his wife under certain circumstances.
    Just read the comments on some of the blogs about Chris Brown – justifying his alleged attack on Rihanna for various reasons which I won’t repeat here.
    No, I won’t blame masculinity – actually, I blame femininity – the idea that women are inferior to men, have to be subordinate to them, and exist only to serve men.
    That idea is what’s behind domestic violence – the idea that women are men’s property.

  24. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Not to be judgmental here, but one of the reasons men think it’s OK to hit women is BECAUSE WOMEN ARE WAY TOO QUICK TO FORGIVE.
    Men don’t forgive each other when we beat each other severely – which is why most men would never beat another guy to the point of hospitalization, because we know that the other guy would come after us when he got out.
    Either he’d come legally – with the cops or a lawsuit.
    Or he’d come illegally – with a gun, or with a bunch of his friends and/or relatives with a baseball bat.
    Because men do not forgive each other for physical abuse, men don’t hit each other, unless there’s really no other way out.
    By contrast, if a man hits a woman, he knows that women have been programmed to forgive men for abusing them.
    To the male mind this is called ‘GETTING AWAY WITH IT” or “A FREE PASS”.
    So, instead of forgiving a man and having a long drawn out breakup – why not respond to him the way another man would if he was hit by that man?
    That is, either call the cops on him and press charges, or sue him, or call some of your friends or cousins who spend a lot of time in the gym and beat the crap out of him.
    That’s the only way a man will understand that he shouldn’t hit you – to men, forgiveness is a SIGN OF WEAKNESS that will only be rewarded with MORE ABUSE.
    Forgiving a man for hitting you is absolutely non self protective.
    I have a good friend who forgave her douchebag boyfriend for RAPING HER – and that rape came after months of emotional abuse (he used to belittle her for being “ugly” because she’s dark skinned) and periodic beatings.
    Instead of giving him a free pass, she should have had her stepfather and some of his buddies from the post office take the jerk out to a vacant lot and give him some ‘baseball bat therapy” (with emphasis on the crotch area).
    I can tell you, speaking as a guy, that any man would understand that, and would probably never hurt another woman again.
    But forgive a man?
    He’ll just think you’re weak, and a chump, and he will use you, or the next woman, as a punching bag, until somebody responds to his abuse in the male fashion, in the only way a man can understand, with greater force.
    Never forgive a bully – and that’s exactly what punk domestic violence men are!!!!

  25. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Actually, the root of respect is in the implied threat of violence. People respect police because they have the power to legally beat, kidnap and kill.
    So telling men that violence is wrong because people won’t respect you is bullshit, when every man knows that the implied threat of violence will get you a whole lot of respect (or at least enforced deference).
    And yes, in many circumstances, the implied threat of violence WILL ‘help you get ahead in the world’ depending on what social circles you move in.
    A better way to stop domestic violence among men is for women to adopt part of the “code of masculinity” – which is, physical abuse will NEVER be forgiven.
    That is, if a man hits you, even once
    1) the relationship is OVER ON THE SPOT
    2) the man will NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES be “forgiven” (men see this as weakness)
    3) the man WILL be retaliated against – either legally, in either the criminal or civil courts, or extralegally, through physical retaliation by friends or relatives of the victim.
    If men knew that hitting a woman had real world consequences that were very severe, very few of us would ever do it.
    If hitting a woman merely means getting yelled at, scolded, lectured and then “forgiven”, and being able to treat the woman the same way you did before, to men, that is no deterrent – hell, it pretty much ENCOURAGES domestic violence.

  26. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The only think that will make Chris Brown change is if he loses his money.
    He is being REWARDED for hitting Rihanna – he’s getting lots of free publicity, his female fans still love him, download his mp3′s and take his side in the blogs.
    The only thing that would change him is for him to be PUNISHED – that is, serious jail time, the collapse of his entertainment career and the loss of all his money.
    He’d still be an abusive douchebag – but he’d be a BROKE abusive douchebag with a felony record.
    Now, I understand your points about the mind of the domestic violence survivor, the belief that the “real” him is the nice guy, not the two fisted bully.
    Unfortunately, that belief is delusional.
    So, how do you suggest that we help women who suffer abuse if, as you say, most of them are unable to protect themselves without a long psychological process of getting over loving the abusive douchebag in their lives?
    And quite often that long process of falling out of love is interrupted by homicide by that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde that she’s in love with.
    I would say that men need to learn or be compelled to STOP ABUSING WOMEN if the women themselves won’t stop the men (and, from what you say, they won’t).
    That’s not going to be done by appealing to men’s feelings (because “real men don’t have feelings” – a widely believed stereotype among men).
    Men’s relationships to each other are based on POWER – God, your dad, your landlord, your boss and the government have power over you, but you have power over your subordinates at work, your wife and your kids.
    So, I would think the answer is, take away men’s power over women in the domestic sphere.
    Part of that is already happening – these days, most women have jobs, and some women are the primary breadwinner.
    When both are bringing in a paycheck, it’s harder for the man to present himself as The Boss at home.
    Another part might involve women being reeducated about “love” – that, contrary to what the romantic comedies and the romance novels teach, love is NOT about codependence.
    And, most importantly for this discussion, if a man hits you EVEN ONCE, it means that HE REALLY DOESN’T LOVE YOU.
    Remember, men learn from porn magazines and male oriented movies that it’s OK to lie to women, as long as those lies get you what you want.
    So, all the flowers and candy and “I love you” are the FAKE him, the REAL HIM is the one that punched you in the face for coming home 20 minutes late from work!
    It’s like the ‘waiter test’ the ‘cabdriver test’ and the ‘receptionist test’ that some CEO’s use for job applicants.
    CEO’s know that – based on male power relations – you WILL be nice to them, as of right.
    So, they will test job applicants to see if they are polite to cabdrivers, waiters/waitresses, receptionists, airline flight attendants and other service workers.
    If you are rude to them, that’s the REAL you, the FAKE you was being polite to the boss because they are the boss.
    Now, honestly, many men are raised to only be nice to people they HAVE TO BE NICE TO – and to be a jerk to everybody else.
    And I suspect that many women get fooled by thinking he’s being nice to you because that’s the REAL HIM – when actually he’s being nice to you just to have sex with you (which, to many men, is perfectly acceptable behavior – they think it’s OK to be nice to a woman just to have sex with her, even if you totally dislike her as a person).
    I think the only thing that would change those guys if if it became a general social trend that abusing women pretty much guaranteed that they would not be able to get regular sex, or hang onto a girlfriend or a wife, and if it might lead to a lawsuit, jail time and/or a beating at the hands of that woman’s friends or relatives.
    Many men were raised to believe in the REWARDS and PUNISHMENTS school of behavior, and nothing will change them and their abuse except lots of PUNISHMENT for abusing women.
    Before I get criticized here, let me point out that I hate the fact that the leading cause of death for young women in America is murder at the hands of a former or current domestic partner, and the leading cause of emergency room visits is abuse at the hands of a former or current domestic partner.
    And the only way that is going to stop is some kind of struggle to change men – which, based on what I know of my fellow American men, would involve abusive men knowing that hitting a woman would get them PUNISHED with the end of the relationship, being cut off from sex with that woman, jail time, a lawsuit and/or physical injury at the hands of people who love that woman.
    I want the 911 emergency runs and the funerals to stop – and it means that men who hit women have to be stopped (and, hopefully, women will learn to stop ‘REWARDING’ domestic violence by letting men get away with it).
    Maybe if boys and girls had more similar upbringing, and learned the same values, we wouldn’t have this – but since boys and girls are raised VERY DIFFERENTLY, many boys grow up thinking it’s OK to abuse girls, and girls grow up learning to meekly tolerate abuse from boys.

  27. spike the cat
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    A better way to stop domestic violence among men is for women to adopt part of the “code of masculinity” – which is, physical abuse will NEVER be forgiven.
    Yes and this code is likely responsible for the absurd numbers of men killing each other as well. It’s very likely that women adopting the “code of masculinity” would likely swell the numbers of both men and women who wind up in a box in the ground before their time. No thanks.
    Also your points don’t really seem like the true code as I understand it: you are telling women to walk away, but isn’t the code to fight back, never walk away? To retaliate through legal means doesn’t seem like the code but an ‘eye for an eye’ sure does. Also it should be repeated that many women are murdered because they attempted to cut the ties with the abusive partner. Some folks actually go into hiding.

  28. Tea
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Hey “G”,
    Thanks for that. That’s more of what I was looking for. I hardly EVER seen a man make any comments on this site. You are a guy, right? Hope so. Anyway, I’m not saying I think you’ve got the most accurate or popular view out there, but it’s a sentiment that I’ve heard a lot of times. People respond to violence way more than they do compassion. And you’re right, it’s wrong for women to forgive the men who beat them, and men see it as a weakness but most women would say they, I think, hitting a woman is a sign of a weak man.
    No, we shouldn’t tolerate it and I know my posts have come out muddled and probably downright ignorant and backward, but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s very hard to frame this in any satisfactory sort of package. The fact remains women are hit and killed in a way communities condone because the power structure favors male dominance. G, I don’t know how I feel about the “respect for violence” thing. That seems too easy. Fear is different from respect and maybe because of traditional engendering males are more likely to confuse the two but in my book the way people treat someone they respect is way different from the way they treat someone they fear, like a cop.
    I agree, it’s sad that women are quick to forgive. My original post wasn’t meant to imply that. What I was saying is that in a relationship like that, no matter how ridiculous the claims of “love” or “confusion” may be, you have to take it for what it is and allow people space to see the light themselves.
    If a man hit me, I’d leave him. I wouldn’t have to blink. I grew up watching my mother and father beat up each other and my mother left him. But it wasn’t over night and I think a lot of women have repeated the same sort of story.
    It’s a lot easier to say something than it is to do it sometimes. In certain instances some men are relentless and will literally chase down women. Stalk them, prey on them and kill them. You can’t just “leave him” sometimes. But the more we spiral into this evil stereotyping the harder it is to deal with men as men and not as monsters.
    Can anyone say anything about communicating with sexual predators? Any psychologists in the house? Is G right, is it a matter of rewards and punishment or can men reason higher than that?

  29. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    an opinion is nevertheless based on some fact. instead of being coy and hiding behind the word imagine, why not simply admit there is nothing to support a foolish opinion (and yes opinion can be foolish, such i saying you can jump off a building, flap your bare arms and fly) that diddy had any commercial, real or imagine, interest.

  30. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Who the hell is Josh Brolin and Diana Lane??? And like I said before… I’d like to think that we as a society have evolved a little since then

  31. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Again, work on your reading comprehension Jaja. GregoryaButler said
    “P. Diddy is a businessman, and business is all he cares about.
    I remember, many years ago, in 1992, back when he was still Sean Combs, he promoted a celebrity basketball game across the street from my house (I live next door to City College of New York).
    He gave away 4,000 tickets to a 400 seat arena – and then tried to let in 2,000 of those people.
    Six people got trampled to death in the ensuing stampede – and P Diddy spent the next 17 years trying to dodge paying their relatives.”
    Therefore, he WAS basing his opinion on a fact.

  32. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    like i pointed out oprah is likewise a business woman that will run commercials on the show featuring this issue. diddy was on ellen promoting something else. there is nothing to suggest a financial incentive other than to need to see something that isn’t there. even this site has more of a financial motive to run the story over and over again
    wth does the basketball game he promoted have to do with this issue. like i said opinions can be foolish. perhaps you need to go work on your critical thinking skills.

  33. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Gregory… I think I love you, lol.

  34. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Well put :D

  35. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    It has to do with the fact that Diddy could care less about people and more about money

  36. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    josh brolin and diane lane happened last year so i’m not sure how far our society moved in that time. they are no bigger starr=s than brown and rhianna. my point is race is placing a factor in why these folks are being made a case study of. society had moved on huh? did penn apologize? did his career suffer. what of brolin? was there even talk of a backlash. the double standard is disgusting

  37. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    edit: the incident with brolim happened 4 years ago.

  38. danielle
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t mean she should have been quiet to Diddy.

  39. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that there are bigger stars than Rhianna right now. And I’m sure the Brolin/Lane thing would have gotten more exposure if anyone knew who they were.

  40. danielle
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    it pretty much ENCOURAGES domestic violence.
    I don’t think you mean it in the way I’m interpreting it, but that sounds a whole lot like victim blaming to me. It’s not easy to just leave, end the relationship right away for most women. What if you have no where to go, or no money? What if he threatens to kill you and your family if you leave? And taking it to the courts-when so many people blame the victim, the victim may be scared that there isn’t going to be legal recourse.
    It’s easy to tell women to end it, and leave. But there’s emotions involved, there’s her psychological state-if she’s been psychologically beaten down, told she’s worthless, that sure as hell isn’t going to make it easier.

  41. danielle
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s way to easy to judge this situation when you’re not in it. I’m so sick of the “well, just leave him!” argument. Because it’s just SO simple. How about we stop telling women it’s their responsibility to stop and control the abuse? Yeah, it’d be nice if the abusers were put in jail, but that isn’t happening enough. I can only imagine what it would be like to put your abuser in jail, see him get a shitty excuse for a sentence, and then know he’ll be getting out. As we’ve seen from too many other cases, restraining orders sometimes just don’t work. The only way we’re going to help put more of these abusers in jail is to stop ANY KIND OF VICTIM BLAMING. Think it’s the woman’s responsibility ot get up and leave after the first blow? I think it’s society’s responsibility to to teach people that violence is not acceptable, and to not teach girls that they should be submissive, and that love and a relationship be their biggest goal in life. And not to foster a culture supporting violence, and not make excuses for the abusers.

  42. LalaReina
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Know what? Chris and Rhianna are very young. They are very rich. This is NOT some typical case (if there is such a thing). I get sick of folks feeling like they know them or own them. This is their lives and their business. You don’t know them, you don’t her.

  43. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    The main debate here isn’t even about Rhianna and Brown. It’s about why DV happens and why it continues to happen as well as what doesn’t help the situation (victim blaming). This isn’t Enews

  44. Tea
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    That’s what I was trying to say, in so many words. Violence, in any form is wrong and the sooner we get that in our heads as AMERICANS not just men or women, the safer and happier we’ll all be.
    Beating up a guy who calls your sister a name isn’t teaching the guy anything but don’t mess with this girl anymore. It doesn’t stop him from thinking he can hit the next girl he dates.
    Violence NEVER solves anything and, by the way Greg, men forgive each other for beating each other up all the time. But what I would like to see is guys who didn’t resort to using their fists in the first place.
    People think violence is necessary because it’s been normalized for so long and used as a power play for so long that they can’t think of anything else. Verbal communication is the only way we can start to come up with better ways to deal with conflict. The pen is mightier than the sword. The heart is bigger than the brain. Our brains are stronger than our arms. Whatever makes sense to you. Pop culture makes it hard but we have to start protecting not only our girls but our boys too and start taking our own lives as seriously as we take Rhianna’s and whatever other tragic celebrity that’s out there right now.

  45. Qwerty
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I think masculinity is demonized by feminists, not by the world at large.
    and I’m not sure why you think that it is wrong for a man to retaliate if a woman assaults him first. Feminists use the battered woman argument, so im not seeing a logically consistent viewpoint here.
    and why is it ‘especially’ wrong for a man to hit a woman and not vice versa? Because you buy into the Masculine cultural norm where it is shameful to hit a woman because they are ‘weaker’?
    Men can fight each other, even in public, that is somewhat acceptable. If a man hits a woman in public, people will have a more horrified reaction to it. That is basically what im trying to say.

  46. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    wow…. It’s not the cultural norm that says that women have less muscle mass… it’s a fact, and it doesn’t make us weaker unless we’re cavemen. If a women physically attacks a man, most men can defend themselves. Hopefully, they get out of that situation because it’s not healthy.
    If a man physically attacks a women, he is more likely stronger and can do more damage to her than she could do to him. No one said that it’s okay if a women hits a guy, but it is obviously worse if a guy hits a woman.
    Also, no one here is saying it’s okay for a guy to hit a guy. Quite the opposite. I think that your problem is that you buy into the feminist stereotype. You probably assume that we are all man hating lesbians… You should read Jessica Valenti’s book, Full Frontal Feminism. Then you’ll understand what it really is to be a feminist.
    What is your definition of masculinity anyway? Because I have to say that the cultural norm’s definition would probably go something like…
    - a man that doesn’t cry or get emotional
    - the breadwinner of the family
    - the guy that wins the boxing match etc. etc.

  47. jaja
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    folks just pick and choose what stories and what facts they want to focus on. the debate is about them because a double standard exists about who and what folks decide to focus on. i’m yet to read anything on feministing about the relationship between brown and his rapist 40 year old manager, which has been going on since he was 16.

  48. Amber Dawn
    Posted March 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    If Brown has been raped by his manager, it still doesn’t excuse his behavior. It’s an entirely new topic. I’ve been raped, molested, beat and yet I don’t rape, molest or beat any one up… Sorry, but no sympathy here.

  49. spike the cat
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    The social construct you are describing is not a feminist norm though. And although some men and women identifying as feminists might agree with it, this concept predates feminism.
    Here is my take on it:
    I’d say people have more of an aversion to actually seeing a man hit a woman, much like people tense up when they see a mom wailing on her kid’s bottom at the grocery store. But how many people still think it’s actually OK to spank? A bunch.
    Carrying the concept forward, the aversion is more about seeing mismatched people fight. If a 6 foot tall, 270 pound gal wanted to start up a tussle with a 5’9 170 pound guy, I honestly don’t think people would have the same response as they would if their sizes were reversed. And likewise most folks would cringe at seeing a young, huge linebacker type fella to pound on a smaller man, or on an elderly man as well. Most people would try to bust that fight up.
    Also it makes a difference as to whether the man is acquainted with the woman. The idea of hitting a random woman on the street or in a bar is definitely seen as as shameful. But hitting your woman to keep her in line as the song says, “smack my bitch up, keep my pitch up”–prodigy, seems pretty acceptable in a lot of circles. But for many folks it’s really about being PC. It’s one of those things people say, i.e., ‘I never hit a woman or a man should never hit a woman,’ but clearly plenty of people are still doing it.
    Second to the last point is the attitude of the man. Now, being proud that you hit your woman makes you are a scumbag. But hitting her and acting apologetic often gets the man some sympathy. Anger and remorse are one of the few emotions that men don’t have to feel ashamed of, he is often told.
    Lastly, I have another theory about why men are encouraged to not hit women. On occasion, he actually might lose. And what does the world at large, which as you claim “doesn’t demonize masculinity”, say about a man who gets a beat down by a woman?

  50. Qwerty
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    “And what does the world at large, which as you claim “doesn’t demonize masculinity”, say about a man who gets a beat down by a woman?”
    They get victim-blamed and ridiculed into oblivion.
    Feminists and everybody else really just don’t care about the few percent of the DV pie that is female-to-male.

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