Domestic Violence is Not Okay, and Other Lessons Left Unlearned

I am not a fan of Chris Brown. Like the rest of the country (except for a few unfortunate victim-blaming-nay-sayers), I was horrified by his assault of Rihanna, I was disgusted by his recent homophobic Twitter rant, and I was freaked out by the catchy mind control game that was his Wrigley’s endorsed track “Forever.”

The road to redemption for Brown hasn’t been easy, or successful. Since assaulting Rihanna, he has been maligned by the public, his industry, and his fans. Not even his tearful breakdown during a Michael Jackson tribute could soften the hearts of his former fans. But after two years, Brown’s career seems to be on the mend. He has had three chart topping singles over the past year, appeared as the musical guest on SNL, and is now embarking on a nationwide tour.

So what is a loose cannon celebrity to do when everything seems to be going his way? Oh that’s right: It’s time for a hilarious public meltdown! Out of the scores of meltdowns available to stars (Sex addiction! Drug addiction! Shoplifting!), Chris Brown chose the irrational-violent-meltdown-path. After an interview that featured a few questions about Rihanna, Brown trashed the Good Morning America studios, terrified various members of the show’s staff, and threatened a segment producer. After this debacle became public, Brown released (and later deleted) this Tweet:

“I’m so over people bringing this past s**t up!!! Yet we praise Charlie Sheen and other celebs for there bulls**t”

I hate to say it, but he has a point. Not that people shouldn’t reference his wildly public assault of Rihanna—-they should. It happened. And he hasn’t done an incredible amount to make up for it, and an incredible amount was what was needed to even make it feasible that he would ever have an interview again that didn’t feature a Rihanna mention.

America’s loveable wife-beater Charlie Sheen stands to make seven million dollars off of his one man show, “Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option,” a show that could more aptly be titled “Cocaine Is A Hell of a Drug.” Even in the face of war and natural disaster, Sheen is taking up an enormous amount of media time these days. And as he gets interviewed, profiled, blogged about, and adored, mentions of his history of domestic abuse are rare. Why don’t we apply the same pariah-creating-career-demolishing fervor to Sheen? His domestic abuse and threats of violence towards ex-wives Denise Richards and Brooke Mueller were only part of an established pattern of violence against women:

“In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancee at the time, the actress Kelly Preston, in the arm. (The engagement ended soon after.) In 1994 he was sued by a college student who alleged that he struck her in the head after she declined to have sex with him (The case was settled out of court.) Two years later, a sex film actress, Brittant Ashland, said she had been thrown to the floor of Mr. Sheen’s Los Angeles house during a fight (He pleaded no contest and paid a fine).” -Anna Holmes, from “The Disposable Woman” on NYT

I don’t know what laws govern the court of public opinions. Mel Gibson assaults his wife and spews anti-semitic vitriol and we banish him to the land of forgotten celebrities. Roman Polanski drugs and rapes a thirteen year old, Kobe Bryant rapes a young woman in his hotel room, Mike Tyson assaults his first wife and rapes an eighteen year old beauty queen…and these men, since then, have directed successful films, received endorsement deals, and popped up in summer blockbusters.

Shouldn’t all of these men, and Brown, and Sheen, be stranded on that island of lost dreams and dollars? Have any of them done anything that could even remotely make up for the damage they’ve done to the women they’ve assaulted? Lets stop giving Sheen our rapt attention and investigate why for some male celebrities, violence against women is something so meaningless that it gets lost in the fray of viral videos, ticket sales, and sound bites.

(originally posted on a sound that quakes)

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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