A good year for Chris Brown is a bad year for women

I don’t actually care all that much about the singer Chris Brown. Seriously, he’s just a famous singer. What I do care about is violence against women and victim blaming. And that’s unfortunately why Chris Brown sometimes becomes the topic of my writing and conversations.

A story yesterday on NPR addressed the fact that Chris Brown had his biggest year ever. Essentially, his career has rebounded completely from the day he decided to beat up his girlfriend pop singer Rihanna and leave her unconscious on the side of the road. He’s selling a lot of albums, great from him.

What’s disturbing however is the reasons his young (mostly female) fans state when they explain why after Chris Brown beat Rihanna’s face to a bloody pulp, they still remain fans, they say it’s because they blamed her for what happened.

NPR interviewed fans outside one of Brown’s concerts recently and their comments are unsettling although not unsurprising:

Just after he beat Rihanna in 2009, the Boston Public Health Commission’s Start Strong Initiative polled teens in Boston to see how they felt about the incident.“Close to 50 percent of the young people we surveyed thought that Rihanna was actually responsible for the incident,” says Casey Corcoran, the former director of Start Strong who led the poll. “They were blaming her.”

And more than two years later, they still are.

Outside of a Chris Brown concert in Baltimore this past fall, almost a dozen teens interviewed still held some troubling views about “the incident.”

“Obviously she played a part in getting beat, or whatever,” said 19-year-old Kristina Coleman. “However you want to put it.”

And she wasn’t alone in her opinion. Several other teenagers in the crowd outside 1st Mariner Arena made similar remarks, forgiving Brown and blaming Rihanna, but they were too young to be named or quoted in this story.

Two things make these young women’s views surprising. First, Brown has apologized for the incident, denouncing his behavior on national television and in a widely viewed YouTube video.

But outside of that Chris Brown concert, these things weren’t on fans’ minds. Alicia Robinson, 17, was among the fans who go beyond just forgiving Brown and blaming Rihanna.

“He’s kind of what we would like our boyfriends to model after, in a way,” Robinson said.

Corcoran says some of Brown’s current songs aren’t exactly role-model material.

“While he hasn’t been involved in any dating violence incidents since this one with Rihanna, he’s put out a number of songs that have really challenging lyrics,” Corcoran says. “He may have addressed his behaviors, but we have to question whether he’s really addressed his thoughts and beliefs that underlie those behaviors.”


Did anyone just read that line about, “he’s kind of what we would like our boyfriends to model after, in a way,” and want to go find this young teenage girl and try to fix her thinking somehow? I’ve written a lot about Chris Brown, who I see as a textbook batterer who is going through the cycle of domestic violence without going to counseling and hoping that record sales will cure his problem (Hopefully, he’s going to therapy sessions that we the public just don’t know about).

I’m still just as upset as the day I learned he beat up his girlfriend. Why? Because it’s a high profile incident that highlights just how far we still need to go in terms of teaching young people how to be in healthy romantic relationships in their teenage years.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted January 3, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Americans have an odd way of looking at contentious events sometimes. In the middle of a controversy, we’ll be the first to judge. We’ll feel genuinely outraged and that outrage lasts up to a certain point. Then we move on to being outraged at some new travesty.

    After a time we are usually ready to forgive again, for the most part. And I wish that forgiveness could be tethered to metrics we could observe. I wish that our feelings always centered around on observable distinctions like race, gender, sexual orientation, basic personality, and public statements. But it doesn’t always. Some people end up blackballed for the rest of their lives. Some people are forgiven for what they’ve done.

    I think for many there will always be a negative association with Chris Brown. I think he may have limited his career trajectory a little, though not as much as he could have. I also think about pro football player Michael Vick’s animal cruelty. There were many who wanted him banned from the NFL forever. And now he’s redeemed himself somewhat by performing generally well on the playing field.

    Maybe there isn’t any solid rule that states what it takes to either be reviled or forgiven. I do know that the people who are defiant at the worst of their scrutiny are the least likely to survive. And I do know that the people who at least make a show of asking for forgiveness, defining themselves before the media defines them, usually live to see another day.

    But even this isn’t necessarily a rule. It’s tough to sort out.

  2. Posted January 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything you’re saying in this article, but I feel as if we, as feminists, discuss the problems constantly – mainly, the lack of education as to what a healthy relationship is? How do we rectify this? How do we educate girls in a way that speaks to them (not down to them) when they embrace Chris Brown and Twilight? What books, music, etc. is out there that I should be showing my middle school students?

  3. Posted January 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Try playing them some John Santos Sextet! Afro-latin jazz is way rad! Maybe some cachau or choco orta. they will probably hate it but it is awesome music and it isn’t all elevator-jazzed out. Middleschool books, well if they can handle the subject matter of TWILIGHT i think PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is probably appropriate…a bit emo but thats what a lot of kids are. The foresT wife WAS REALLY COOL TO ME as a middle schooler…

  4. Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m truly disturbed at young women believing that Breezy is a relationship role model. That frightens me. I think a lot of older women have the same beliefs about Rihanna’s place in what happened, particularly women of color, and it’s something that needs to be addressed and healed. I tend to think it has to do with internalization of their/our own intimate partner violence experiences.

  5. Posted January 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    And, in other news, Todd in the Shadows of Channel Awesome has put Chris Brown on his Top 10 WORST songs of 2011 (And Dueces would’ve had a spot, were there not worse entries from the year!). At the very least, he hasn’t been unanimously listened to across America — as long as controversy exists, there’s still hope.

  6. Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I have a theory–could be wrong, it’s just a theory – that in victim blaming there’s at it’s core fear and a degree of almost magical thinking. I think some people will look for the thing the victim did “wrong” to avoid the realization that they could possibly end up having this happen to them, so they cling to the idea that “the victim did X. If I don’t do X this can’t happen to me!”

    The alternative to this simplistic worldview is having to acknowledge that there are some problems with our society that run pretty damn deep.

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