2012 Grammy Awards marred by Chris Brown performance

Chris Brown dancing during his performance at the 2012 Grammys
The 2012 Grammys had some wonderful moments. Jennifer Hudson performing “I Will Always Love You” as a tribute to the late Whitney Houston had me tearing up. Adele had her glorious and well-deserved moment in the spotlight (her performance of “Rolling in the Deep” was amazing and her acceptance speech for Album of the Year was particularly adorable).  Robyn wore this.

But my entire Grammy’s experience was marred by the fact that Chris Brown was allowed not only to attend, but perform at the Grammys just three years after a  publicly known domestic violence incident.

It is absolutely unacceptable that someone who is known to have perpetuated violence against a woman has been so uncritically welcomed and promoted by the music industry.

In a much-shared piece “I’m Not OK With Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys, and I’m Not Sure Why You Are,” Sasha Pasulka reminds us what exactly Chris Brown did to warrant our criticism, and what’s exactly at stake if we fail to hold him accountable for his actions:

“I’m sick and tired of people acting like it’s no big deal that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys.

I’m frustrated that the mainstream media is covering this story like it’s any comeback story, like an exiled prince’s return to a former glory, like this is another political timeline — as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman who has been, is or will be on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We should be furious.

Why aren’t we?

The message we sent to young women was unmistakable: You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us. [Emphasis mine.]

This disturbing piece on Buzzfeed shows the ramifications of our collective failure to take perpetrators to task: women (not one or two but many) literally declaring their willingness to be beaten by the star as a means of expressing their love for him. It doesn’t get more clear than that.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/lugalia/ Michelle

    I understand the need to hold Chris Brown accountable, what does that look like to you?
    What happens to perpetrators after they’ve been held accountable by the law and have “confessed” . When do we accept them again? When are they completely punished? How long do we stay angry? On who’s behalf? Where are the lines?
    Just some thoughts.

    • http://feministing.com/members/ivan/ Ivan

      Michelle’s questions don’t have easy, precise answers in the affirmative, but we know what the wrong answers are — 3 years isn’t enough time, and this guy being given the platform of a song & dance at the highest profile international awards show is wrong wrong wrong.

    • xpattix

      I agree Michelle. I feel when people have served their sentence- it is very harmful to continue to “punish” them. this is why the cycles of poverty and crime are so closely connected. It is nobody’s business what someone does after their sentence is served (provided they continue to live within reasonable/safe boundaries). I find it very conflicting that I am so strongly against employers and landlords denying rights to people based on criminal pasts (like Brown- one charge, when he was 19) therefore keeping them poor/unemployed/unhoused- yet i get the social outrage against his actions.

  • http://feministing.com/members/shelly/ Shelly

    To make it even more interesting, Chris Brown got TWO performance spots (the second in the tribute to dance music). Meanwhile, Rhianna’s much-hyped performance with Coldplay was actually just an acoustic duet with Chris Martin. Yeah. I don’t get it, either.

    Meanwhile, there’s a part of me that wonders what the reaction would’ve been three years ago if Chris Brown assaulted a white woman (or even if Rhianna was white), and how that would play out now.

  • http://feministing.com/members/kristakeating/ Krista

    Chris Brown was a teenager when he was in a relationship with Rihanna. What he did deserved and received consequences. As a prision abolitionist and youth advocate I find it reckless, ignorant and wasteful to continue to be angry at Chris Brown and feed into some sort of dialouge that insinuates he deserves more punishment without even a consideration that he needed help dealing with his own history of abuse.

    • http://feministing.com/members/k4poet/ Kayt

      It’s hard to imagine what kind of work a guy’s got to do to come to the realization that it’s not really ok to hurt a woman. The thing is, I’d expect to hear the revelation in his music, and I don’t. I really support what you said about helping Chris deal with his own abuse, but as the author of both his life and his music, it’s just not there….. yet! I really hope he gets it, cuz he’s in a position to make some really positive statements, but he’s not doing it.
      Fact is, not everybody can be helped, and some folks are not safe outside of prisons. We need prisons for the ones that need them. The ones who can only live incarcerated to live remotely fulfilling lives.

  • http://feministing.com/members/pianogal67/ Valerie

    If he had beat his dog instead of a woman, then there would be thousands of people picketing the venue, calling him a dog killer.

    • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

      EXACTLY! Michael Vick is still getting flack for his dog-fighting ring (as he should), but Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna is barely a footnote anymore.

  • http://feministing.com/members/annalea/ Annalea

    I completely agree with this post. I understand that you cannot “punish” someone forever – but we also have to remember what role Chris Brown is being allowed to persue. It is not an average job – he is a celebrity which makes him a role-model. It is sad that people choose to support and support his music (when truly it is a synthesiser and some average dance moves). Find a new pretty-face who doesn’t abuse women.

  • http://feministing.com/members/danielakanfer/ Daniela Kanfer

    In 2011 he became confrontive & aggressive at the Good Morning America studios after being questioned in his interview about his physical violence charges. Wouldn’t that be a violation of his 2009 probation? I think it would be interesting to know why It wasn’t ?

  • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley

    Speaking as a white man…

    “[...] as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman [...] on the receiving end of domestic violence.”

    So, a black man beats up a woman, and it is a white man’s fault? Come on, if someone is to blame, it is Chris Brown.

    PS And what do you have against old men?

  • http://feministing.com/members/lugalia/ Michelle

    It is tricky, but I have to echo the other sentiments about our societies interest in punishing vs. rehabilitation. Which story do we think makes a difference? I think its more useful for the folks that look up to Chris Brown to know that it is possible for a successful young man who seemed untouchable, to be a survivor of a violent household, and unfortunately despite his success, choose to be a perpetrator and continue the cycle of violence that he witnessed growing up. (Why do we choose to ignore the cycles and social determinants of violence?) However at his judgement, the justice system chose to sentence him to rehabilitation and gave him an opportunity to make amends. (So what’s enough, who determines it?) I think that this is the kind of justice that every one should get, one that rehabilitates and not just isolates or punishes. Yes it was terrible what he did, but given his age, his history and the circumstances, what more is to be done? Besides screaming for his career as a sacrifice for what he did to Rihanna, (where does that get us?) what are other effective and prison/punitive system, pro-human development, progressive, challenging narratives that we can use this story to advocate for?

  • http://feministing.com/members/stylesubstancesoul/ Lois Alter Mark

    As these shocking Tweets from young girls during the Grammy Awards show, we need to teach our daughters that abuse is very real and very dangerous, and that even cute men can be abusers. http://stylesubstancesoul.com/2012/02/chris-brown-and-the-importance-of-teen-dating-violence-awareness-month/

  • http://feministing.com/members/pamela3224/ Pam

    I am confused about this issue. On one hand, having a person who has a history of domestic violence shouldn’t be shown as a role model but on the other hand, should his career be ruined because of a mistake (albeit a bad one) that happened in the past and he has already been punished? Should everyone who has ever done something illegal be punished forever. I don’t know the answer……….

  • http://feministing.com/members/sammylif/ Sammy

    I wrote a short blog post yesterday, when I was so angry about this that I maxed out my twitter account (who knew you could even DO that?!)


    A friend also posted a list on a listserv I’m on of some white, cis, het men who haven’t gotten nearly the same attention as CB, on some level. Just for perspective:

    Julian Assange
    Woody Allen
    Kelsey Grammer
    Roman Polanski
    Nicolas Cage
    Charlie Sheen
    Gary Oldman
    Mel Gibson
    Bill Murray
    Sean Penn
    William Hurt
    Tommy Lee
    Josh Brolin
    Sonny Bono
    Martin Lesley Crandall
    Jonathan Rhys Meyers
    Vince Neil
    Sean Connery
    Michael Bay
    Michael Fassbender
    Christian Bale
    Sean Bean
    Mark Wahlberg
    Isaac Brock
    Ringo Starr
    Ben Roethlisberger

  • http://feministing.com/members/siona/ Siona

    The Grammy producers knew that everyone would be having this debate…before, during and after the show. They wanted people talking and something to cause a stir. He’s not talented, or even popular anymore. He’s known for beating up Rihanna and the producers exploited that. He’s being used as a pawn to get viewers to tune into the show. Chris Brown and Rihanna are going to be at The Grammys?! Will they run into each other? Will they cut to Rihanna’s face while Chris Brown is performing?

    Also, I agree that shunning batterers, regardless of how long it’s been since their last incident of violence, simply perpetuates the cycle.

  • http://feministing.com/members/beavemarie/ Eva

    Ask the Grammy’s to apologize for saying they were the victims.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cpinkhouse/ Carlin

    I hear the voices who ask “how long is long enough?” when it comes to punishing or vilifying a CB for a dastardly deed. The same thoughts went through my head as the disappointment and resentment boiled in me as i saw him getting standing ovations at the Grammys.
    But we as a society put so many celebrities on a pedestal – the talent and beauty and wonder of being THEM! Well, why can’t we hold them to the highest standards of being humans? If they are to be lauded for their performances, why should this NOT include their virtues? We can punish companies and businesses for their unethical choices. When ExxonMobil has paid their fines do we then relase them from accountability?
    Chris Brown just wants to move on – like any abuser would. “Abuser” is both past and present tense. Penitence does not merely involve “doing the time”. To me it goes hand in hand with preventing it henceforth – in oneself and in others.
    Show me that he is aware enough and compassionate enough to make amends in the form of prevention education/PSA’s/donations of service and resources to DV orgs. Til then I can dislike him him as much as I want. AND i can dislike those who would promote him.