What if Rihanna and Chris Brown get back together?

After reports surfaced that Rihanna and Chris Brown were seen leaving the same recording studio, I knew that what would come next wasn’t going to be good. Now it’s confirmed: Rihanna and Chris Brown have collaborated on a remix of her song “Birthday Cake” and may have even spent time together at her recent birthday party.

Their reconciliation and what it means goes beyond them and could have serious ramifications on the conversation surrounding domestic violence.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Rihanna got back together with Chris Brown. Most women return to their abusers, repeatedly. What’s wrong with this scenario is that it is so public and has so many young impressionable eyes watching and unfortunately taking note. Furthermore, the conversation around domestic violence in the wake of the 2009 beating will surely be shut down for the most part because many will say, “well Rihanna got over it, why can’t you?”

My colleague Mychal Denzel Smith over at TheGrio.com agrees:

It would be incredibly easy to say to ourselves ‘Rihanna has gotten over it. She’s forgiven him. She’s moved on. We should do the same.’ A lot of people have been saying this exact thing for the past three years. That misses the point entirely.

It’s bigger than Chris Brown because he didn’t invent domestic violence. It’s bigger than Chris Brown because he isn’t responsible for hitting every woman that has ever been a victim of domestic violence. It’s bigger than Chris Brown because he won’t be the one to punch your sister, niece, aunt, mother, grandmother, or daughter.

No, this isn’t about Chris Brown at all. This is about how at every turn we have failed to have a real conversation about how to prevent this from happening again. We gloss over Brown’s troubles because of his celebrity or talents or relative youth, then dismiss the influence he has over the culture, young girls specifically, because, as we have shown time and again the past three years, we are not prepared to have a dialogue about how to protect little brown girls from violence. But we need to, now more than ever.

Mychal is exactly right. It’s bigger than Chris Brown. It’s bigger than this one couple. We continually fail to properly address this issue and as a result young people are getting all the wrong messages. Let’s hope that even if Chris Brown and Rihanna do get back together we will speak up and make it clear that violence against women is unacceptable and it doesn’t matter how many remixes Chris Brown and Rihanna decide to make together.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted February 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this post. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the race implications involved in this. I ask myself why people aren’t more outraged about intimate partner violence in general, but specifically about all the Chris Brown/Rihanna drama. It’s interesting to consider what would have happened/would still be happening if Chris Brown beat a white woman instead. This issue isn’t solely gendered.

  2. Posted February 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really disagree withe the gist of the argument (… bigger than, etc…).

    I do feel uncomfortable with the following part though:

    “It wouldn’t be surprising if Rihanna got back together with Chris Brown. [...]
    What’s wrong with this scenario is that it is so public and has so many young impressionable eyes watching and unfortunately taking note.”

    Two adult people get back together, and someone is saying ‘it is wrong’?

    . They are not cheating on anyone.
    . They know what they are doing.
    . None is hiding anything from the other.

    They have no responsibility whatsoever towards anyone else. I really don’t feel that we should be look towards (minor) celebrities to set an example; if Rihanna wants to forgive her guy, we may feel that it is not a bright idea, but saying that she is wrong is not within our remit.

    We may pity her, yes. But we should refrain from holding her responsible for other people’s actions. If other women return to their abusers, then it is their fault, and cannot blame Rihanna or anyone else for their poor judgment, or poor choice of men.

    I mean, does anyone blame rockstars for marrying models, on the grounds that they give a poor example to other men (‘only beautiful women are eligible’) or to other women (‘only beautiful women can marry rich men’)?

  3. Posted February 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    This is a very complicated issue, and Stacey is right about it being as much as bout race as it is about gender. However, it is probably not a good idea to have such a paternalistic approach to domestic/sexual violence. The idea that we need to “protect little brown girls” must be expanded to have a real discussion about what is the long-term change that needs to happen in order to stop domestic sexual violence.

    First of all, sexual and domestic violence happens differentially depending on women’s social positioning. It will look differently for middle class white women than it would for black celebrities, black working class women, rural white women, working class Latina women, Asian women, lesbians, transgender women, Native American women (in and outside of reservations), etc. With this in mind, organizations that support and advocate for women survivors/victims (including bloggers and feminists) must acknowledge how race, class, ability, nationality and language will affect women’s vulnerabilities as well as their responses to sexual/domestic violence. Most people and organizations that work to help victims/survivors do so with a Eurocentric (white) and middle-class only perspective, which in fact reproduces gender, race, sexual and class based violence on the women who seek support. Many white doctors, bloggers, feminists and women’s advocates blame different women and/or their communities for their experiences with sexual violence, without acknowledging that different social forces push them into those situations (including racism and white colonialism that still destroys entire societies and peoples). Their culture/ethnicity/race/class may even be blamed for the violence they experience. In this sense, bloggers, doctors, workers of rape crisis and women’s centers fail to see how they are complicit in a culture of sexual violence, and how they can reproduce the very system they are trying to fight without even realizing it.

    Another area that needs to be problematized is the idea that children need to be protected from the media. This will never happen and instead we are positioning children as mindless creatures who will reproduce anything and everything they see on TV. Children should instead be empowered to read media texts critically, not take away TV from them. Conversations about gender, violence, sexuality and race are not happening in schools. Children will use cultural forms to inform themselves about the world they live in. Treating children less like children and more like real people would benefit them immensely because we can give them honest guidance and tools for them to understand the world. Treating them like creatures who cannot think for themselves and need overprotection actually has to do more with our own adult insecurities, and our need to construct children as outside the social contract in order to justify a lot of our behavior in a Eurocentric society (for more read “Children In The Global Sex Trade” by Julia O’Connell Davidson).

    Finally, talking about Rihanna in the way presented here also takes away all agency from her and from her fans. Not to mention that her black body and the violence she experienced is being commodified and circulated in a very obscene way. She has done what she can with the resources she has available. Maybe the resources out there for victims/survivors of domestic violence are too white-centric and marginalizing towards women of other races/cultures/classes. Maybe there is more to the story that mainstream and feminist (i.e. white) media are not getting about both Rihanna and Chris Brown. Maybe we should indeed get over “Rihanna and Chris Brown” and have a real conversation about domestic violence and how we are complicit in this system, without having to commodify their brown bodies and experiences. It’s become way too much of a voyeuristic experience, and it really pisses me off how their black bodies are on display, especially because of the potential for racist people to get off on this and blame entire communities for being dysfunctional.

    • Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I really appreciate Juan’s comment about taking women’s social positioning into consideration when approaching the issue of domestic and sexual violence. It is absolutely critical we talk about these circumstances and remain aware of them as we reach out either as a an individual (i.e. bystander, ally) or as an organization that works to prevent or end sexual and domestic violence.

      It is unsettling to think that any of the available resources for victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence would ever blame the victim. In fact, most (if not all) of the women’s centers and rape crisis centers I have worked with or have spoken with employees/volunteers of such are committed to assisting in various actions both for women who are ready to and can get out of an abusive relationship, as well as those who are not ready or cannot leave the abusive relationship. They understand that there are numerous variables that put and can keep women in these violent environments.

      You made an excellent point, that this article pointed out as well, about the core issue here is that we need to have a real discussion about real, long-term change to end sexual and domestic violence. Raising awareness is the first step to action in causing a societal shift that allows all communities to embrace the issue and has zero tolerance for sexual and domestic violence. I think this article summed up the biggest problem that we can see from this widely publicized situation:

      “We continually fail to properly address this issue and as a result young people are getting all the wrong messages. Let’s hope that even if Chris Brown and Rihanna do get back together we will speak up and make it clear that violence against women is unacceptable…”

  4. Posted February 25, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    If Rihanna (or Chris) were a close friend or relative of mind I’d share with them my opinion but I really feel people have gone waaay over the line telling them what to do. I think they are not good for EACH other but it’s their business.

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