Chris Brown

Why are we still talking about Chris Brown?

A more discerning adult can look at this twitterclusterfuckerfuffle to see that a) Jenny Johnson, a comedian I never heard of, baited Chris Brown and b) dull witted and unremorseful Chris Brown fired back in a language he’s most comfortable with: misogyny. And yes, this all stopped being news because many of us have already called him on his deep misogyny, his violent assault of Rihanna in 2009, his caustic unapologetic behavior since the offense. And yes, he deleted his twitter page (10 second dance party for that). Yet a chorus of furies emblazoned with the hashtag teambreezy surface at his defense. And yes, this current backlash against Chris Brown has some racial under and overtones because his vitriol was directed towards a white woman. And yes, Rihanna still fux with him.  And yes, we’re still talking about it because I’m never going to forget the photo of her beaten in face. And yes, we all should never, ever forget that. Never.


It takes a particular grade of self hate and narcissistic flaunting to tattoo the face of a beaten woman on the side of your neck. It’s a volatile mix, embracing, if you will, the albatross of monster and abuser pridefully. You are so unrepentant, so fuck everybody. That’s so fucking future, isn’t it?

Roxane Gay echoes my sentiments:

Yes, some of the backlash against Chris Brown is motivated by racism. Demonize the “angry” black man. Crucify him! Never let him forget his trespasses! Attacks against Brown grounded in racism are wrong but Chris Brown is still an unrepentant, abusive asshole. In fact, he revels in his assholery. He celebrates it.

You can’t keep trotting out Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, et al because our cultural memory is short. If social networking were around when Sean Penn abused Madonna in 1987 or when Polanski raped a minor in 1977, the backlash would have been similar. Those examples will not work unless we’re discussing Chris Brown with the same fervor in 2042. Also, we’re still conjuring their names. Polanski still can’t return to the United States and he’s still a rapist pig. Sean Penn has always been an asshole who puts his hands on women. Charlie Sheen is irredeemable. I hold these men and all their cronies in the exact same regard as Chris Brown. We haven’t forgotten these misdeeds as much as people assume.

With Chris Brown, people are focusing on what’s right in front of them, all the damn time.

Chris Brown continues to face backlash because he continues to remind us that he is an asshole. He continues to get in trouble. He continues to display violent behavior. All that is his right but he doesn’t get to do it with impunity.

As long as a segment of the population buys his records, as long as there is a community of enablers around him, Chris Brown can give nonefucks about what anyone of us thinks.


On a random September night this year, I learned the costs of intervening in a domestic violence dispute in my own neighborhood where an older man raised his hand to a frail asthmatic woman, and my friends jumped to her aid. And while two of my friends tried to make sure that the woman was okay, I turned to older man who cussed and carried on that he should take a walk. Then, he raised his hand to me and my friend jumped to my aid to stop him and the woman tells me to get control of my man because she was afraid my friend had hurt him. Of course we called the cops. Of course we waited for the cops, watched the warring couple from a safe distance, to let him know that we see him.

She went home with him anyway. The cops knew that she would before they even took our statements. We still don’t know what had become of the woman. But if you see something, you should say something. Right?

We know a thing or a two about abusers. We know that likelihood of their pain stemmed from an earlier trauma. Abuse repeats itself, and we know when it is left untreated, it passes down  generations. People can change. I believe that. But it isn’t  by a miraculous, divine intervention. It takes work and a supportive community for that individual so that they can heal. A community of people invested in that person’s well being. I don’t believe that Chris Brown has a community that is invested in him like that. I think the entertainment machine recognizes he’s a talentless hack who has a limited lifespan and can only hold our attention for so long before he disappears. The entertainment machine isn’t interested in saving someone’s soul. The fans…are? I don’t understand the rabid loyalty of his fans. The women that are so quick to forgive someone who has given them no reason to.

To the woman who say I don’t know what he said to her to provoke him and it’s none of my business: it became our business when he smashed her face and choked her out and left her on a public street. To the women (furies) who don’t understand why we won’t move on, I don’t know if we’ll ever reach you, if we’ll ever help you understand that if it does happen to you, what chorus of furies will come to your defense, when a man beats you to a pulp, chokes you and leaves you to die on the side of a busy street in LA? St. Louis? Chicago? Houston? What will you have me say to you then?

SYREETA MCFADDEN is a Brooklyn based writer, photographer and adjunct professor of English. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and Storyscape Journal. She is the managing editor of the online literary magazine, Union Station, and a co-curator of Poets in Unexpected Places. You can follow her on Twitter @reetamac.

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  • anna

    Chris Brown is a terrible human being, but the tattoo on his neck is most certainly not a beaten face. It’s just a poorly done tattoo.

    As a tattoo artist myself I can see what Chris Brown’s so-called artist was trying to do: He attempted to portray the face of a woman, half painted day-of-the-dead . You can tell from the filigree on the forehead, the ‘teeth lines’ on half of the mouth and the little diamond shape in the nose. The tattoo was shaded so horribly and done without any skill that it does look like a beaten face on his neck, but It obviously wasn’t intentional.

    That being said, Chris Brown deserves his tattoo in more than one way: If you make that much money but refuse to spend any real money on getting the best tattoo artist you can, you’re a fool. How can you have a scratcher tattoo your neck for a couple beers when you could afford someone amazing who is trained to work on that incredibly difficult area to tattoo. If you’re gonna be rich and cheep, you deserve your tattoo… and it’s even sweeter that the face he got tattooed on his neck came out like a beat up woman’s face.

    • Rebecca

      Are you kidding? The tattoo is half dia de los muertos skull? How do you explain the gash on the chin on the other side of the face? No matter how poorly done it is, the tattoo is clearly the sick boasting of an abusive man.

  • Inquisitive Bibliophile

    My issue (aside from the obvious violent behavior) is that there’s a lack of introspection. I could be completely wrong about that, but the hateful and threatening tweets aren’t exactly indicative of any positive emotional or mental changes (or any signs that his anger issues have been managed).

    If people are constantly saying to me, “you’re belligerent when I try to talk to you, you never listen to me” and then are IMMEDIATELY verbally assaulted by me, then guess what? THEY’RE RIGHT. If people are constantly calling you an asshole (or something else you don’t like), and you respond in a manner that proves them right, it would seem that the only person to blame is yourself.

    I watch Intervention, I KNOW that despite how impossible it can feel, that people are capable of change. The fact that he hasn’t is in part because he may not want to. Why? Because, even after all of this, there is (disgustingly) probably a part of him that feels victimized by the media.

  • Camille Hayes

    Great post, and more thoughtful than much of the Chris Brown commentary. I appreciate that you gave consideration to what batterers need to heal/reform. We often just want to imagine them as monsters, with motives that aren’t comprehensible to the rest of us. But when we do that we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to try to understand them–and I don’t see how we can change their behavior unless we first understand what’s driving them.

  • Kate

    Why are y’all still harassing Chris Brown? This article is full of many lies and hypocrisy. This Jenny Johnson chick deserves what she got. She’s been harassing him for over a year and he finally got tired of her crap. He should have ignored her, but she kept harassing him. You don’t disrespect someone and expect him or her to sit back and take it. Many people have gotten into fights on twitter. Chris Brown did not commit any crimes after that night or before that night. He did what he was ordered to do. The COURT OF LAW agrees with me. I guess all the other women Chris Brown beat are hanging out with Jimmy Hoffa. Every other famous person dead or alive gets a pass, but 23 year old Chris Brown is not allowed to move on. Even ROBYN RIHANNA FENTY has moved on. Well, the 2009 scandal has given another nobody 15 mins of fame.

    • Jacqueline Hentzen

      …Dude, are you serious? Or is this supposed to be sarcasm?

  • Dana

    I truly love everything you said. I wish that women would recognize that what he did to Rihanna is wrong, even if Rihanna decided to continue seeing him. I really wish Rihanna would have handled her situation with Chris a little more proactively. She is an obvious victim of the patriarchy and needs a supportive circle so that she can let him go. As an artist she could have used her power to promote women’s rights and awarness against domestic violence, but she didn’t.
    I am not trying to judge her not doing anything because I know that every one is raised in different socio-economic backgrounds. In this documentary I saw called Sexy Baby, the women seemed to feel pressure to maintain this sexy identity online and after looking at Rihanna’s twitter, you can see that she makes sure to maintain her sex symbol image.
    And any woman who has seriously been battered would definetly feel that the violence must end, and if we have to keep this ChrisxRihanna convo going to help women realize that domestic violence (no matter what the reason) needs to end. Women, especially those who are mothers, should teach their children that they should never go back to their abuser. People don’t change in a couple of weeks. It takes time.