When Ann Friedman recently wrote a great piece about the risk in piling on Rihanna for reconciling with Chris Brown, I nodded along, despite my own personal feelings about the case. It’s really hard to simultaneously advocate for survivors of violence and encourage women to leave, when Rihanna and Chris Brown’s reconciliation is so high profile and honestly sends a very complicated message to a public wildly misinformed about gender based violence.
An op-ed in The New York Daily News, “Violence against women is tough to fight when stars like Rihanna get back with their abusers,” is the perfect example of good intentions and bad delivery. It’s the perfect example of what piling on Rihanna looks like:
Congress finally renewed the lapsed Violence Against Women Act Thursday and sent it to President Obama after Rep. Shelley Moore Capito warned her Republican colleagues that their resistance “could be viewed as anti-female” from the point of view of “a twentysomething young female.”
Or any female — like the kind who voted for Obama by an 11-point margin.
But the bill, which in part will help prosecutors go after men who attack women, can only do so much when we have a huge star like Rihanna reuniting with her abuser, Chris Brown.
Like it or not, she sent out a message to all women when she celebrated her 25th birthday in Hawaii with the singer last month, apparently forgiving him for beating her up in 2009.
Hasn’t Rihanna heard the adage, “The first time is the last time”? If a man hits you, don’t give him another chance.
Just no. As easy as it is to pile on Rihanna and be the person #7,999 to tell her getting back together with Chris Brown is potentially dangerous and wrong, we should resist the impulse. We should keep repeating our message about rape culture, shame, blame and need for a culture shift, but singling out Rihanna for more blame is unfair. Violence against women didn’t begin with Chris Brown and Rihanna and it’s not going to end just because Rihanna doesn’t do what we want her to do.