In the Throes of the Harvey Weinstein Takedown, Why Is Everyone Still Okay with Chris Brown?!
The past month or two have been a whirlwind of, in no particular order: boycotts, accusations, confessions, apologies, cancellations, firings, essays, sisterhood, solidarity, and draining of a swamp that has long been left to overflow.
For many women and a few men as well, it feels like voices that have long been silenced, threatened, and discredited are finally, finally being listened to, and it is at last starting to seem safe to speak and even safe to exist, if not now than at least sometime in the very near, imaginable, touchable future. We are being assured that power should never excuse sexual violence, rape, or predatory behavior, and we are promised, by men and women alike, that we’ll be protected from victimization from now on, that it will no longer be tolerated.
Tentatively, I started to feel like things might be okay, like my future employers or business partners or lenders or colleagues or car mechanics - people in a position of power or authority over me for whatever reason - would be too scared of social repercussions to attack me or threaten me or intimidate me. I started to believe that Future Generations of men would learn proper conduct from the Now Generation of men and women who are learning, reading, discussing, sharing and becoming woke, and who will soon raise their children in a post-Weinstein era.
But then, Chris Brown’s documentary, Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life aired on Netflix in mid-October, and I was reminded that apparently, you can still beat a woman to a bloody pulp and continue to get prime air time on the radio, interviews on podcasts and shows, and general acceptance as an “artist” and celebrity.
He was literally convicted of two felonies for abusing Rihanna, then his girlfriend, and yet Netflix somehow thinks, as the #MeToo hashtag was still hot and heavy on social media, that they should continue to celebrate his life and career by making his documentary and "life" widely available to its 100 million + users.
40 million followers on Instagram apparently think whatever he’s ranting about, wearing, or saying is worth checking out and supporting with likes, saves, shares and follows.
His label, RCA Records, thinks they should keep promoting his albums and celebrating his successes as their own.
Radio stations bump his tracks (which I promptly switch off, because the idea of a known violent abuser crooning about women, his wealth, and his sexual prowess is frankly disgusting to me).
What he did - bloodying his girlfriend - is not “alleged” or possible or hearsay. He did it, he was convicted for it, he discusses it in his bullshit documentary. Rihanna openly admits she’s a victim of domestic abuse (her exact words) in a Vanity Fair article from 2015. There’s a whole entire section on his Wikipedia page titled “Personal Life and Legal Issues,” where you can read about not only the time he beat Rihanna but also the restraining order Karreuche Tran has on him for threatening to kill her and repeatedly abusing her, and some of the other violent and distasteful situations Brown has been involved in.
Moreover, Rihanna isn’t (not that one of these descriptors would ever, ever warrant having your face beaten in) a limelight-seeking groupie or a nameless “nobody,” a beleaguered wife with no ties to the media; she is and was, in 2009 when he attacked her in his Lamborghini, an international celebrity and arguable more famous and certainly more beloved one than he.
As a victim, you really can’t get more high profile that Rihanna, and she has had only gotten more famous, more fierce, more beloved and more empowered since the 2009 incident with Brown.
Which takes us to today, the end of 2017, when Chris Brown’s songs are still on the radio and his documentary is on Netflix.
I’m genuinely confused by this. Why, when Louis CK’s forthcoming movie I Love You, Daddy was pulled from release after five women accused him of masturbating, or asking to, in front of them; when Terry Richardson is banned from working at Conde Nast; when House of Cards is cancelled and will be removed from Netflix (the same Netflix that just cheerily debuted Chris Brown’s doc), and Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own company, is Chris Brown allowed to have any of what he has?
Being a talented (debatable) musician is simply not enough to keep projecting to the world that there are no societal repercussions to violently abusing your partner. Indeed, talent wasn’t enough to keep Louis CK in the public’s favor. Wendy Williams is just happy that his new album, Heartbreak on a Full Moon, has 45 songs on it. "That's how you get your money's worth," the talkshow host said. Perhaps that's enough, then, to overlook abusive behavior and continued lack of self-awareness and remorse?
I cannot fathom why and how we are letting this slide and allowing Chris Brown to continue to have a successful career. In discussing the Rihanna “incident” (summary: “She hit me first”) in the documentary, he has gained even more fame, coverage, and clicks thanks to eye-popping headlines and stories that seek to showcase his sensitive, self-aware side.
And in case you're gearing up to say "give him a chance, people can change," please be aware that in February, 2017, he received the restraining order for threatening to kill former girlfriend Karreuche Tran. As in, this year. He is not reformed, nor has becoming the "father of a daughter" stopped him from abusing women.
At first, I thought it was perhaps because of his victims' race. If Rihanna or Karreuche were white women, would the media and society have seemingly forgiven and forgotten? About a minute of reflection, backed up by another minute of research online, revealed listicle after internet listicle of men who have been accused or convicted of physically assaulting their partners, and the list includes men such as Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Bobby Brown, Bill Murray, Dr. Dre, and an exhausting number of more men with partners of every race and age who continue to be thriving, successful celebrities.
Is the answer, then, that sexual predation is too icky for us to tolerate, but domestic abuse should stay between partners?
In any case, this has to stop.
Anyone that jumped on the Harvey-Weinstein-Must-Go-Down bandwagon and the #MeToo train (I did, when I shared a story previously posted on my blog) and the I-Always-Distrusted-Terry Richardson Committee needs to speak up about violence and abuse as vehemently as they do about sexual harassment and rape.
And, we need to stick up for Rihanna and Karreuche, women of color in a society - our own - that, disgustingly, seems not to believe think WOC are valuable or worth protecting and honoring.
The feminist movement was criticized earlier this year, around the inauguration and subsequent Women’s March, for not doing enough to stick up for our non-white sisters. Even though it's clear that men of all races are abusing women of all races, and it's not a "black issue" or a "white issue," this is a chance to stand by a WOC and offer our support for her, along with our support of the white and POC, female and male victims of Weinstein, C.K., Richardson, Moore, Spacey, and others.
And I’m sure we can all come up with a catchy hashtag to go along with it:
#BoycottBrown. #DownWithChrisBrown #ChrisStayDown
So, what do you think - is society easier on domestic abusers than sexual miscreants?