Where’s My Poncho, and What’s That Smell?

As is so often the case on Twitter, a discussion yesterday resulted in a mini shitstorm. It’s such a small storm that it doesn’t much bear repeating, but I’ll give you the reader’s digest version:

Someone said something about what a punk Chris Brown is. Then a discussion ensued about whether Rihanna is now partly to blame for her own fate because she’s gone back to him (as you can imagine, this would be when the storm started). The storm eventually came to a halt when the person who started the conversation clarified that he was just pointing out that we should be held accountable for our actions. Even Rihanna.

Stop. Don’t send hate mail. Let me clarify.

It’s all about shades of grey. I think, in abusive situations, both parties need help. The man needs to seek help because he was almost surely the target or observer of abusive behavior in the past. He doesn’t need a good ass-kicking (though I will admit that I would certainly enjoy being given the opportunity to beat up some of these guys). He needs counseling. Reprogramming. He doesn’t get to dismiss crappy behavior just because that’s what he saw as a kid. He knows damn well that it’s not considered OK to hit women, and he needs to take responsibility for what he did (even if he thinks he had a good reason for it).

Of course, women who allow themselves to be treated like this also need counseling and reprogramming. Physical violence is usually preceded by controlling behavior and verbal abuse. Right? I’ve never been in a situation like this, so I am admittedly talking out of my ass right now. It’s not like, when a woman gets hit, she’s completely surprised by it. She’s in shock a little, but most of the reason why she’s not hitting back is because she’s not wired that way and she’s probably been verbally beaten down by emotional abuse long before any actual fists hit her. A woman who would hit back wouldn’t put up with the controlling behavior and verbal abuse. She would ditch the guy in question long before the fists come out.

So, what’s my point? In an abusive situation, both parties are to blame. The blame isn’t equal, but both parties have some work to do on themselves. Saying “but I’m a product of abuse” is a reason for one’s behavior but, at the end of the day, we still have free will. We have to take responsibility for what we do. If a woman is to ever leave an abusive relationship, it’s ultimately up to her. Friends and family can offer support, money, and a place to stay, but the woman has to be the one to say “enough is enough…I don’t deserve this.” Women who have gotten used to a pattern of abuse (and who have probably been convinced that they deserve it) will find this hard, but a lot of things in life are hard. No one can come in and captain your life for you. It’s your ship, and you should be at the helm.

As for the guy, he also needs to realize that what he’s doing isn’t OK. He needs to be enough of a man to say “this is unacceptable, even if I grew up seeing my dad do it.” He is also at the helm of his own ship.

So, to get back to the celebrities in question, should Rihanna have forgiven Chris? Well, you know what? I don’t know them. I don’t know the situation. As much as my knee-jerk reaction is to say “NO!!!!,” I don’t know them and that is none of my business. Generally, I don’t think there’s any excuse for a man to hit a woman, period. But, on a case-by-case basis, things aren’t always so black and white. But, if the two of them were my friends, I’d get them in a room and say this:

“You (pointing at Chris) were wrong for that and you know it. That shit is fucked up, as you probably know because somebody probably did it to you, too. I have empathy for what you went through, but stay away from my friend until you’ve completed therapy. Even then, you should know that I will burn down your house if you hit her.”

“You (pointing at Rihanna) are getting away from this dude, and you will not be making a professional victim of yourself as long as I’m around. You’re better than that. I’m introducing you to my shrink, and then we’re taking up Judo.”

I know that it may seem non-committal for my thesis statement to be “well, it’s complicated,” but…it is. No one here is completely right or completely wrong. It’s greyscale. It’s complicated.

If nothing else, we’ve all gotten a bit of a dialogue out of this, and that’s important. It’s important for us to get together and talk about stuff, even if it results in the occasional shitstorm. The key is to be able to disagree with each other like adults, having a productive debate without resorting to name-calling and interrupting each other.

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