Women (in Music): Second Class Citizens?

I know I said I wouldn’t post much again until March and I usually don’t care at all about celebrity news, but I feel the need to rant about two recent stories regarding women in the music business…

First and most disturbing to me is the news that Chris Brown allegedly beat girlfriend Rihanna. Many music sites and blogs were quick to condemn actor Christian Bale’s temper tantrum and report on swimmer Michael Phelps’ drug use, even though neither are in the music industry. Yet on Chris Brown, some of the same sites have remained silent. Obviously I haven’t posted about it before either, but this was because 1) I don’t typically post celeb gossip here, and 2) there had been no official confirmation of the story. Since Brown released a statement last week saying he was “sorry and saddened” by the incident and “seeking counseling”, that seems like confirmation to me.

Despite a leaked photo of her ravaged face, the extent of Rihanna’s injuries are still officially in question. Even if he just smacked her without leaving a mark, I think Brown should be receiving much harsher treatment from the media (it’s bizarre that TMZ, TV Guide’s Watercooler show, and Fox News seemed to present the most reasonable reports on the story) and fellow celebrities than he seems to be getting.

Why aren’t more writers, bloggers, and celebrities speaking out for Rihanna? I’ve seen brief quotes from Jay-Z and Mary Wilson, but the rest seem to be supporting Brown or staying silent. Meanwhile, some famous idiots have released statements saying Brown should be “given a break” (Kanye West), “He’s cool, you know” (T.I.), “That’s still my homeboy at the end of the day” (Ne-Yo), and “Chris is a great guy. He’ll be all right. Rihanna knows he loves her.” (Terrence Howard) even after Brown admitted guilt. Rapper 50 Cent apparently parodied the incident in a comedy sketch on his own website, other pseudo-celebs had the stupidity and adacity to blame Rihanna for somehow provoking the attack, and at least one PR company used the story as a sickening way to market their indie band to music blogs. There is obviously something very wrong with the American music industry, but we knew that.

I just wish the above-mentioned morons would say something constructive or simply keep their big mouths shut, because abusers don’t need such support and victims certainly don’t deserve blame. Certainly the story in general should be given more serious attention, if for nothing else than the affect it must have on victims of domestic violence who aren’t celebrities. Think about it… if a wealthy, talented, famous singer like Rihanna is forced into hiding and her attacker receives such indifferent and/or tolerant reaction simply because he is well liked, doesn’t that seem likely to discourage an average, low income (already terrified) woman from seeking help?

In the interest of full disclosure, the first five years of my life were spent in a domestically violent environment. I have no delusions regarding this, I know that witnessing a large man hit and throw around a petite woman made me pre-disposed to automatically hate any man who raises a hand to a woman. I also have close friends who are survivors of various forms of abuse. If these experiences make you doubt the validity of my remarks here, so be it. But I feel just as strongly about cases of racism and animal abuse, with no personal experience attached to either subject.

The news that Amanda Palmer’s single “Oasis” has been banned in the UK due to its lyrical subject matter may seem light-hearted in comparison. But despite the humorous tone of the song, it does address date rape. Palmer herself questions whether the song would be banned if she were a man, or if the song had a more somber arrangement. I wonder if Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing” (sung from the rapist’s point of view) was banned by the same UK channels? Or Avenged Sevenfold’s “Scream”, the lyrics of which also seem to be about a man threatening to rape a woman? It seems acceptable for a man to sing about violating a woman, yet a woman can’t sing about the same topic…at least not in any manner she chooses.

This censorship comes after Palmer’s record label pressured her to reshoot the video for “Leeds United” because they said she looked fat and apparently did little to promote her album since she refuses to imitate pop princesses like Britney Spears. You can read an interview with Amanda Palmer about these incidents at The Guardian, and her own take at her blog.

I wish I had the time and resources to construct this rant into a proper essay…but I don’t. I just felt I had to say something. A good friend who works for a non-profit organization helping victims of domestic violence was kind enough to provide me with the following links:

** The Chicago Tribune does a much better job of covering the Chris Brown/Rihanna story and addressing the issues surrounding it than I have here.

** YWCA’s website has many resources for those (whether affected by violence, rape, abuse, or discrimination) looking for help – everything from shelters and counseling to daycare, job training, and health and wellness programs.

** National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also offers a wide array of resources for victims of domestic violence, including ways to find help in your local area. They even have a program that offers cosmetic surgery to remove the physical scars of abuse. Their national hotline number is 800-799-SAFE.

I don’t fool myself into thinking that anything I write here will change the world. But maybe it’ll help one person. If anyone reading this is or has been a victim of domestic violence, date rape, or any other kind of abuse or discrimination – you have absolutely NOTHING to be ashamed of. There is NO EXCUSE for anyone to hurt or control someone weaker than themselves – no matter what the gender, age, income, or popularity of either the attacker or their victim.

9 thoughts on “Women (in Music): Second Class Citizens?

  1. Pingback: Battery In Your Leg » Monday Weds Blog Roundup

  2. to me, if these guys are actually his friends, they should just stay totally silent on the subject if they don’t want to say anything bad about him. otherwise, friend or not, they should condemn what he did (and has admitted to doing). that behavior is totally and unquestionably unacceptable, there’s no way any decent man could say cb deserves ‘a break’. he pummeled his tiny girlfriend (what is rihanna, maybe 5′ 4?). what’s even more distressing is i recently read that *his* mother was consistently abused by her boyfriend, in front of him. that type of violence is so cyclical and sad.

  3. Thanks for bringing this up, Vic. I didn’t really notice the lack of criticism of Chris Brown, first because I don’t follow that kind of music, and second because I post little celeb gossip. It’s a good point that women are still expected to look sweet and be quiet. On one hand ‘m sorry that Rihanna’s privacy was invaded by the publishing of photos of her bruised face, but on the other, publishing the photos means that the truth could not be hidden.

  4. Linda, thanks for taking the time to read & comment, and for linking from your own site. I’m obviously not a fan of celeb gossip either, but I guess my own experience made me a little more sensitive to this story. I didn’t really feel motivated to post about it until I read the quote from Terrence Howard (an actor I really liked until now), which turned my attention to the amount of pro-abuser statements compared to the lack of sympathy for the victim. It’s one thing to ignore the incident, but for popular public figures to vocally support an attacker, condemn the victim, and/or make light of the violence in general seems detrimental to common people who face similar situations.

  5. Amen sis! And yes, having been there, it DOES matter what celebs model to us and what media portrays as acceptable. Remember that movie with Farrah Fawcett, The Burning Bed? That changed the lives of so many women who were trapped in domestic violence.

    Kanye West and the others who think they’re being such good friends to this disturbed young man all need to spend a night or two in the ER of a city hospital and see the women brought in by ambulance and police. That’s the reality of what violence against women leads to, and the reality of what their attitude leads to; the attitude that women deserve to be smacked when they get out of line or make men look bad.

    The sad bit is that it’s not even men’s attitude, words and actions that can take total responsibility, it’s also the silence of people who don’t stand up for women. It’s people who think “feminist” is a “f-word” and don’t understand that believing that women are as capable and intelligent and worthy as men is the essence of feminism.

    So, thanks for speaking out, apologies for the rant! You touched a nerve, obviously.

  6. Pingback: You've Got a Friend | I Correct Myself, I Mean All The Time

  7. What kills me is, whose face is on every magazine in the country, including People mag? Rihanna’s. Not a moment’s peace or recuperation does she get, because the Eye of Sauron senses big money in the pathos of it all. Which, yes, it’s a sad and terrible story, but why focus on her, instead of putting his face on there (preferably, imho, with a big target on it so we can put it up as a dartboard) and condemning his behavior in the headlines? No, instead, put all the focus on the victim, since she must have done something to bring the beatings on and perhaps if they push hard enough they can make her tell them before she has a total breakdown from the pressure. It’s disgusting and lowdown behavior … what else can you expect, I guess.

  8. Hey,

    First time visitor to ur site. got ur link from ttp://www.euphonioushabitus.net/blog/.
    But must say…what i have been reading about this incident here in India is just the glossy stuff. No mention of the kind of abuse Rihanna has gone through is mentioned..
    It really shocks me to see….how Domestic viloence is rampant across classes n yep countries.

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