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.