Rihanna and the People Who Talk About Her, or, In Which I Threaten Everybody Again

Look, I’m sure you make better choices than Rihanna. I’m sure you do! I’m sure you are totally right to shake your head gently and pityingly at that poor girl who just can’t seem to get her act together, because the flawless poise and wisdom with which you have handled every single minor crisis in your life ensures that were you ever to face the horrifying nightmare of the man you love beating you about the face, you’d keep calm and have a cupcake, or whatever that slogan you just pinned says

I’m sure you know all about being a survivor of intimate partner violence! I’m sure you have something to say to all those abuse survivors who leave seven times before they leave for good. I’m sure you know all about the cognitive dissonance, the humiliation, the emotional torture, the fear of reprisal, the Stockholm syndrome, the devastating blow that has been dealt your sense of your own dignity.

I’m sure you’d love to spend some time learning how to be part of the communal support network needed to help survivors move on, if you weren’t so busy pointing out that really, if women would make better decisions this wouldn’t be a problem.

“If you choose to go into a war zone, do you not carry some of the blame if you get hurt?”

Yes, returning to a loved one who has abused you is exactly like sashaying into a war zone. Anyway, that’s what I say to the homeless veterans I see. “You know, if there were fewer wars, and you made better life choices, you might still have your legs!

Either way,  you’ve had both experiences, so you know all about it. I bet it’s very helpful to survivors of domestic violence everywhere to cluck like a disappointed but indulgent mother hen and and explain what you would do if you were ever in that entirely hypothetical situation.

You’re not exploiting a victim of brutal abuse for a thrilling little re-affirmation of your own superiority! You just have lots of special thoughts to share about how you can’t imagine why anyone would go back to his or her abuser!

But seriously, don’t.

Because I don’t care if you are a right wing talking head, or some liberal NPR intern who can’t understand why every woman isn’t as empowered and autonomous and generally on the ball as you–if you share them around me, you will regret it


5 thoughts on “Rihanna and the People Who Talk About Her, or, In Which I Threaten Everybody Again

  1. The problem is that the law protects men like Chris Brown. If Rihanna’s brother or dad or whoever decided to beat Chris Brown to a pulp, he would go to jail. Most men are far too cowardly to stand up to this system, and they know it, and they feel guilty, and all they can do about that guilty feeling is find some argument in the whole situation that will make them feel manly again–like blustering about how actually it’s conservatives who are the victims here and we need to protect them from them vile feminists! Oh yeah, funny how that works out.

    They can’t believe that a woman in Rihanna’s position is actually a victim, someone who has experienced a traumatic event and deserves protection possibly even from herself, because if they did they would have to admit that very men few do anything to protect victims of whatever kind. It used to be a given that men did this. Now it’s almost unheard of. And violent crimes against women increase daily.

    Also: few people get that women stay with abusers because the pain of leaving is worse than the pain of staying.

  2. “or whatever that slogan you just pinned says” 🙂

    Io, I think what you said is exactly true…that a woman in Rihanna’s position “deserves protection possibly even from herself.”

    It is definitely wrong to blame the victim for suffering someone else has imposed, but there is not an absence of responsibility for the victim to remove themselves (when they can) from a harmful situation. What has always mystified me about the Rihanna/Chris Brown case is that in such a public case of abuse, nothing would be done to stop her going back to him. I guess this again comes back to what you said, Io…nobody can actually do anything without being punished themselves. And nobody can file for a restraining order on her behalf.

    • There is a total absence of responsibility for anyone who is not the victim’s mother, best friend, or therapist to comment on how she should or should not be dealing with her abuse.

      This stuff is incredibly complex, and most people’s path to recovery does not look like what we think it “should” look like. Telling victims what to do just makes it harder for them–they have lost control of their lives in one of the most frightening and humiliating ways possible, and outside attempts to control the will probably just make them cling more to the abuser as a way of asserting agency.

      And let’s not kid ourselves, it’s not the law that’s the problem. There is plenty of stuff we could be doing to communally hold Chris Brown accountable. Like not extending his record deals and selling tickets to his gigs and, for starters, not giving him a fucking VMA. We don’t hold abusers accountable because it’s more convenient to boss around the abused.

    • Well, that’s true. I forgot he’s still successful (I’m not a fan). Now that WOULD be something, if consumers – and the people giving him business deals – refused to have anything to do with him. I’d say that money is also more convenient in this instance..

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