Mar 9, 2009

The Goon Hand


The story involving pop stars Chris Brown, Rihanna, and allegations of domestic violence has gotten a lot of attention ever since it was first reported the night of The Grammys. Two young successful stars, both with "clean cut" images, who were in a relationship, had a nasty encounter on the night before they were set to perform on the music industry's biggest stage. Such a scenario was most certainly going to generate endless conversation.

Had the people involved been two hard core rappers, for instance, there might have been conversation, for sure, but people wouldn't be experiencing the shock and awe that has accompanied the Chris Brown and Rihanna story. My point is, Brown and Rihanna are supposedly "clean cut" and for this reason it seems that some people bought into the hype of a loving, young, Hollywood couple, so the revelation of truth as it pertains to domestic friction seemed to defy this constructed image.

There has been much said about the incident from a variety of people and perspectives. Recently I ran across an article in the Detroit Free Press by columnist Rochelle Riley. Riley's point, to the extent that there is one, has to do with insisting that Chris Brown be treated like a criminal if he is found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend. The undercurrent of the piece is that Brown may indeed get off easy because of his celebrity.

Did I miss something? When did young black men ever find themselves getting favorable treatment in the court of law? Is there a precedent for this? If so, I need proof, because the last I checked there was a disproportionate number of young black men filling up this nation's ever profitable penitentiaries. I have news for the columnist, if Chris Brown is found guilty you have nothing to worry about, he will be treated like all other young black men charged of such crimes. If Brown does manage to shake free it will be because he has the money to work the court system, not because of his race. Trust me.

Honestly, I have tried to stay out of this. But of course, every time I get out they pull me right back in! I hate what passes for R & B these days. I don't listen to either Chris Brown or Rihanna, which helps explain my general indifference. Further, these celebrity spats are always more than meets the eye, particularly when such shenanigans involve couples. There are so many orchestrated relationships in Hollywood, along with other co-dependent relationships in general these days that it ain't even funny. Not to mention, what really goes on? Rumors suggest all sort of things. Who knows, really, other than CB and his boo?

I am not defending CB for using his goon hand, but I am not immediately making her into a saint either. That old notion about a man should never hit a woman is ultimately rooted in a system of patriarchy which assumes women to be inherently weaker than men. Yet women are not inherently weaker than men and these days many women are indeed quite a bit stronger; physically, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. To automatically default into this type of thinking, where women are perpetual victims, is to recycle old ideas about essential masculinity and femininity without examining the larger issues at work here.

Domestic abuse is wrong, no matter who the perpetrator is. Yet if pictures of Chris Brown had come back looking like those infamous photos of a battered Rihanna, people would be laughing at him for getting his ass beat by a young woman. There would be no sympathy, no mournful cries of utter sadness as it pertains to domestic violence, no, there would be rampant laughter and Saturday Night Live skits. Stand up comedians would have a field day. Brown would never be able to live this down. If you don't believe me, go ask Lionel Richie. The name Brenda Richie still prompts laughter to this day, though it was many years ago that she beat down both Lionel and the proverbial other woman.

Which brings me to this story about Geno Hayes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hayes was stabbed twice by his girlfriend recently. She stabbed him once in the head with a pair of scissors and then after Hayes managed to wrest the scissors from her hands, she picked up a knife and stabbed him in the neck.

I doubt seriously if Hayes generates the type of coverage that CB and Rihanna have generated. Of course Hayes is not popular and his girlfriend is not a celebrity either, in spite of this, Hayes is going to be a pretty visible target and the source for much clowin' once he gets back to the locker room or stares across the field at an opposing player who wants to talk trash. There will be no sympathy for Geno Hayes. None. Why, because most people are not going to feel sympathetic for a 6'1 226 pound NFL player getting stabbed by a 19 year old woman. In the end, many will probably assume that he deserved it.

Let me be clear, because I already know that some people are going to try to make this out to be something other that what it is. I am not condoning domestic violence against women, nor am I making it out to be less than what it is. If CB is found guilty of attacking Rihanna he will be dealt with accordingly. I know that for many Rihanna represents abused women everywhere and again I understand and can appreciate the sentiments. But I am also saying that domestic violence against women won't stop until we rethink our whole approach to the issue.

To put hands on anyone is problematic in my book, be it parents using corporeal punishment on their children or men abusing their wives. In a perfect world, one wouldn't need violence, but in an imperfect world like the one we live in, violence is a reality, an unfortunate one, but a reality nonetheless.

Violent actions often occur in the heat of an emotional moment. Chris Brown shouldn't be using his girlfriend as a punching bag and Geno Hayes' girlfriend shouldn't be stabbing him either. Yet situations like this happen all the time, it's just that the people involved are not always celebrities or professional athletes so it doesn't always make the news.

Violence is learned behavior. The only way to stop it is to unlearn it. Yet until we figure out how to move away from old ideas about gender roles and start to rethink the way that violence factors into our personal and familial lives nothing will ever change on this front.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that this is not a case of domestic violence because these two do not have a 'domestic' relationship. They are not married, they are not living together, they are not roomates or family. For this reason, when this goes to court it will not go to family court and be heard as a case of domestic violence.

This is a case of violence -- regardless of who hit whom, and how hard and for what reasons -- it is violence. Plain and simple.