Monday, March 16, 2009

Rihanna, Chris Brown, Teen Views, and Victim Blaming

Feministe has a post discussing a new poll that indicates many Boston teens think Rihanna is at fault for Chris Brown beating her. Read Feministe here. The Boston Globe article on the poll is at this link. Below is my comment about why I think teens may find Rihanna at fault, and why some judges might do the same. The same comment at Feministe awaits moderation.

I watched and blogged on Robin Givens’ Larry King Live appearance about Rihanna. On the show was psychologist Stan Katz who had the following distinction to make between Rihanna’s behavior and Chris Brown’s behavior.

BEHAR: Let me start with you, Dr. Katz. You say there is a difference between female aggression and male abusiveness. Can you explain?

DR. STAN KATZ, PSYCHOLOGIST: Everyone was throwing this around, like there was violence in the car and she may have hit him or provoked him. Let’s make a distinction right away. Women can be aggressive with men, but they’re not abusive. Here is the difference, abuse contains intimidation, control and coercion.

BEHAR: It’s a power thing.

KATZ: A woman gets into a guy’s face. She may even spit at him. She may even stand right there with him. But it’s the power and control and coercion that really classifies as abuse. We have to make a distinction. Everybody can be aggressive. Lots of aggression in couples, intimate aggression. There’s a difference between aggression and abuse. We must clarify it.

Another guest, a domestic violence prosecutor and a woman, pretty much silenced him saying she didn’t want to hear any discussion. If anybody hits anyone it’s assault.

JEANNINE PIRRO, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROSECUTION EXPERT: Put them in jail. Stop this hogwash about treatment and intervention and getting everybody together. You don’t get the victim together with the abuser. To what? To try to –


PIRRO: It’s not a situation. It’s a crime. The sooner we recognize that, whether we talk about abuse or aggression, it doesn’t matter. It’s against the law. You hit someone, you go to jail.

I have personal experience with this mentality in the court room. Victims of domestic violence are told to not fight back because if they do, the judge will call it a fight and not an instance of wife abuse or partner abuse. Yes, I’ve been told that women should let men beat them to a pulp if they hope to win a domestic violence case.

I think teens approach the Brown/Rihanna situation the same way, remembering rules from their parents who, like the prosecutor, have a primary motivation of enforcing law and order/peace and quiet. So what do they say, “Nobody touch anybody.” And then they assign blame for the fighting based on who hit whom first.

If we can’t open up to a more intelligent discussion on domestic violence and stop looking for the most simplistic ways of addressing it, then we’ll keep seeing this disconnect on the topic, the inability to see that something’s wrong with someone beating the hell out of someone else who’s not nearly as strong as he is simply because “she hit me first” or worse, “she disrespected my manhood by mouthing off at me”

Perhaps we should explain it in terms of why a teen would be considered a coward for beating up a 4-year-old that kicked him or her in the shins. It’s a power issue and while we need to address the 4-year-old’s aggressive behavior, nothing excuses the teen for pounding the 4-year-old.

Analogies only go so far. I can already hear someone objecting that I’ve put women in the category of 4-year-olds, which I have not.

I think some men are happy to use the feminist movement as the reason it’s okay for them to beat up a woman who threw a shoe at them or punched them on the arm, whatever. It’s another twisting of reality such as claims that Affirmative Action is reverse discrimination. Simplistic views of society.

Here's a link to the CNN transcript I quoted: link.


lilalia said...

Here here. I especially like the fact that you encourage more dialog that is intelligent and explores the complexities of this problem and isn't placated by the banalities.

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Good morning,

I haven't followed this case so any comments I make would be conjecture on my part.

I will say that striking a woman (whether it's called assault or abuse) is wrong. I think it's also irresponsible to distinguish types of agressive behavior as acceptable. Agressive behavior will initiate a response in almost anyone.

We teach children that, "if someone touches you in an inappropriate manner it's wrong". I see nothing wrong with teaching skills that identify inappropriate behavior in a relationship. If a person is ignorant, they need to be taught; at home, in school, through the judicial system or their own initiative.

Our society has been rooted in aggression and violence since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. I do not see a horizon that ends aggressive behavior and violence in America; they are married to each other, just as much as racism is sandwiched between Whites and Blacks here.

All the laws you can legislate will not compell a person to behave properly; you can punish them, but that's after the fact. People change from an inward self-awareness that change is needed.


Dawn on MDI said...

honest to god, this is the kind of thing that makes my head want to explode. Domestic violence starts with the dehumanization of the victim. Once the victim is no longer human in the eyes of the abuser, the normal rules of how to interact with another human go out the window. I don't understand where the break is - guys seem able to spar and fuss at each other without it turning into a potentially deadly confrontation. In fact, many men tell stories of long friendships that started out as fistfights. Damned if I can figure out that. But I digress. Why is is a guy can take criticism and flak from his buddies but not his partner? Because that is what his lover/wife/girlfriend is, isn't she? A partner? Or is he threatened by her? It all makes no sense. Why can't we treat each other like humans, regardless of gender, regardless of relationships? Intimacy is not a license to treat somebody with less dignity than you'd treat a stranger on the street. That's bullshit.
Grrr. Thanks for getting me riled up on a Monday. Off to work now - look out world! said...

Hello there,

The victim blaming is non-stop.

"What did she do that he hit her?"

"Who hit who first?"

It is pathetic that these questions are even being asked.

He choked her until she was nearly losing consciousness and people are asking who hit who?

The handling of this horrific crime is yet another example of how little value black women have in society in the minds of most of our own people...