men, masculinities and gender politics

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Hey, Chris Brown! I'm still hatin'! (And here's why...)

I watched some of the Grammy telecast the other night. It featured not one but two performances by Chris Brown. And in my opinion the performances were pretty damn boring. Which for an entertainment show is kind of a sin. But to me what was far more of a sin was the fact that Chris Brown was there at all.

You know Chris Brown. He is the guy who brutally beat and choked the singer Rihanna three years ago on the night before both singers were scheduled to perform at the Grammys.

The fact that Chris Brown was given such a prominent stage the other night rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. This discomfort was perhaps best captured in a wonderful piece by Sasha Palsuka entitled “I’m not okay with Chris Brown performing at the Grammys and I’m not sure why you are.” (http://hellogiggles.com/im-not-okay-with-chris-brown-performing-at-the-grammys-and-im-not-sure-why-you-are)

Palsuka wrote: “This is not okay with me. Any man hitting a woman in anger is unacceptable and is not easily forgotten or forgiven.”

Chris’ revenge. Chris Brown is not one to take such criticism lightly. In response to the outrage he was hearing, he hopped on Twitter and started firing off missives to the masses. In several short tweets he crafted the following masterpiece:

Strange how we pick and choose who to hate! Let me ask u this. Our society is full of rappers (which I listen to) who have sold drugs (poisoning). But yet we glorify them and imitate all they do. Then right before the worlds eyes a man shows how he can make a Big mistake and learn from it, but still has to deal with day to day hatred! You guys who to hate [sic]!!! But guess what??? HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF! I’m back so watch my back as I walk away from all this negativity.

Let me take a moment to respond to these tweets:

CB: Strange how we pick and choose who to hate!

Yes, yes it is. Very. Like how you, Chris, could have felt so much blind hatred toward Rihanna that night when you viciously attacked her in the car. When you slammed her head against the car window. When you punched her in the left eye. When you drove off, steering the car with your left hand as you repeatedly punched her with your right, splattering her clothes and the interior of the car with her blood. When you yelled: “I am going to beat the shit out of you when we get home! You wait and see!” When, after she tried to call the police, you told her that you really were going to kill her. When you began to punch her again, and began to punch her arms as she attempted to wrap them around her head for protection. When you threw her cell phone out of the car. When you put in her in a headlock to prevent her from escaping. When you choked her in and out of consciousness. When you bit her fingers when she tried to push you away.

And you did all of this because she called you out for texting a woman you had been sexually involved with earlier. Buddy, you weren’t losing control. You were trying to regain it.

Yeah, Chris, it is very strange how we pick and choose who to hate.

CB: Then right before the worlds eyes a man shows how he can make a Big mistake and learn from it, but still has to deal with day to day hatred!

Remind us again, Chris, how you have learned from your mistake?

In March 2011 you said: “I’m in a positive place. I consider myself a grown-ass man. And at the end of the day, if I walk around apologizing to everybody, I’m gonna look like a damn fool.” http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/03/exclusive-domestic-violence-group-outraged-chris-brown-describing%C2%A0rihanna-beating

Are these really the words of a man who has learned from his “big mistake”? I don’t think so. To me they are the words of someone who seems to be a lot more concerned about “looking like a damn fool” than he is about the fact that he brutalized someone he claimed to love. These are the words of someone who still thinks that being “a grown-ass man” means not having to be accountable for his behaviour. Someone who sounds like he is still very far from being a responsible, grown-up man.

And, Chris, less than a week later – and just one year ago – you erupted after an interview on the television show Good Morning America. After you were asked about your domestic violence arrest, you used a chair to smash the window of your dressing room, sending glass falling two stories down to the ground below. You scared the hell out of the staff, and security had to be called. Then you stripped off your shirt and stormed out of the studio half-naked. You were lucky that ABC did not have you arrested.

Remind us again just what you have learned?

And the album you were attempting to promote that day was called F.A.M.E. You claimed that the letters stood for “forgiving all my enemies” – as if you were somehow now the persecuted one. You, who beat and choked Rihanna. You, poor little old Chris Brown.

Are you kidding me?

CB: But guess what??? HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF! I’m back so watch my back as I walk away from all this negativity.

Jeez, Chris, for someone who is leaving all this negativity behind, you sure seem to be a little fixated on it! And, just to let you know, I don’t give a rat’s ass about your Grammy. What I do care about is that you beat the crap of your girlfriend Rihanna. That you could easily have killed her. And that you really don’t seem to care at all that you hurt her. You only seem to care that you got in trouble for it.

And as for your Grammy award, have you ever heard of a guy named Phil Spector? The legendary music producer? He won a Grammy back before you were even born. And he got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He produced countless hits and shaped popular music for a generation. His work probably influences your music even if you don’t know it. But you know what? In 2009 Phil was convicted of murdering a woman named Lana Clarkson. He shot her in the head. Phil is now serving a sentence of 19 years to life. Phil Spector’s Grammy award didn’t help him beat the rap. And if you continue to be violent towards women, your Grammy won’t help you one bit, either.

The Twitter(per)verse. Twitter played another unfortunate role in this whole Chris Brown/Grammy episode. It seems that there were a number of young women who watched the Grammys and unfortunately chose to tweet little bits of in(s)anity about how Chris Brown was so hot that they themselves would not mind getting beaten up by him. These quips included:

“I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime.” “Chris Brown can beat me up... In the bedroom.” “Chris Brown can beat me any dayyyyy damn he’s so sexy.” “Chris Brown u can punch me in the face anytime u want!!!!” “Chris Brown he can beat me any day. LOL.” “Chris Brown can beat me any day... in the bedroom of course.” “I just want Chris Brown to be my boyf he can beat me all he want lol.” “Chris Brown looks so hot with blonde hair! He can beat me any day.” “Any girl that hates on Chris Brown is stupid. Don’t you realize it would be an honour if he hit you?”

One hopes that the authors of these tweets have never actually been beaten by a man. That they have no idea what the hell they are talking about. That they have no idea just how offensive these statements really are. On the other hand, if any of them have been beaten by a boyfriend, that just makes the tweets even more tragic.

I don’t really want to go into this issue here, since a man telling women just how to negotiate the world of men’s violence is a pretty iffy proposition. I don’t want to be yet one more guy telling women what to do – just like a batterer does. But if you would like to see an excellent treatment of this issue written by a woman, you can find it on jezebel.com: http://jezebel.com/5884620/violent-lothario-chris-brown-spawns-worst-twitter-trend-ever.

A message to Rihanna. This stance of not wanting to tell women what to do in regard to men is difficult to adhere to sometimes. Especially when it seems increasingly clear that Rihanna is again involved with Chris Brown. (They have just collaborated on two new songs, and rumours abound that they are sharing far more than that.) If the rumours are true, I am quite worried for Rihanna. And if I had a way to speak to her I would say this:

“Rihanna, you are such a talented artist. You have amazing gifts. Please know that you deserve – like all women do – nothing but the best in life, and that includes having a partner who treats you with respect and honor. With decency. And who never harms you physically.”

And I would leave it at that.

A message to Chris. Talking to Chris would be easier (provided he didn’t attack me for speaking to him honestly). If I were able to reach him, I would say:

“Chris, you say you have changed. But I just don’t see it. And honestly, I will probably never trust you. How long am I going to hate what you did to Rihanna? Probably forever. Will I ever be able to look at you without thinking of that horrible night when you totally brutalized her? Probably not. That’s the price you pay, Chris, when you act like you did. People may forgive, but they do not forget.

“I hope, Chris, for your sake, you truly have changed. Your bad behaviour is hurting you. But mostly I hope that you truly have changed so that any women who happen to find themselves near you will be safe from your fists and your fury. I don’t know what demons you carry inside you. But until you show a willingness to seriously address your atrocious behaviour – to be truly accountable and apologetic – I have to honestly say I don’t really care about your personal struggles. My compassion for you begins only when your violence towards others stops. Whatever your troubles, you simply have no right to act out your suffering onto other people.

“And, Chris, until you begin to take what you did seriously, nothing else you ever achieve in life will impress me.

“Not even a Grammy.”