Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From Lux: a letter to the patriarchy

Dear The Patriarchy,

Hi! How are you? Still putting it about that women have all the real power? Hilarious!

Well, another Fashion Week has been and gone and with it the still-not-getting-old debate about how size zero models are destroying our nations teen girls and whether "large" models can walk properly. Naturally, you like to offer your opinion on the subject, as you do in all things, and I can really see how you are trying to help. That said, I am really not sure that endlessly carping on about how skinny women look "weird" and how you would rather have a "real" woman is actually improving the situation as much as you think it is. It may surprise you to learn, patriarchy, that not all issues about the female body are directly connected to your collective penis. As it transpires, while you get to have a crazy amount of influence in the way we girls see our bodies, you don't actually dictate every aspect of our self image. I know!

The fashion industry cares little about whether you get your rocks off over their models. A huge, vapid, global behemoth with a largely female client base gets to define beauty any way it likes, for better or worse. The way it currently stands, I'm leaning towards worse, but not because you find double-A cups and jutting collar bones to be a bonerkiller. Yeah, sure, you want to do Cristal Renn. Who doesn't? But her story and her success in the fashion world has implications that transcend your groin. And blaming a secret "gay fashion mafia" for making flat chests and slim hips into an ideal body shape is not only daft and hand-waving a whole set of complex societal issues, it also makes you seem like homophobic as well as simply misogynist. Your dazzling resistance to believe that any concept of female attractiveness simply has to be about your desires almost makes me admire the fashion industry. Please do not make me admire the fashion industry, patriarchy!

While we are on the subject of body image, I feel I should point out that eating disorders are a far more complex psychological issue than "wanting to look like Kate Moss", a cliche that never gets old, by the way. Sometimes, it's not about wanting to please you, either, or wanting to conform to some unattainable standard of beauty. You know, the kind perpetuated by the magazines and films you like so much. Sometimes, it's about self-destruction and about control, and this is a state of mind that transcends gender. So when a man admits to this particular self-destructive urge, how about not giving it a funny name like "manorexia" or taking the piss or adding little emasculating comments of your own, as if the stigma of mental illness were not enough. There are other ways of hating your body than punishing yourself at the gym, patriarchy. Or crying yourself to sleep at night wondering how Don Draper makes it all look so easy.

So, patriarchy, I see what you're trying to do for us poor, poor ladies. But this is one time (among thousands) that you should maybe butt out. I know it's hard to accept that sometimes your judgment of our bodies is neither wanted, needed or appreciated, but it's time to realise that your desires don't get a say in everything we do. It's time to move on. Get a hobby maybe. Have you thought about knitting?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

From Emily: For the Men

I keep hoping that one, just one, of the many male people who claim to be my friend will come through and contribute to Not Another Wave. But, since that is not happening, I've decided I need to speak up for them.

So, the other day I'm walking home from campus, and I hear this girl shout out to a nearby guy, "Hey! My friend likes your butt!!" It wouldn't be such a big problem, except that this was at Brigham young University. And, let me tell you, most BYU girls would freak out if a boy yelled that at them. I think a lot of women would - it would seem obscene, rude, and utterly inappropriate. Some might even label it "sexual harassment," since it took place on campus. The guy just shook his head and kept walking, but I was irate on his behalf. I don't know where the mistaken belief that there's no such thing as a man being abused, raped, or harassed came from, but I think men deserve just as much respect as women. Nobody deserves to be objectified, men included.

And you know what else? I think we're in a culture that unfairly stereotypes all men as either pathetic losers or promiscuous, testosterone-driven, emotionally dense slobs. Is that true for some men? Of course! But certainly not for all of them, and probably not even for a majority of men. In fact, a few years ago I was in a class where our teacher tried to demonstrate something about the difference between men and women by having us play a game, girls against guys. He said the point of the game was to get as many points as you could, and that there was no competition between teams. You had to choose either "yes" or "no" in each round, and what you chose compared to the other team determined how many points your team earned. If both teams chose "yes," you'd both end up with a high number of points - however, if one team chose "yes" and the other chose "no," the team that chose "yes" would get fewer points, and the team that chose "no" would still get the highest possible number of points.

Well, I wasn't stupid - I knew exactly what the men were going to do - they were going to lie to our faces, act nice, and then stab us in the back in their desire to have the highest possible score. So I talked my team into choosing "no," since I thought we'd get more points that way. (if both teams chose "no," they got more points than if only one person chose "no"). Turns out the guys had chosen "yes." So, the guys told us they wanted to cooperate and both choose "Yes" in the second round, but I still didn't believe them, so once again I talked my team into choosing "no." And once again, the guys chose "yes." Again, they offered to choose "yes" along with us. So, we chose yes, driven by guilt more than anything else.

Our teacher had been using this experiment for 10 years, and he had never once had a class where the girls chose "no" on the first round and the guys chose "yes." NEVER. It almost always worked out that the guys said they wanted to cooperate, and then they didn't. I recently learned that the teacher is still using the activity, and my class is still the only class to defy those stereotypes.

So, what does this say about me? Am I more masculine than BYU guys since I'm from the East? I sincerely doubt it. Do I have issues with trusting men? Eh, yeah, I kind of do, as all of my exes can attest. Am I unusually competetive for a woman? Probably. But I don't think I'm just an anomaly. There's just a lot of deviation within each gender, and a lot of overlap between genders. Even in a predominantly heterosexual environment like BYU.

Now, I'm not trying to say men consistently get the short end of the stick. I don't believe that any more than I believe white, heterosexual, Christian, middle class Americans consistently get the short end of the stick. But I really do feel for men, whatever life situation they may be in. Men are sometimes told to suck it up and accept injustices in their lives that most people would never encourage a woman to accept in her life, and they're also fed stereotypes about themselves that simply are not true.

So, although I tend to focus on the injustices and problems women face, I don't forget what men have to put up with too. Maybe some day we'll all just treat each other with decency and respect.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From Erica: a brief rant

As the title of this post says, I'm going to be brief here. The basic background of my frustration, which is what prompts me to post here, is that my partner's father emailed me a series of posters from World War II, with a series of statements amounting to "Why aren't we patriotic, God-fearing, freedom-loving Americans anymore?" I answered, essentially, that we'd taken quite a dose of hypocrisy during and after the 1940s, what with the internment of Japanese Americans and Jim Crow, and had subsequently learned (in theory) not to blindly paint ourselves as the good guys in every conflict. In his answer, he told me that I learned to hate America by going to school in Canada, that my partner's grandfather fought for these freedoms that I took for granted, and that's what makes me a good liberal.

In list form, here's my outrage:
  • Every fifth grader in the United States is taught about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and every fifth grader is taught about Jim Crow laws and how they impacted African Americans. It's not like these are lies being spread by non-Americans to slander our good name. They happened. Their effects continue to be felt. I didn't need to go to Canada to learn about them. If he'd been paying attention in school, he would've learned these things too.
  • Having an ambivalent opinion about the United States, its history, and its potential doesn't mean I "hate" America. It means I'm honest, and not blinded by some patriotic dogma. I think it's given a lot of people a lot of things to be proud of, and I think it has the potential to do even better. But that doesn't mean that I will unthinkingly follow its every move with a zealot level of enthusiasm and approval. And honestly, I think that's the best way to do it, no matter whose side you're on. Unthinking or unconditional acceptance of any political group or belief system is a recipe for disaster.
  • My grandfather fought in WWII as well, and resigned in protest over the Vietnam War. This is something that, to a certain extent, I'm proud of his memory for- conscientious objections to war aside. Attempting to use someone's grandparents as a guilt mechanism is a pretty cheap tactic, and something for which I have no respect.
There we go. I've ranted, and I feel much better. See you soon for the kickoff of Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2009!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Call for Domestic Violence Awareness Submissions

Dear Friends and Readers,

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Erica and Emily will be compiling posts that address that theme. In order to more fully raise awareness and combat myths, Not Another Wave is looking for submissions about survivors and victims of domestic abuse, whether the stories involve yourself, friends, or family. The submissions can be written in whatever format you prefer, including poetry, free-form prose, letters, or anything else that you fancy.

In order to make contributors feel as safe as possible, the mods at Not Another Wave offer the following considerations:
  • Please consider the safety and privacy of yourself and the people you write about, and feel free to change any names or dates you feel you need to (including your own).
  • If you have a story of the ongoing abuse of anyone younger than 18 or older than 65, please bear in mind that we are legally obligated to report it to the proper authorities.
  • We've got a plethora of resources at our disposal! Anyone who would like more information, referrals to local organizations, or similar materials is welcome to them- all you need to do is ask.

Just send us a line at notanotherwave@gmail.com and we'll include your submission in our October schedule.

-- Not Another Wave --

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Emily: God Help the Girl

Pandora (aka my Summer love that has yet to let me down) recently introduced me to this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9zQggfpYEM I'm feeling lazy, hence the ugliness of the url posted straight up. I won't say much, because I think the lyrics speak for themselves, but this might very well become my new theme song - I love it that much.

Seriously, though, as you listen to the lyrics, don't you find it interesting how the idea of a heterosexual girl focusing on work or school instead of boys is treated?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

From Erica: loving my balance on this fence

Something that's been bothering me for a long time is biphobia.

For some of you, the automatic response to that is to say "of course, it's a huge problem!" And for others of you, the automatic response sounds more like "huh?"

Here's the thing. We've got a lot of homophobia floating around out there, from straight folk as well as queer folk, about who can/should/does love whom and how acceptable that is or isn't. We've got a lot of literature, research, and theories making themselves heard in academia and the broader news media about what gayness means and how it comes to be, and of course about how gayness is affected by race, socioeconomic status, sex/gender identity, and more. There are gay folk who turn sexual desire into a political act, gay folk who loathe themselves, gay folk who just want the heteronormative lifestyle with a same-sex partner, and gay folk who don't care. There are promiscuous gay folk and celibate gay folk, and gay folk somewhere in between. But there's a long string of politics running from each end of these spectra to the other, and the overarching message is that it's okay to be gay. It's even better to be proud to be gay!

Being bisexual, bi-queer, or just bi- all labels that vary in definition and distinction from one self-identified bi person to the next- comes with a very different story, and that's what I want to talk about today.

In my experience, gay and lesbian folk can be gay or lesbian in many different ways, and as long as they say they're sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex and gender identity, people pretty much take it at face value. As long as they're not engaging in heterosexual behaviour at the same time, it usually goes uncontested. Not always, but usually.

For bi folk, it's a constant challenge and a constant quest to "prove" one's sexuality. I'm mostly speaking about the overarching rhetorical themes surrounding bi women, since bi men have a whole different set of stereotypes thrown at them, but some of these things speak true for anyone in the bi camp. Here are the things I've been told, as a bi woman, that I'm "really" going through:
-I'm not really bi. I just want attention.
-I'm not really bi. I just want to be part of the queer community while remaining in a safe, heterosexual relationship and use monogamy as an excuse to avoid being outed as straight.
-I'm not really bi. I'm not polyamorous.
-I'm not really bi. I look too femme.
-I'm not really bi. I'm actually 100% into women, and just can't face the truth.
-I'm not really bi. My sexual predilections, while not vanilla, aren't spicy enough.
-I'm not really bi. I want to attract the sexual attention of more men who find women-who-have-sex-with-women (WSW) hot.
-I'm not really bi. I'm not promiscuous enough.

Here's the truth, coming straight from this horse's mouth: I'M BI-QUEER-SEXUAL. I'm sexually attracted to males and females, men and women. I've been attracted to folk who play with androgyny too, though my trend has been pretty gender normative (as politically incorrect as that may be). As trans advocates have been saying for a long time, and as everyone else needs to start learning soon, sexuality is not the same as sex is not the same as gender identity is not the same as sexual behaviours is not the same as an entire person. Here's the thing. I like dresses, and I like playing with makeup from time to time. I've played with gender, and I feel most at home in a mainstream-White clothing-hair-makeup identity, with a dash of hippie thrown in. I'm a jealous person, and while I support peoples' rights to be polyamorous, I recognize that I'm not really capable of having an open, loving, safe, and happy relationship with someone who has other partners.

Monogamy works for me. As such, that means that when I settle in with a partner, my partner-based sexual behaviours fall into either "straight" or "gay" territory, as long as other people are defining it. For me, it's always sex, but for everyone else, the label matters. My current partner happens to be man-identified, male-identified, and straight-identified. I love him, and I see no need to justify that fact. Being with him makes desire women no less, and if he were a woman, that would make me desire men no less. I'm not on any fence for a lack of ability to choose one side or another; I'm balancing on the fence and able to reach both sides because I enjoy both.

Some straight women are jealous of the attention that bi women get for being bi, because of the myth that WSW are somehow sexually more available and more gratifying than straight women. Some lesbian women resent bi women like me, who can "pass" as straight if they want to. The truth is that both of those realities are horrible. The "attention" I get when I come out- the catcalls, the "Oooh, does Nick get threesomes?" questions- isn't fun at all. It's negative because it pins me into a stereotype that I don't fit. And the ability to pass as straight means that I'm expected to be complicit in heterosexism and homophobia because I'm not "one of Them," which is revolting and just plain wrong. I'm not bi to get queer attention and I'm not bi to get straight privileges. I'll admit that I get the privileges if I'm not careful- but that's something I seek to avoid as much as possible.

So here's an idea for people to chew on and maybe learn from: let my sexuality be itself. Being bi doesn't make me a traitor to anyone or any cause. It doesn't make me an attention-seeker, it doesn't make me a disempowered sexual beast, and it doesn't make me a liar. All it does is make me find people of multiple sexes and genders attractive, and makes me more aware of the negative treatment non-heterosexual sexualities get in our society.

For a further step, take this into consideration: stop thinking in terms of "heterosexual" and "homosexual." Think in terms of attraction (who you like), behaviour (who you do), and desire (who you want) instead, because the three are interconnected but not identical and because human sexualities are far more complicated than our two boxes can permit. When people talk about "gay people," consider how that term is an androcentric exclusion of lesbians and a heterocentric exclusion of a variety of sexualities, and a denial of the variety of personalities and preferences that the term is intended to encompass.

Above all, if you take no other step, please consider this: I like my view from the fence. It's a lot broader and more comfortable than being confined to one side or another. Please let me be up here, with all my cohorts, in peace.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

From Emily: Chris Brown on Larry King

Here's a link to a youtube video of the Larry King Live Interview . The entire interview is shown in five parts.

I've been rewatching the interview since I only saw part of it, and I cannot believe my ears. I don't know how I didn't hear this the first time I watched the interview on TV:

When Larry King plays a clip from the apology video Chris Brown posted online, King asks him what he meant when he said he was sorry that he "wasn't able to handle the situation better and differently." But if you listen closely, what Brown actually says is "I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I am truly, truly sorry, and that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better." In case the significance of that little conjunction isn't as obvious to everyone else as it is to me, let me break this down:

the conjunction makes it so that this statement could be broken down into the following two sentences:

I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I am truly, truly sorry
I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today that I wasn't able to handle the situation both differently and better

As problematic as an apology that states "I'm sorry I was incapable of doing anything else" is, "I want you to know that I'm sorry, and I also want you to know I was incapable of anything else" is even worse.

What disturbs me even more about the video, though, is that Chris Brown refuses to answer any of Larry King's questions about what caused him to become violent, with the argument of "I can't talk about that night, since it would violate Rihanna's privacy." He's probably right to not discuss that night if it would violate her privacy - for all we know, he'd just found out she was having an affair, and that's something she would not want out in the open. But if he truly thinks that every single fact leading up to that act of violence was contained in that one night, then I doubt he understands his personal responsibility in that situation well enough to change his behavior the next time an unexpected "incident" affects his temper that much. We all do things we shouldn't at times, and I think everyone has had an experience where they did something that surprised them. But there is always something leading up to it, whether we initially recognize it or not. I'm a firm believer in the human capacity to predispose oneself to react in particular ways, and I worry that anyone who cannot understand what it is that predisposed them to act that way might not be able to avoid acting that way again.

It also troubles me that his lawyer so openly cautioned him against publicly apologizing, and against pleading guilty right away. I think he should have let him. It also bothers me that his lawyer's defense for Brown's behavior in other incidents is yeah, but she slapped him first that one time and when he broke a glass that other time, it was technically vandalism, not domestic violence. Perhaps those facts show those incidents in a clearer light, but it doesn't change the fact that Brown demonstrated violence with Rihanna prior to that night. Many perpetrators of abuse work their way up from inanimate objects, to animals, to people. As Larry King points out, if Brown understood what had brought him to this point and could articulate it, he could help other people avoid becoming abusive. And that would do a lot more for the world than producing music or painting over graffiti.

Friday, September 4, 2009

From Erica: on tolerating and punishing intimate partner violence

Emily's last post got me thinking some more about the aftermath of Chris Brown's assault on his girlfriend, and with Domestic Violence Awareness Month coming up in a few weeks, I feel like it's a good opportunity to do a post on some basics of how our society responds to intimate partner violence. For those of you who are wondering, by the way, my area of specialization is domestic abuse prevention and intervention; I've worked in multiple domestic abuse prevention organizations and filled a variety of roles therein, including outreach and education roles.

Given the long tradition of tacitly accepting intimate partner abuse as a fact of life in Western society- and here I'm thinking of the popular belief in the origin of the "rule of thumb," the fact that it took until the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 to declare marital rape a crime in the US, and the fact that anti-cruelty organizations were established for animals and children about 100 years before "safe houses" were established for female victims of abuse- it should come as no surprise to anyone that lax punishments like the one Chris Brown received for putting his girlfriend in the hospital aren't uncommon for perpetrators of intimate partner violence. Emily and I were talking about this, and the truth of the matter is that, if Chris Brown had beaten a stranger that badly, he would've received jail time.

Of course, both of us are outraged that he's getting off as lightly as he is. My partner, while he agreed, was also seeking intellectual debate and asked why Chris Brown should receive something more serious. As my partner's argument went, and as many peoples' arguments go when dealing with assaults against strangers vs. assaults against partners, someone who randomly assaults a stranger- say, because this stranger knocked over their drink at the bar, or looked at them funny, or whatever small excuse they give- is more of a menace to society than the person who assaults their partner because they're liable to do it again, to another person, for another shallow reason- the long history between partners makes the assault more complex. Essentially, the argument runs, the stranger-assaulter is more dangerous because s/he will likely lose their temper with other people and thus have a broader impact on the community than the person who's "only" assaulting their partner.

This is what I have to say about that:

Reasons for assaulting people, be they strangers or partners, are almost always shallow. One abuser I knew of put his wife in the hospital because she hadn't ironed his shirts "correctly." Another one spent almost an hour going over his wife's activities for the day, actively hunting for something he could "get" her for, before finally making up a reason to beat her into the ER. Having a longer, more complex history between two people doesn't make the choice to physically abuse someone any more morally ambiguous; in fact, when you're talking about people who are supposed to love each other and care for each other, their prior relationship should serve as an even greater buffer against the possibility of abuse. The fact of the matter is, someone who assaults someone else- especially their partner- is choosing to do something wrong and is responsible for the consequences.

Furthermore, the person who commits an assault against a stranger is usually doing it more out of issues with temper and self-control than the person who assaults their partner. Intimate partner abuse isn't about love, jealousy, anger, or temper. It's about one person doing everything they can to control the other. That's why abusive relationships rarely start out with physical abuse. Early on, an abuser doesn't "need" physical abuse to keep their partner "in line." And that's why abusers toe the party line that Chris Brown did, that they should "just walk away" instead of "letting" their partners "provoke" them into committing acts of abuse. That way, the abuse becomes the victim's fault, rather than the choice of the abuser. Temper issues are dangerous; the person who's willing to use anything, even extreme acts of physical violence, to control someone is far scarier.

If we want to take this all the way to the final argument my partner made, about community impact, let's do something that our society never does: let's stop assuming that the impact of intimate partner abuse stays behind closed doors and between two people. The fact is that the impact is community-wide, just as much as the impact of the stranger assault. Let's say that Person A assaults their partner, Person B, one evening, and Person B has a couple of broken ribs, severe bruising on the stomach, and some sort of arm injury- maybe a fractured wrist. Person B visits the hospital to get their injuries sorted out, and by the time they get out of there, it's 5 AM and they haven't had any sleep. Their productivity for the day, if they're employed? Gone. Either they're exhausted and do badly at work, or they take the day off to let the painkillers do their job. If Persons A and B have children living with them, those kids have witnessed violence in their family- even if they didn't see it face-to-face, they know about it- and are gradually being traumatized. The kids' teachers have to deal with the stress the kids are experiencing, whether the kids are acting out in class or withdrawing. If they've been sent to stay with a relative while Person B heals, or a relative comes to help out around the house, that's further strain on the kids and an additional burden on the relative who's asked to help out.

So far, that's an impact on hospital staff, school staff, work, kids, and extended family.

The saga continues, however. Abuse almost never ends between partners unless the relationship ends- this is fact. Let's say that, the next time Person A assaults Person B, Person B is able to call the police. The police come out and issue an emergency restraining order against Person A, and Person B, after some hospital time to fix up these latest injuries, takes the kids and heads to a shelter. Because of the danger of having Person A being able to locate Person B at their old job, Person B either takes a leave of absence or quits; similarly, because of the danger of having the kids picked up at school by Person A or of being followed from the school by them, Person B chooses to transfer the kids to a new school district. While at the shelter, Person B looks for a new place to live and a new source of income; when they can't get a job right away, they apply for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families- in popular terms, welfare- to tide themselves and their kids over and pay for a new apartment until they land a new job.

That's an additional impact on the hospital staff, police, extra strain on the kids, social services, the job industry, and on society as a whole as they put additional funding into social assistance programs like TANF.

To get back to Person A, the judge issues a restraining order of 1-3 years (depending on the state) to keep Person A away from Person B in the future. Person A is required to go to classes on how not to be an abuser as well. Unfortunately, all of the evidence points to a lack of success: of the abusers who actually attend "batterer's intervention" programs, regardless of whether they're "supposed" to or not, only about 2% will actually develop healthy relationship habits to use in the future. In all likelihood, Person A leaves the program, gets a new partner, and begins the cycle all over again.

The final impact tally thus needs to include all of the earlier impacts, multiplied by the number of partners Person A abuses in his/her lifetime.

So is the person who assaults a stranger actually more dangerous than the person who assaults their partner? The evidence would suggest not.* Instead, what becomes clear is that our society is tacitly accepting of abuse between partners, especially when the abuser's a man and the victim's a woman (although let's be honest: how often does our society believe that a man can be abused by a woman?). The US has a long history of expecting a certain balance of power between men and women in romantic relationships, and popular culture- especially White-dominated popular culture- teaches us that the very things that ought to be warning signs about abuse, such as possessiveness and jealousy, are "romantic." Just look at the massive "heartthrob" reaction to Edward Cullen from Twilight. Even African-American culture, with a history of strong, capable women, isn't immune- there's a lot of writing and talking out there from African-American men who feel emasculated by their female friends and relatives, as though men of any race are entitled to some sort of power over women that they aren't getting. For some reason, the metaphorically loudest reactions to cases like Chris Brown's aren't demanding that we take intimate partner violence more seriously.

And what's even more frightening is how much our perception changes based on the races or sexes of the people involved. How would we have reacted if both Chris Brown and Rihanna were White? Or, more frighteningly still, how much would Chris Brown's sentence been changed if Rihanna were White, and he were still African-American? If Chris Brown had assaulted a White woman, it's a no-brainer to say that he would've gotten a much heavier sentence than he did. Our punishments for those who commit assaults are directly correlated to the social value we assign to the victims, and even to the status of being victims. In our minds, it goes: male victim? Lighter sentence- men can't be victims. African-American woman? Lighter sentence- African-Americans aren't as important as White folks. Trans person? Lighter sentence- how do we know it wasn't an extreme reaction to discovering the victim's dark past? Interracial violence? Depends on who assaulted who. Woman of any race? She was probably provoking him- we know how women can be nags. If you think I'm exaggerating, or kidding, or anything other than completely serious, check out the Bureau of Justice statistics on victims and the US Department of Justice statistics on perpetrators.

I'm going to leave this topic for now, since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US and I plan on focusing pretty heavily on it for those four weeks. But keep it in mind. Watch how our assumptions affect our initial and lasting impressions of the abuse cases we hear and read about. It's frightening.

*The type of cycle and level of impact I've presented here is about as average as it gets in abusive relationships, based on the statistics reported by studies and domestic abuse organizations across the country, and based on what I've seen in three years of working with victims of abuse.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From Emily: How do we respond to the Chris Browns of the world?

Tonight I saw part of an interview Chris Brown had on Larry King. The interview raised a lot of questions for me about how we can encourage growth and changes in perpetrators of abuse without downplaying the seriousness of what they've done. Brown's lawyer said he'd come to love him as a son or a nephew, and that he didn't think Brown would do something like that ever again. If his lawyer is right, then good. What bothered me was the way Brown explained what had "happened" in "the incident." He said he regretted not being more mature, since the mature thing would have been to walk away from the argument.

True - but beating a partner indicates a lot more than immaturity. Brown's repeated complaints about "the haters" who are "just bent on criticizing" him, and his insistence that he's only apologizing to Rihanna and his true fans [emphasis not added], all strike me as signs of immaturity. Beating someone up, though - that's more than immaturity.

So - is it wrong for all of us feminists and "haters" to continue criticizing him even after he's apologized? Are we interfering with his ability to grow and change? Does he even want to change, or does he just want to restore his reputation?