Everyone from Jay-Z to country singer Miranda Lambert to half the blogosphere has an opinion on what the heck Rihanna is doing collaborating (and possibly more) with her abusive ex-boyfriend Chris Brown on two new songs. But why are so few talking about Rihanna and Brown’s family histories of domestic violence?
Any chance the uproar over Brown’s Grammy performance had of dying down was quashed by the simultaneous release of Rihanna’s “Birthday Cake” featuring Brown and Brown’s new single, “Turn Up The Music,” featuring Rihanna. Meanwhile, Brown and Rihanna have been tweeting at each other like flirtatious high-schoolers. Rihanna also tweeted this week:
So you kind of want to be cynical and you kind of want to tell them to grow up and you kind of want to be worried about this more-or-less grown woman you don’t even know and you kind of worry about the ‘message’ this is all sending about violence against women. Amanda Dobbins at Vulture nails it here, with “The Argument You’re Having With Yourself About Rihanna and Chris Brown;” it’s also a nice summary of the argument the Internet is having about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Clearly, the publicity is good for both their albums (Perez Hilton’s post about it was pretty accurately titled “Rihanna & Chris Brown mind-fuck the world”). And who are we to say … yada yada yada. But in the end, what it keeps coming back to is: Maybe Rihanna is in an abusive relationship. Billboard’s editorial director Bill Werde said:
“People have the tendency to forget that maybe this isn’t some kind of contrived career move or a staged opportunity for PR,” Werde said. “This media-saturated world is trying to make sense of a very, very human decision.”
Maybe Rihanna is a very famous, very rich, very talented 24-year-old in an abusive relationship.
Rihanna grew up with a father who was both abusive to her mother and had been a victim of abuse himself. In an interview in Rolling Stone last summer, she said:
“I actually feel really bad for my father. He was abused too – he got beat up by his stepdad when he was young. He has resentment toward women, because he felt like his mom never protected him, and unfortunately, my mother was the victim of that. I’m not giving him excuses. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I still blame him. But I understand the source.”
She also says she thinks being a masochist is “common for people who witness abuse in their household. They can never smell how beautiful a rose is unless they get pricked by a thorn.”
Brown grew up with a stepfather who beat his mother. He said (back in 2006) that because of that, “I used to always feel the hate for anybody that disrespected a lady. Or called a lady the B-word … or just disrespected her.” And yet …
It’s not uncommon for children raised in households where a parent is abusive to grow up to commit or be victims of domestic abuse themselves. In the Brown article above, Sheryl Cates, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, says: “It’s a learned behavior. It can be unlearned … But it’s about a belief system where you think, ‘I have the right to hurt someone I love.’”