In defense of Rihanna

All weekend long, I have held my tongue. It’s my own fault, really, choosing to be Facebook friends with folks young enough to be my children(they were my children in a sense, before I became a biological parent); I should have known that their opinions and feelings are a generation apart from mine. Still, it has been jarring having to read and therefore “listen” to the voices of the strong, intelligent, articulate young people who feel that Chris Brown has been wronged. Chris Brown?!?

Count me in with Oprah and Nikki from my radio morning show and all us old school feminists. I don’t feel sorry for Chris Brown. He wasn’t on the receiving end of a beating. He can apologize and pick up garbage in Backwater, Southern state until my daughter can vote and he won’t get any sympathy from me. True, he’s lost his endorsement by a chewing gum company and cute white couples are less likely to dance into the church on their wedding day to one of his songs. But he’ll be gracing the cover of the resurrected Vibe magazine next month and is currently getting lots of media attention now that Rihanna is making the talk show circuit. And plenty of smart young people of color are defending him on Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and in conversations across high school and college campuses everywhere. That makes me sad.

“She must have gotten him mad.” “She shouldn’t have been going through his phone.” “He was stressed.” It’s amazing how insidious abusers are. They get into our heads, convince us that the victim is at fault, that they deserved that slap, that slashing, that gunshot. Rihanna has owned her part in the tragedy, admitting it was unhealthy and obsessive on both sides. But that does not make it her fault. No one’s daughter/sister/mother/friend deserves to be abused.

Perhaps Rihanna would be wise to avoid the limelight, to express her pain through writing a memoir or creating an autobiographical song/video, rather than going on national TV. But she is young and healing from deep wounds. She won’t even truly realize what she has survived for several years. Right now, she is trying to do what is right for other young women, even as some of them turn on her.

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