Empathy (The #Rihanna Post)

Rihanna – You Da One Video Screenshot (:13)

I’m going to make this short and quick. And angry.

Every time you tell someone Rihanna deserves what she gets because [insert misogynistic and ignorant reason here], you are wrong.

Every time you tell someone, Rihanna is “publicly accepting her abuser–nothing more, nothing less” or “it’s so black and white,” you are wrong.

Every time you tell someone Rihanna should or should not have done whatever, whenever, wherever, and how dare she and (my favorite) how COULD she–Congratulations.

You’ve just silenced someone around you who is being abused.

And I’m not talking about Rihanna. This post isn’t about Rihanna.

This post is about the woman in the office next to you who says grace over her food. This post is about your personal trainer and his fantastic thighs. This post is about your best friend from college who you are meeting for drinks later. This post is about your professor. Or your student. Or the kid you babysit for.

This post is about your play cousin and your godchild and your niece.

This post is about your sister and your mother and the pastor’s wife.

Every time you decide to pass some abstract and sanctimonious judgement on Rihanna and her relationship with Chris Brown–man she loved, a man who beat her, a man who she is now collaborating with again–

Every time you do ANYTHING LESS THAN WALK WITH EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING WITH HER, you’ve just let someone in your life know that everything that happens to them–abuse, rape, psychological warfare–it is all their fault. If they go back, they are to blame. If s/he hits them next time, they are to blame. If s/he kills them when they leave, they are to blame.

You’ve let them know that there is no reason for them to come to YOU for help, should they decide that this time is too much and it is time to go. Worse, you’ve let them know that even if they are leaving, they can’t come to you because you are no longer–if you ever were–a safe space. A space where they don’t have to deal with the recriminations, the guilt, the pressure and fear and anger that is swimming around them because the society we live in is COMPLETELY UNFORGIVING of survivors of abuse and is especially unforgiving of “sassy,” “spicy,” “ratchet” women of color (I mean, don’t we all deserve what we get?).

Because you’ve let your judgement, your agenda, your own internalized misogyny erase safety from the picture, you’ve let someone you love know that they will not be able to rely on you in THEIR time of need.

Everytime you decide that it is fun or funny or provocative to recirculate pictures of Rihanna’s beaten face, you’ve just closed yourself off as a resource to someone who needs you. Not because you aren’t willing to help. I’m sure you are. But your actions have now shown someone around you, SOMEONE YOU LOVE, that asking you for help is also asking for ridicule. And in a situation that is already frightening and dangerous, you’ve confirmed what they already feared was true–that no one will believe them, that they are crazy, that it is all their fault and their problem, and that there is no support out there for someone like them.

Every time you decide to judge Rihanna in the Saturday Morning sitcom binary of leave/success or stay/fail, you are LETTING SOMEONE IN YOUR LIFE KNOW THAT YOUR LOVE HAS CONDITIONS, THAT YOUR AID COMES WITH STIPULATIONS AND CRITERIA THEY NEED TO MEET BEFORE THEY CAN BE DEEMED WORTHY

If not Rihanna, who is worthy? Sad faced white women? Puppies? Chris Brown who “apologized?”

The funniest part of this? Three years ago, half of y’all couldn’t even be bothered. She deserved it then too, so I guess I should be surprised that she deserves it now.

But I am.

Because, again, this isn’t about Rihanna.

But someone in your life who thought they could rely on you is hearing you. And they just unpacked their bags. Because you just closed the door in their face.

Shame on you.

(This post is dedicated to my boo, @dopegirlfresh)

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28 thoughts on “Empathy (The #Rihanna Post)

  1. You are so right. This may be the 1st one I’ve seen of this nature and I am definitely checking myself on my “disappointment” about this situation. As someone who walked in her shoes and faced similar disappointment from my friends and family as I cycled in and out of that destructive situation, I know that the last thing a survivor needs is more judgment. So I thank you for reminding me to “walk in empathy and understanding with her” because that is exactly what she needs. No more and certainly no less. Everyone has their own journey.

  2. Thank you. The other day I opened Facebook and saw a rant from a fellow survivor about what a “dumb greedy b****” Rihanna supposedly is. It hurt me so deeply I couldn’t even speak…

    • Sigh. Yeah, that’s the thing about celebrity and social media 2.0. All of the supposedly off hand and “harmless” comments are right there for everyone to see…and feel. I hope you found some time for yourself after that. I was avoiding the entire internet flurry for most of the week myself. :-/

      TY for reading.

  3. i grew really tired of everyone saying “oh look, see this dumb hoe just made a song w chris brown obvs she liked getting her ass beat” like wtf kind of logic is that? like we’re judge, jury and a hungry crowd waiting for her to get hurt again so we can say “i told you so”. it’s fked up. this post really spoke to me.
    i’ve been the abused and the abuser both places are soul draining, dark, and disgust inducing. everyone feels they have a right to comment and criticize. few people reach out with love and compassion. thank you.

  4. Thank you for this! I work for an organization that does education and leadership development for young women. Our young women have expressed similar sentiments of survivor-blaming and indignation for Chris Brown. I am looking forward to sharing this post with them and having a serious discussion about partner violence. I am sure that, with this article, we can begin to debunk some of their beliefs about the situation and do some lasting education about gendered violence and abuse.

  5. Unfortunately, this is how we treat a certain realm of society. And its not even always with the starkly negative commentary. People place assumptions on our entertainers (or people in a public spotlight) that are almost impossible to live up to. I’m reminded of Charles Barkley’s comments in the 90s where he said “I am not a role model” and the controversy that caused. The thing is, though, that he has a point. The people (or at least most of the ones I’ve seen on my facebook feed) who are making judgement (about Rihanna in this instance, and others at different times) are the ones who have placed a much greater burden on this section of society other than to write/sing/entertain, which is what she signed up for. But I feel like those two things are what’s at odds here: the duty of Rihanna to be a role model and live a perfect life vs the understanding that she is human and thus susceptible to the same things that we all are.

    • Charles: Thanks for your comment.

      There are a couple of posts floating about celebrity worship and how we should or should not even discuss Rihanna and CB. I have different opinions on that BUT that was also why I wanted to make clear that this post is really more about us in our everyday lives. Seeing the violence in that relationship as a theirs, and therefore a celebrity, issue seems to be an excuse to throw caution, compassion, and critical analysis right out the window. So in a way, yes, celebrity fandom is an issue but that doesn’t change that the onus for being active and having a language to discuss violence and remember that probably most of the people around us are survivors in some way (ESP in black and Latin@ communities) is really on us.

  6. First off I wanna say I commend you for this article. I don’t want to write a large response so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. I was with my kids’ father for 8 years. During our relationship there was 1 physical altercation and the rest verbal abuse. I finally left after coming to terms that this is not a healthy relationship and my daughter was traumatized to several situations while we were together. He married I got in a off and on 3 year relationship that was also toxic. The same year the Chris/Rhianna situation I got choked by him in front of my kids and his thru his marriage all because I was trying to protect my son. I swallowed the rage like I did everything else and now it has resurfaced because of his disrespectful behavior toward me. My own mama doesn’t know because she would say the same thing, ‘you deserved it because you kept going back’. I don’t have anyone around me to express this to and I’m walking around with so much hate I don’t know what to do with it. My point is again, thank you for this article because people who have never been thru this tend to verbally abuse that person and the victim carries that all to herself. I hope when people read your article they can change their perspective enough to say to a friend/family that’s being abused that their shoulder is free to lean on. Peace and luv!

    • Diamond: Stop that! You will really make me cry. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story and for reading. I’m sending you love and light as you go through your own process, your children y tu madre. Keep us posted as things develop and if you need to lean anywhere, you are welcome to lean this way. Much love.

      • Thank you very much. It’s so much easier for me to read great posts like yours and respond and tell my story because no one knows me personally. People who know me personally see that I’m very blunt and not intimidated by too many things but they fail to realize that I have insecurities and I may not love myself like I should so when I do admit to them deep secrets about myself they give me that look and then silence because they think I’m joking when I’m not so I just don’t say anything. It is good that you separated the bad-ass persona of Rhianna and focused more on why she feels the need to go back to an abusive situation. It’s always the strong willed person on the outside that are crying loudly on the inside. Thank you again! Peace and luv!

  7. Pingback: Creepy Parody of Rihanna’s Birthday Cake remix w Chris Brown « the quirky rican

  8. Pingback: Rihanna and Chris « Can You Relate?

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