My frustration with the talented singer Rihanna breaks every rule about women and celebrities and personal privacy I preach with some frequency. But I'm still mad at her.
The lovely songstress was at the Grammys Sunday night, resplendent in a red gown and cozied up with her boyfriend, Chris Brown. What made this even different from, oh, say, the same event in 2009 is that the two were there, and they were there together. The couple missed the musical awards event four years ago after Brown bloodied up his beloved's face.
Since then, the two have come back together—this, despite the fact that Brown has been accused of failing to complete the community service detail he was given after hitting Rihanna. This, despite the fact that Brown, according to police, punched singer Frank Ocean in the face a couple of weeks ago over a dispute over a parking space. And threatened to shoot him.
On paper, none of this is any of our business. People—singers and otherwise—can date whomever they like. They can forgive, despite all evidence of an ongoing threat of violence. And if a woman indeed becomes a victim of domestic violence, it is the fault of the attacker, not the woman.
And yet, I want to go up to Rihanna and shake her (gently), reciting the statistics on partner abuse and the possibility of a repeat performance by a man who still can't seem to keep his fist to himself. I hate the idea of celebrities—particularly those in the arts or sports—being expected to serve as an example or role model for others. And yet it makes me cringe to think of young women looking at Rihanna and Brown and deciding there's something very hip about sticking by the man who beats the hell out of you. This is not a classic case of a woman with no job, no education, and no money being stuck with a man she needs for support. This is not a single mother with no place to go if she leaves an abusive, violent man. This is a well-to-do performer who can support herself.
Rolling Stone magazine, Rihanna said she was making decisions to ensure her own happiness. She said:
Even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake. After being tormented for so many years, being angry and dark, I'd rather just live my truth and take the backlash. I can handle it.
Let's hope "backlash" is the worst of it. Ocean, for his part, beat out Brown for an award Sunday night. Rihanna is a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, and was honored with two awards herself at the 55th annual Grammys. It would be a terrible tragedy if the next tribute to her is at her funeral.
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