Friday, March 20, 2009

Teens Blame Rihanna

Nearly half of the 200 Boston teenagers interviewed for an informal poll said that Chris Brown's assault on his girlfriend Rihanna was, in fact, Rihanna's fault.

Of the teens questioned, more than half said both Brown, 19, and Rihanna, 21, were equally responsible for the assault. More than half said the media were treating Brown unfairly, and 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for the incident.
Now, this was not a scientific poll, but I guarantee that if we went next door to Decatur High School we'd hear the same thing. Oprah did, on her Thursday program on dating violence.

Unfortunately, we almost expect that attitude from the boys, but the vehemence with which teenage girls and grown women defended Chris Brown caught us by surprise. It shouldn't have, and Melissa from Shakesville calls us on it (warning, linked post contains adult language).

As if boys and girls grow up in a different culture. As if girls who are told they are less than over and over and over, in myriad ways, throughout their entire lives, who see rape and violence against women served up as the butt of jokes and consumable entertainment, are just going to spontaneously reject all of that and create an alternative viewpoint for themselves in which abuse against women is wrong. As if, in a culture that communicates to girls from birth that their worth is largely determined on their ability to "get a man," girls will spontaneously reject the narratives that excuse men's behavior and demonize their female victims. As if girls will spontaneously be self-reflective enough to identify they blame victims because they deeply fear being one, and because society defines victims as "weak," and we tell girls to be "strong." As if girls can just be brought up in a patriarchy and expected to spontaneously free themselves from its stranglehold.

Why do we expect that of girls, but not of boys? If you're arguing that it's perfectly logical that boys should condone violence against women, then you're essentially just arguing that boys are socialized by their culture. And if you're arguing that it's consternatingly inexplicable that girls should condone violence against women, then you're essentially arguing that girls should be magically resistant to their socialization. That's fair.

Where have we gone wrong with girls? The same place we've gone wrong with boys: Not providing them alternative narratives, that's where.
That's where the real anti-violence work lies, folks. That's how violence against women ends. Providing our children, male and female, with an alternative narrative, an alternative way to live their relationships than through violence, unequal power, and tactics of control.

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