Must a Victim Be Famous For You To Care?
When celebs abuse women, public outrage is for those who beat the equally well-known
By now, you've probably lost count of the number of articles, tweets, YouTube replies and Facebook comments calling singer Chris Brown everything but what his mother named him. Some people hate his music, while many others just hate him. Once an R&B golden boy, the change in public attitude came after he assaulted pop princess Rihanna in 2009 after a heated argument turned violent.
While the removal of his songs from radio rotation, suspension of his commercial ads and loss of his sponsorships were the as-to-be-expected punishments at the time, the hounding by the public and media since then have prolonged to the point that Brown often still looks like the aggressor even when he is the one being attacked.
While it took CB a year or two to be viewed as someone other than an abuser once again, the fact remains that despite #teambreezy continuing to buy his albums and pack out his shows, he's still labeled as a bad guy whom some wish would disappear.
But Brown isn't alone in his quest to reshape his image and get his career back on track after abusing a woman.
[Also Read: Leave Chris Brown Alone]
Rapper Mystikal topped the charts in 2000 with his smash, "Shake Ya A**," only to go to prison four years later to serve a six-year sentence for sexual battery and extortion. He along with two bodyguards forced his hairstylist, whom they claim stole his money, to perform oral sex on them to make up for it. In the years that he was put away, Mystikal may not have been in the public eye, but his name wasn't necessarily dragged through the mud either. Out of sight, out of mind perhaps.
But since his release, the demand for new music has grown. Each time he releases a new song or video you'll see online comments saying, "Mystikal's still got it!" or "I'm so glad Mystikal is back!"
Now, there's nothing wrong with being happy to see your favorite artist making music again. But it is pretty funny how many of the same voices expressing happiness at Mystikal's return are the same ones wishing that Chris Brown would go away.
Unlike Chris Brown's victim, Rihanna, Mystikal's former hair stylist doesn't have a fan club. Nor does she have endorsements. We probably wouldn't remember or recognize her if we saw her on TV either. She hasn't recorded songs with Jay-Z or Kanye West. And Barbara Walters and Oprah didn't trip over themselves to get an interview with her. To this day, most of us still don't know her name or what she looks like.
And odds are that most of us don't care either.
Why does it seem that when celebrities get in trouble for putting their hands on women, how the public treats them differs depending on whether their victim is famous?
When Mike Tyson was initially accused and later charged with raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America contestant, in 1991, Tyson's lawyers attempted to defend him using an argument that many of Tyson fans were already making: Tyson himself was the victim and the unknown Washington was out to "get him." Tyson served three years in prison behind the incident and pretty much picked up his boxing career where he left off when he was released. Today, he's considered an endearing character, and has even headlined his own Vegas and Broadway shows depicting his life story. At the time of the controversy, Washington did some interviews. But since? Nobody has cared to mention Washington's name in 21 years.
The story of Ike Turner is somewhat similar to that of Chris Brown's. Up until 1986 when his ex-wife, Tina Turner, published her autobiography "I, Tina," Ike himself was an afterthought from his 1960s-1970s heydey. But when readers found that he was abusive towards the Rock n' Roll icon during their time, his already depleting career took even more of a nose dive as his name became synonymous with "wife beater," pretty much erasing the contributions he made to popular music. The 1993 film adaptation of the book, "What's Love Got To Do With It?", was the nail in the coffin.
[Also Read: Does Media Get Domestic Abuse Wrong?]
For as much fun as people used to make of him, R. Kelly hasn't missed a "step" since his notorious sextape with an underage girl leaked. On top of being found not guilty of 14 counts of child pornography, In the 10 years since the tape, Kells has sold 8 million records worldwide. We still don't know the young girl's name.
And again, odds are nobody cares.
In America, it seems that if the victim isn't famous enough, then compassion for her isn't a priority. Sure, media outlets jumped on the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide when it was the hot topic; many of them even taking the opportunity to make a case for gun control and mental illness awareness.
But can you remember how many headlines had his murdered girlfriend Kasandra Perkins' name in it next to his?
You've probably lost count of how many articles, tweets, Facebook comments and YouTube replies left her name out too.