Rihanna’s a Daughter and a Human and Loves a Man…And We’re Surprised


Zach Rosenberg doesn’t judge Rihanna for going back to Chris Brown, but her situation reminds him of the importance of fathers in their kids’ lives.

So, Rihanna’s back with Chris Brown.

First let me be clear: I’m not here to vilify Rihanna or Chris Brown. That’s too easy. See, I’m a father now, so life isn’t cut-and-dry anymore; everything’s got a process. I have to imagine my own daughter in Rihanna’s place, my own son in Chris Brown’s place. Or maybe the other way around?

Even that’s complicated. I’ve only got a son, so I don’t yet know that unique bond between a father and daughter—and though I will be my son’s good role model in how to treat both men and women, I don’t know if the process changes for fathers of daughters. In some ways, it shouldn’t; I am my child’s protector. I am my child’s educator. I am my child’s blueprint for right living. I am my child’s greatest largest fan and critic.

Removing all of the media fluff and stories about the night Chris Brown hit her (the time we heard about it, at least), I remember a couple of things about Rihanna: On Good Morning America in 2009, Rihanna said that after Brown beat her, it was “humiliating” to admit it and “wrong” of her to go back to him. But she also said that she’s human, and that she’s not perfect. Her idea of love drove her back.

The most revealing thing in that interview, however, was Rihanna’s mention that her father, Ronald Fenty, used to beat her mother. Rihanna said to herself that she’d never date someone like her dad. And yet, here she was.

Then, a couple of years later, Rihanna’s father did an interview in a magazine. He said that he and Rihanna had a bad relationship, and hadn’t talked for a long time. But regardless, Fenty said some incendiary things about Rihanna’s weight, and then called Chris Brown a “nice guy,” saying that everyone’s entitled to making mistakes. “God knows how many I’ve made,” said Fenty.

These are important things to consider. Rihanna’s relationship with her father is broken. She lived her life with the weight of seeing her own father hitting her mother. She swore to herself that she wouldn’t become a victim like that—but did. And then, with all of the pieces of the puzzle right there in front of her, went on back to the man that did it. Multiple times.

Now, maybe just as Rihanna saw herself in her mother, Fenty saw himself in Chris Brown when he said everyone’s entitled to mistakes. And it’s possible that part of Rihanna sees her father in Brown, and that’s why she continues to return to him. It’s also very probable that there’s more to it than all of us have seen on gossip and entertainment sites. I mean, when’s the last time all of your friends (let alone those thousands of people blogging about you) knew every detail of your relationship enough to make an accurate judgement? From the outside, we’re all relationship experts. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m not judging Rihanna for going back to Chris Brown.


Most importantly, I just keep thinking, over and over: what would I do if Rihanna were my daughter? What would I say to her? We say that kids are mirrors and simply reflect what we do—the good and the bad. Well, I’ve got a foul mouth sometimes, and my four year old son certainly repeats the things I say. So, I spend my days attempting to substitute acceptable words and phrases for the bad ones. But, my son also hears me tell my wife that I love her, constantly. My son reflects that back to us too. One day I counted 32 times that my son told me he loves me. As a father, it really is a source of pride to hear your child say something like that so much.

if I had a daughter, I’d do my best to teach her about communication. I might not be able to teach her all of the intricacies of femininity, but I can teach her to ask me anything. I may not know girls, but I know boys. And though I’m a father, a dad blogger, and a pretty smart guy, I might not have every answer that my kids could ask of me. It happens.

So okay, let’s say that Rihanna’s home life wasn’t an ideal place for her to learn how to love and be loved. How else would someone who was in an abusive relationship sing a song to the tune of a children’s rhyme saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me”? Clearly, this is a woman who never was afforded the right talks with her parents.

In a perfect world, fathers realize that the moment their child is born, they have a responsibility to be the man that they want their children to be or to be with. In a perfect world, fathers say all of the right things at the right times, and their children grow up to be strong, independent and emotionally aware. In my perfect world, I’m a father who will be around throughout my children’s lives to guide them and help when things aren’t ideal. That’s the hope, at least.

But things are rarely perfect, and Rihanna, with all of her success in pop music, hasn’t lived in a perfect world. She’s still just a kid in many ways, a little girl with questions. And along with her own life, Rihanna’s been tasked with the responsibility of not destroying our children, too, through her music and actions. She’s in a lose-lose situation: she can either live her own life and look like a fool that’s ignoring what the public deems as right, or she can run herself ragged worrying about what people think. That’s a lot of responsibility. I wouldn’t want my own daughter to be in that place. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, she’d no doubt end up making some bad decisions.

Rihanna was right in 2009—she’s human. And through all of the media noise, we’re watching someone who is “not perfect” (like the rest of us), wondering why she’s making the choices she is. This, however, is my own personal peace on the matter: I can’t worry about someone else’s daughter when I’ve got my own child to raise. So I hope Rihanna finds what she’s looking for, and I hope her journey ends in peace. It’s what I’d hope for my own child.

Photo: AP/Alex Gallardo


About Zach Rosenberg

Zach Rosenberg is a husband and father living in Southern California. He is co-founder of
fatherhood news site 8BitDad.com, and a contributor to HLNtv.com. You can also find him on Twitter @zjrosenberg.


  1. What we think we know about abuse and then using that suspect knowledge to determine what and or how Chris and Rihanna’s relationship will turnout is problematic at best and at worst just plain speculation. They are adults, let them be.Though, I can’t help but suspect there are those who won’t.

  2. Sorry Zach. You know I love you but this is horse shit.

    There are mistakes and there are MISTAKES. Beating a woman bloody is the latter. Maybe I’m just a misanthropic prick who doesn’t believe someone who can beat a woman in the first place is capable of the kind of change to become a guy who never lets that crap creep anywhere close enough in his mind to actually carry it out. But that’s how I feel and while I certainly don’t know everything, I know that going back to someone who has the proven capacity to beat the shit out of you (and then get a tattoo to commemorate it no less) is stupid. And I don’t need every insight into her life to call that act stupid. It’s stupid.

    And because she has all the evidence she needs to make the right decision, it’s going to be very difficult for me to feel bad for her when this happens again.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Really Aaron? You won’t feel bad for her if she gets beaten again?

      See, I think we can look at this and see the tragedy that she has lived and see the whole picture. Society, addictive love, cycles of abuse, and we can STILL feel bad for her.

      I will never, ever stop feeling sad when a person gets beaten by their partner. I don’t care how many warning signs there were. That’s basic human compassion.

  3. The world likes simple narratives. It reads better and it’s easier to digest for our minds. In this case, bad man beats innocent woman. But who really knows what happened in that relationship? Maybe she gave as good as she got, but came off worse the last time. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to bruise a face and Rihanna is clearly no shrinking violet .

    Betty Friedan wrote about just such a scenario in her own life with her husband and later commented:

    “I almost wish I hadn’t even written about it, because it’s been sensationalized out of context. My husband was not a wife-beater, and I was no passive victim of a wife-beater. We fought a lot, and he was bigger than me.”

    So maybe this story is a little more complicated than the one the media ran with. I suspect that Brown and Rihanna get on with each other because they have a lot in common and share similar sensibilities. It doesn’t appear that she has been able to find someone she feels as comfortable with anyway. Bottom line is, it’s not her job to set an example to the public and she has the resources to get out of an inequitable domestic arrangement should she need to.

    • Furious George says:

      More complicated or not, you don’t beat up a person and you certainly don’t run back to a person that beat you. She willingly assumes the victim role and therefore she needs psychological help. He has hit a person and therefore needs pyschological help.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        Yes, but we don’t know that he hasn’t gotten that help. His public image is horrid, yes, I agree. But she’s a grown woman and has every right to make her own choices.

        Fact is, we simply do not know what their relationship is like now. It’s not our place to decide.

  4. “For lack of knowledge my people perish…” (from the Bible)

    It is because of lack of knowledge that people trust people who are untrustworthy…..

    All I will say is that a long time ago having someone put their hands around my neck was the final proof that what I was experiencing was not love…now when I really look back, I see everything else he did or said was utter manipulation and power/control games….not love at all….

    How do you define “love” and “respect”? I did not really know back then….

    For my son’s sake, I watch everyone who comes into his life and escort him back and forth to school… we try to point out to him the bad behavior of people around us and about the mistakes that we have made…but I realize that true learning is an ongoing process….that as adults we all still get fooled by some people…

  5. Furious George says:

    The idea that we as outsiders can’t judge because we don’t know everything is just a poor excuse. Humans mainly behave according to set patterns. It is therefore not necessary to know the whole situation before making an accurate judgement.

    Most of my education on this subject comes from the Loveline radio show so I might be lacking insight. However, this situation is a recurring theme on the show. Trauma in youth becomes attraction in adulthood. The trauma of seeing her mom get beaten has now become attractive to Rihanna.

    Alot can be said about Chris Brown as well. His father probably wasn’t around when he was young. The lack of an adult male during a man’s childhood often leads to them being more violent and sexually agressive later in life.

    The only solution for both is years of therapy.

    • “Trauma in youth becomes attraction in adulthood.”

      You just shook my world with the veracity of that statement. When I was young I was molested repeatedly by my uncle, and when I was 18 as well as 20 and 21 I placed myself in situations where men violated me. Part of me hated myself and the other part of myself felt like I could never have as heightened a sexual experience as I did with someone who abused me. Even though I would go through the steps of post-trauma repeatedly, a part of this experience became alluring and attractive.

      I know I’m a stranger, but I wanted you to know how powerful and insightful your words actually were.

      • Furious George says:

        Thank you but all credit for those words should go to Dr. Drew Pinksy and his show Loveline. I believe he wrote a book covering this subject named Cracked.

  6. Awesome article Zach, your words have tugged at my parental instincts…as a woman who has gone back (3times) to a man who constantly abuses my emotions, I wonder, isn’t that me in Rihanna? Everyone thinks I’m a dumbass to still love that man, but when I look at him, really look at him, there’s something that totally softens my heart. Maybe it’s my idea of love. After three years I can say with surety it has nothing to do with lust or infatuation as many people have accused Rihanna. I guess it’s just plain old simple love. Or maybe it’s because, like her, I never grew up with a dad (passed on when I was 11) and I haven’t had much male influence in my life until this man walked into my life in my late twenties and ran with my heart. Unfortunately, he is the same man who still ravages on my emotions, leaving me cheated and broken, then calls me back into his manly arms. I don’t know, I guess Rihanna has a point, after all.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Joy, as long as you’re honest with yourself and making yourself a good life, try to disregard what your friends say. Keep yourself safe and happy, and that’s what matters.

      But if you can, try to find a good couples therapist to help you two through it. I know how you feel, I’ve been there, and I’ve made it out the other side. It takes work, but I didn’t give up and I’m happy now. But trust me, if he wouldn’t have done as much work as I did, I would’ve been out.

      Do what’s best for YOU.

  7. Thoughtful piece, Zach. When it comes to relationships, I always go back to what my mom told me – you never know what is going on in someone else’s life. All we can do is the best we can for ourselves and our own and hope that, as you said, she can find some peace. Love can be a nasty business.


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