Rihanna and Chris Brown reconciled almost three years to the day since he bashed her face in. I’d like to say nobody gives a shit, but that’s a lie. Lots of people give a shit. After they released their “Birthday Cake” remix, Rihanna increased her fan base—Facebook friends and Twitter followers—by 19 percent. Chris Brown fared even better with approximately a 28 percent increase in Facebook friends and, yeah, I know those people are idiots, but there are over 4 million of them, or at least that’s how many are watching their “doggy want the kitty, watch me get it” reunion remix on YouTube. When Rihanna defended the reconciliation in Elle magazine this month, her comments made the news (and not just The Enquirer; CBS even picked it up yesterday in their Celebrity Circuit).
I was only mildly interested last year when Rihanna released her hit song, “S&M,” a literary triumph that offers these types of thought-provoking lyrics: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.” Lucky for her, I thought then, that Brown’s off probation and the restraining order no longer applies. He just punched her a few times in the face, but he’s seems like a flexible kind of guy. I bet he’d use a whip.
What do I care how inappropriate a song like this is for a woman who was so publicly abused? And, yeah, I get it’s S&M and consensual and all of that, but I’m not sure the fifth-grade girl I carpool with has all that figured out. We listen to mainstream FM radio and she caught the lyrics before I did. But still, it’s not like any of us look at Rihanna as role-model material. Nobody’s lining up to say that girl there? that topless one on Twitter? that’s exactly how I want my daughter to turn out.
But I began to care in February. Chris Brown wins the Grammy and women on Twitter offer to let him beat them up. Nicole thinks I’m stupid if I don’t realize what an “honour” it is for Brown to hit me. Sharon’s not gonna lie: she’d so let so-sexy, so-hot Chris Brown beat her any day. Casey is down for Brown to punch her in the eye as long as he serenades her first. Stephanie doesn’t know why his then-girlfriend Rihanna complained: “Chris Brown can beat me any time he wanted to.”
Country singer Miranda Lambert wants to know why all of our memories are so short: “He beat on a girl,” she tweets. “Not cool that we act like that didn’t happen.” At a concert, she asks Chris Brown to “take notes” and thanks her dad for showing her how to use a shotgun. Brown’s annoyed. He can’t understand why people care about something that happened “like years ago” and whatever, haters: “I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate F**** OFF!” It seems entirely possible that Rihanna’s songwriter and Chris Brown share the same creative writing strand of DNA.
I think about these women on Twitter: most of them heart-breakingly young, many of them looking like the twenty-something students who sit in my classes. I want to feel pity for these little social networking fools, some kind of sorrow for the world we’ve created that’s told these women that riding in Brown’s Lamborghini is worth having your mouth filled with blood occasionally. And I do feel it. I do. It keeps me up at night. But I am also still so very much pissed off, because whether they intend to or not, they make all young women look bad.
I’m wondering if the good men care, if they’re as pissed off as I am. Maybe they’re not. Maybe you’re all so beat down by women who claim to want a “good man” and then get dumped by someone like Brittany who Tweets “Call me crazy butttttttt I would let Chris Brown beat me up anyyyyy day.” Maybe you’ve given up trying to figure out what women want and maybe that’s because so many of us sit back and roll our eyes at these women instead of speaking up. I know most of the women my age—and many of the 20-something women I teach and love—feel as if Chris Brown and Rihanna are so unimportant and ridiculous that they’re not even worthy of a conversation. But the conversation is already happening. And when we don’t join it, we look as if we accept it.
So, let me be clear and allow me to speak for the silent, heterosexual woman who is interested in a relationship: we want you to be good men. We want to be with a good man. Some of us even want to marry one. (I did.) And some want to raise good men. (I’m trying.) We get how frustrating all this bullshit must be. And if we could get these “other” women in a room, here’s what many of us would say to them:
Go visit a damn shelter and then tell me how hot it is for some guy to bash your face in. And until you do so, please, please shut the hell up. Because we play for the same team and when you don’t get it—when you don’t get that a woman is beaten every 9 seconds in this country and more than 10 million children witness some kind of domestic abuse every year—when you don’t get that and you write your stupid social networking dumbass tweets that you think are cute, you make us all look bad. You make a mockery out of the work the people—many of them women—who came before you did to ensure you have the right to live in a safe, violence-free environment. So, please, please stop it already.
And I have one more thing I’d like to say and then we can all go back to living however we damn well please, because no matter how stupid I think Chris Brown, Rihanna, and all these various Brittanys and Caseys are… I don’t want hinder anyone’s ability to prove it online or anywhere else.
But I do want to ask all of you good men a favor: If you run into Miranda Lambert, will you please buy her a beer for me?
—Photo Sean MacEntee/Flickr