Our Sisters’ Keepers

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A good many of us were upset about the most recent Grammy Awards show, and the ridiculous amount of airtime they gave to Chris Brown.  More disturbing, however, were the many Chris Brown fans (most of them young women) who took to Twitter during the broadcast to post variations on this theme:

Buzzfeed, among other sites, picked up on these tweets, reposting 25 of them (Twitter handles and all).  Of these 25 Twitter users, several deleted their pages altogether, several more made their pages private, and the rest quite virulently defended their statements.  Further, they told us that we needed to mind our own business (and I’m sorry, but if you’re posting public tweets you kind of make them everyone’s business) and not go to their Twitter pages if we didn’t like what they had to say.

The young women who are coming to Chris Brown’s defense want us to believe in the power of redemption.  They remind us that Rihanna, who found herself on the receiving end of Chris Brown’s fists, probably provoked him and was therefore somehow deserving of at least a slap across the face.  They ask us to consider a life spent being punished for “one mistake,” and wonder if we, those who are not fans of Chris Brown, have not ever in our lives fallen short of the glory.

And then they offer themselves to Chris Brown to beat to his heart’s content, and say they’re “just joking.”

Ah, yes – the “it was a joke” defense.  It’s up there with “being taken out of context” or “No offense, but…” as the easiest way out of having to apologize for saying something really fucking stupid.

I belong to an online writing collective called Five By Five Hundred.  Every Friday, I turn in something that does not exceed 500 words in length.  It’s been a good way for me to flex my poetry muscles, poetry being something I’d abandoned years ago when I first quit drinking (that’s a long story, and one for another day).

One of the other writers in the collective is Mitra Parineh.  The daughter of Iranian immigrants, she writes eloquently about the struggles of women in that country, and everywhere else for that matter.  This week, she nailed the Chris Brown thing in less than 500 words:

I wonder, do my 18-year-old students who L-O-V-E-! Chris Brown-a famous pop star who beat his more-famous pop star girlfriend until her face swelled like a ripe plum-understand what human and civil rights are worth? Because I’m afraid they do not know, do not realize that the women they let down when they say “ya, he hit her, but it’s not such a big deal” are not only their classmates at American university but their unknown classmates, young women they’ve never met, somewhere over an ocean.

Ladies, you can protect your Tweets, and make your Facebook pages private, but neither of these safeguards lessen the impact of your words.  Even in jest, your tacit acceptance of violence against other women delivers the message that it’s no big deal, and that it’s even “funny” in certain circumstances.  As my aunt said today, we are our sisters’ keepers. Like it or not, you as women have an obligation to protect your sisters from being abused, and if you cannot – or will not – take some kind of real, meaningful action, you can at least refrain from making these hilarious “jokes” of yours.

And while you’re at it, you can thank your lucky stars that you have no comprehension of what it’s like to be abused, or to have witnessed the devastating effects of abuse on your loved ones.  Because I assure you that if you had, tweeting about wanting Chris Brown to “beat you” would never, EVER have entered your minds.