March 25, 2009
“It’s not okay to hit,” and other things we were supposed to learn in preschool
A meme I’ve encountered in comments threads twice just today alone goes a little something like this: you women and your allies want to be equal with men, right? So, a man and his girlfriend should both be treated equally, right? Ergo, Chris Brown and Rhianna were equally at fault for him beating her up, and should be treated equally and regarded in the same light by the media and bloggers and anyone else in the position to scrutinize the behavior of public personae.
No, seriously, that’s the argument people are trying to put forth (or at least seem to be). Check the comments threads here and here. I’m not naïve enough to think these commenters are arguing in good faith; what they’re trying to do is say, “If you want to prevent women from being assaulted, then you can’t have equality, ‘cause women need to be protected, see?”
It’s the kind of logic that makes my brain hurt. Let’s try looking at it from another angle: two men are out on the town, doing whatever it is menfolk do when women aren’t around. They’re doing their thing, maybe having a few beers, whatever, when one of them insults the other. Maybe it was a really awful crack about the other man’s beloved grandmother and a donkey; maybe it was just good-natured ribbing. Either way, the man who was insulted proceeds to beat the crap out of the other guy. The man receiving the beating would be expected to fight back, and ably so (file under “patriarchy hurts men too”), but the simple fact is that the man who threw the first punch is the one who’s legally culpable. The two men are equal, but one assaulted the other. Simple, straightforward.
I mean, honestly, isn’t this stuff we were supposed to learn early on in our socialization? “I don’t care if he called you a boogerhead, Billy – we don’t hit.” “Hitting your sister is not okay, Jackie – I don’t care if she took your favorite Transformer and wouldn’t give it back.”
So, yeah, maybe Chris Brown felt like Rhianna was provoking him. Maybe he needs anger management training, or therapy, or meds. Maybe his family has a history of abuse, and that’s the only way he knows how to deal with conflict. Maybe this will be an opportunity for him to get the help he needs. If so, bully for him. None of that justifies his assaulting Rhianna. It is not acceptable to beat one’s partner. Ever. Period. What’s left to discuss?