Friday, February 13, 2009

Private and public: setting an example

by Chloe Angyal

Friend of the site Keith Griffin has a column in the Prince today about public reactions to Michael Phelps' drug use, A-Rod and steroids, and most importantly, Chris Brown's domestic violence against his girlfriend Rihanna:

I initially struggled to grasp the gravity of it all, and with good reason. We come from a generation of presidents, both former and present, who have admitted drug use and still went on to hold office. Baseball players like Barry Bonds, though heavily scrutinized after allegations of steroid use, enjoyed continued success. Singers like R. Kelly and Bobby Brown (no known relation to Chris Brown, as far as we know) continued producing records after their sexual and violent escapades, respectively. Yet to this day, the tradition of holding both political and popular figures accountable lives on.

This time, the pundits went to work right away, speculating on Phelps’s 2012 Olympic prospects, A-Rod’s Hall of Fame eligibility and the end of Chris Brown’s career and good-guy image. That brought me to a fundamental question: Where do we draw the line between holding these figures accountable and altogether killing their careers?

My answer is: we don't. We hold them accountable by killing their careers. The public, as Keith notes, has the enormous power to make or break these people. But we also have the enormous power to set a public and memorable example, a precedent, of the consequences of domestic violence. And that example shouldn't leave average men, men who aren't in the public eye, thinking, "Chris and Bobby got away with it; I will too." It's not about vindictively destroying their livelihood, it's about setting an example for what will happen to men who beat their wives: it will not go unnoticed. It will not be rationalized, justified and forgotten. It will not be excused, by the society or by the law.

This is not the time to feel sorry for people with "an inability to live private lives." This is the time to send a message to them, and to the world, that America does not tolerate violence against women, no matter how famous you are, no matter how great a track you can lay down. The public, Keith tells us, has great power in this situation, and I recommend that we use that power, as swiftly and as forcefully as possible, to make it clear to every American man that violence against women is unacceptable.


At February 13, 2009 at 11:42 AM , Anonymous Keith Griffin said...

Thank you for this post, Chloe. And you know that by no means do I condone Brown's alleged actions (given, everyone is entitled to due process). I also wasn't equating the actions of the three stars, but I was using it as an example to show that, yes, the public has the power to kill the careers of those who are in the spotlight, but who has the power to do that to us when we do comparable actions?

Also, I conducted an interesting experiment at a Café Viv event last night. I asked the DJ to put on some Chris Brown to see the reaction it would get from the female audience, and surprisingly, many of the women were singing and swaying along as if nothing was wrong. Something to keep in mind, and thanks for the dialogue! :-)


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