I’m Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m Not Sure Why You Are Sasha Pasulka

Editor’s note: Today (May 5th) is Chris Brown’s birthday. This piece was one of the most popular in our history and we want to memorialize his birthday by reinforcing a message we believe in.

I’m sick and tired of people acting like it’s no big deal that Chris Brown will be performing at the Grammys.

I’m frustrated that the mainstream media is covering this story like it’s any comeback story, like an exiled prince’s return to a former glory, like this is another political timeline — as though some rich and powerful old white men in the music business have not just issued an enormous ‘f**k you’ to every woman who has been, is or will be on the receiving end of domestic violence.

We should be furious.

Why aren’t we?

A Long, Long Time Ago, or Three Years Ago, But Who’s Counting?

For those of you who are currently listening to ‘Look at Me Now’ and wondering what the big deal is, a quick recap: The night before the Grammys in 2009, Chris Brown got angry at his girlfriend, Rihanna, and he took it out on her face. She went to the hospital and then to the LAPD, where this photo was taken and promptly leaked to TMZ. (The LAPD issued a stern statement on the leak, threatening penalties “up to and including termination”. TMZ reportedly paid $62,500 for the photo.)

Both Rihanna and Brown had been scheduled to perform at the Grammys the following evening. Neither did.

Instead, Chris Brown turned himself into the LAPD at 7 pm, was booked on suspicion of criminal threats and was released on $50,000 bail.

Then the Internet exploded.

I was a full-time entertainment writer at the time, so I had a front-row seat to the action. This is what I expected: I expected a string of celebrities to comment on how horrific this situation was, how sad and angry they were for Rihanna, how domestic violence is unacceptable in any context, how as a nation we need to condemn this and condemn it loudly.

Instead, Hollywood went silent and, when they did speak, they teetered on the brink of defending Chris Brown.

Carrie Underwood: “I don’t think anybody actually knows what happened. I have no advice.”

Lindsay Lohan: “I have no comment on that. That’s not my relationship. I think they’re both great people.”

Nia Long: “I know both of them well. They’re young, and all we can do is pray for them at this point.”

Mary J. Blige: “They’re both young and beautiful people, and that’s it.”

Jay-Z, one of Rihanna’s mentors, spoke up: “You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that. I just think we should all support her.”

In a sane world, Jay-Z’s statement would sound insane. Why would he have to remind his fans to support Rihanna after what happened is that she got hit in the face?

Jay-Z issued that statement because the Internet was, in early February 2009, engaged in a very serious conversation about whether or not all of this was Rihanna’s fault. In fact, large segments of the Internet had devoted themselves to making Rihanna the scapegoat for any woman who ever had the gall to do something worth getting hit, and then the cloying self-esteem to go to the cops about it. Bloggers and their commentators flocked to Chris Brown’s defense in droves. It was a full-blown tearing-down of female self-worth, an assault on any progress women have made in this country in the past 200 years, and the mainstream media ignored it.

It horrified me. It still does.

Later in February, a photo of Brown riding a jet ski in Miami hit the Internet, and singer Usher was caught on video commenting on it: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo,” Usher says in the video. “After the other photo [of Rihanna's bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?”

The backlash was so severe that Usher was later forced to publicly apologize.

“I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended,” he said. “The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved.”

The message we sent to young women was unmistakable: You are powerless. You are worthless. You will be a victim, and that will be okay with us.

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  1. Hmmmmm…… i’m just wondering was there a post like written for Eminem who beat his wife and wrote about it in his music. I understand fully what is being said, but why doesn’t it work both ways!!! I feel people like you send the wrong message to females who are not a celebrity because nobody cared this much when Eminem beat his non famous wife. So, can somebody explain to me why is Eminem not being faced with the same treatment as Chris Brown please

  2. In my book CB has already been punished and is therefor “free” from his crime, mayby there is something wrong with the law but that is another discussion and cant be blamed on CB.

    Seems like a lot of anger is directed towards CB, when it should be directed towards the system itself. CB has done his time whether you like it or not.

  3. I agree with one 150%. I didn’t even know Chris Brown was performing until I read this. I don’t care about the Grammys at all (because I like TALENTED artists) but still. Millions of people are watching this all over the world. Children are watching this. Little boys and teenagers are watching this thinking “Oh, so it must be okay to hit your girlfriend. You can come back a year or so later and no one will remember what happened.”

  4. THANK YOU. I’m so glad someone in the media finally acknowledged it!

    • Wonderful post, and much needed. Seriously. How out of whack are the morals of the press? I was stupid enough to think that, after the original incident, he would make a public apology and actually just fade away into oblivion, and people would occasionally comment ‘Chris Brown…do you remember him? I can’t believe what he did to Rihanna’.

      I also thought that perhaps, just perhaps, because Rihanna is and was such a powerful and popular female artist, that she would be instantly defended and championed. I believed that hitting a woman was one of those things that was NOT a grey area. Surely once that line was crossed, there was no going back?

      I’ve been shocked and appalled over the years to see people very quickly accepting Brown back in. One of my ‘friends’ even had the gall to say to me ‘yes, but he does make good songs, though’. What an absolute joke. So, let me get this straight. He makes good songs (he doesn’t, and I doubt sincerely he has any hand in ‘making’ them) so hitting his girlfriend is totally forgiveable. NO.

      It’s exactly the kind of disgusting, lazy, amnesiac thinking I’ve come to expect from great big portions of the media. So many people are invested in artists like this – a whole team of people making money from them. God forbid anyone actually stand up for what is right.

      Anyway, fantastic post, and about bloody time someone spoke up.

  5. Matthew, your argument is off topic, a red herring. We should be doing all that we can about the horrible situation in China, however that does not lessen the impact of domestic violence in our own country. Your argument charges that women who are the victims of domestic violence should just be glad that they aren’t in China, be thankful that they are in America getting beaten. You are sending the same message to girls that the article is talking about, i.e. that girls should accept the abuse.

    • I completely agree with Matthew; he was simply pointing out that the system is flawed, because we as consumers support it. I mean, Chris Brown wouldn’t be performing at the Grammy’s if he had been completely unsuccessful these past few years. While domestic violence is always wrong, you can’t blame the Grammy organizers for inviting him to perform; he’s nominated 3 times, and the reason he’s performing is because that’s what the people want to see. While it may not be what you want to see, how can you boycott the Grammys when they’re simply giving their viewers what they want? It’s their job to do that.

    • I agree with Kristin.. we’re talking about domestic violence, not about everything else that’s wrong with the world.. one issue at a time, please.

  6. Thankyou! I have spent the last few years dumbfounded by this! What happened was horrific. I thought it was a given that it was horrific and that Chris Brown was in the wrong. Next thing I know I’m in my art class over hearing some guys talking about it. I listen in and they’re actually saying and I quote “Rhianna must of done something to deserve being smacked up, She must have done something out of line, cause Chris Brown wouldn’t have hit her if she hadn’t done something to deserve it. I’m sure any man would hit his woman for whatever she did. I would have done worse” I was outraged. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That they were not only defending his actions but actually agreeing with them. Not even a he made a mistake but I’m sure he’s sorry. No, agreeing with them and saying, even without any of the circumstances that she deserved it. I thought it was a given that NO one deserves to be beaten up. I despaired but clung to the hope that this opinion was a minority that anyone in their right mind would surely also be fuming. For the last few years I have been disgusted with the daily proof that I was wrong. People still buying his music? Still going to his concerts? acting like nothing happened? People deserve a second chance but I expected some recognition that the world did not agree with those horrible boys in my art class. I am as horrified as I am when woman stay with their abusive husbands. Even if he’s changed and I see no evidence for this, nor real remorse, he should have his lost popularity and people should not be acting like what he did was ok. Forgiving is not forgetting and anyone who buys his music baffles me! I think the thing I am most confused about (which is saying something) is why those who spoke out against it were made to apologies. No, it was wrong. More people should be saying it.

  7. A lot of grandstanding and indignation went into this. The argument that “because Chris Brown did something we don’t like we should boycott him and anybody who does business with him (the Grammies)” is just not morally consistent with the practical realities of living in the United States of America, or any developed nation.

    I agree that people shouldn’t hit people. And that goes double for people who are stronger than other people

    But if we’re being honest, look at the Foxconn factories in China. These factories produce almost all of Apple’s phone and tablet products. (They also produce a hell of a lot more technology-related products; if you’re at or above the lower-middle-class economic spectrum, it would be almost unthinkable for you not to have purchased and used something made by Foxconn.)

    Foxconn KILLS people. It subjects women and children to physical working conditions and abuse that make what Chris Brown did look like a hug from Barney.

    But that’s the inconvenient moral truth, because then people like you and me couldn’t use iPhones and couldn’t have fancy computers.

    It’s a lot easier to rail against the symbol of Chris Brown, who, even if he went on an intentional women-punching campaign, couldn’t hope to do as much damage as Foxconn and similar companies. Not getting a “Yeah 3x” remix is small price to pay to feel good about ourselves. Not using a computer is just not a price we’re willing to pay for moral fortitude.

    For the record I own an iPhone 4 and several other products created in similar conditions. So I’m not claiming the moral highground. I’m just saying that if you have the resources to post a blog to the internet, then you probably don’t either.

    • Something else in the world is worse than one woman getting hit. OH, THANKS FOR EXPLAINING. For the record, you ARE condoning violence against women by implying that it’s an unimportant issue compared to other ones. Seriously, just leave this one and go have a think about your opinions.

    • No one is villifying the Grammys for letting Brown perform. They’re villifying the Grammys for having the gall to pretend that THEY’RE the victims in all of this. It’s a difference in attitude: that Rhianna has somehow horribly abused the Grammy’s for daring to get beaten and then not hide it. Bring up red herrings like “moralizing tone” all you want; none of that changes that the Grammy people are acting lke a bunch of entitled babies. and displaying the same “we only care about women when it’s convenient” attitude that makes dealing with domestic violence such an ongoing problem in this country.

  8. A reality check I wish no one needed….

  9. Agreed what he did was very wrong…..BUT WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR BROTHER IN THIS SITUATION????WILL YOU CONDEMN HIM FOR LIFE OR SEND HIM ON EXILE…..Common people why we always looking for downfall of others…..IF YOU CANT MOVE PAST THE SITUATION THEN DON’T LISTEN TO HIS MUSICS OR BETTER STILL SWITCH OFF YOUR TV WHEN HE’S ABOUT TO PERFORM TODAY…..But if you think his Career should be killed because of what he did then you are a joker…..AND WHAT A PERFECT TIMING FOR BRINGING THIS UP AGAIN….And BTW Its been more than a week now since it was announced that Chris will be performing and also fucking three years since the incident……But it just dawned on you today to write this up on the day of the Grammys…

    • You need to know that I didn’t talk to my dad until he got help for his issues in the same vein, and he’s partially responsible for my existence. It didn’t matter how much he tried to apologize, my sister, mother and I didn’t talk to him except out of bare-bones necessity until he started getting therapy.

      You can get help to get yourself out of behavior like this. It’s totally possible for someone to change for the better. What should not be possible, however, is a scumbag like Chris Brown still being able to make millions of dollars off his mediocre music. It it unfathomable and frankly deeply depressing to me that a fuckwit like ‘Breezy’ can still be massively popular with women after beating another woman into an unrecognizable mess.

      Having someone have complete control over your personal safety, even in those brief moments before an awards show, is a fucking terrifying experience, and those young women begging Chris Brown to beat them too have no understanding of what it means to be a victim of domestic abuse.

    • BUT WILL THAT STOP YOU FROM TALKING TO YOUR BROTHER EVER AGAIN??????Some people will never forgive him for what he did but some will forgive him…Even his loyal fans condemned what he did but it shouldn’t mean his life should come to a halt…And like you just pointed out IFFFFFFF the marine corps (Grammys/Hollywood in this case) should dishonorably discharge your brova then that’s okay but I bet you wont go about carrying a placard begging them to demote or chase him out of the Corps if they decided to punish him another way and finally got over it…..

    • If my brother were a huge recording artist who beat his girlfriend and wasn’t allowed to perform at award shows, I’d think it served him right. On a more realistic note, my brother is in the Marine Corps, and if he got demoted in rank or dishonorably discharged for committing such an act, you know what I’d think? “Serves you right.” The ABUSER is NOT THE VICTIM.

  10. This is an excellent, eloquently-expressed article that articulates exactly how I feel about the situation, but I found the most interesting point to be where you post the question “what if Chris Brown had punched Taylor Swift that night?” Because, let’s face it, we all know there’s no WAY Chris Brown would be back at the Grammys tonight if he’d attacked sweet, virginal, innocent little Taylor… But raunchy, highly-sexualised Rihanna on the other hand, the slutty bitch looked like she had it coming. Right?

    THIS attitude is the problem with society. Because a girl looks like a slapper, because she dresses sexily, because she looks like she TALKS BACK, that somehow it means that when she’s punched in the face it’s not as much of an issue. People need to get over it and give the dude a break. I mean, SHE WAS PROBABLY PARTLY TO BLAME ANYWAY.

    If Chris Brown HAD beaten up poor, defenceless little Taylor, I doubt we (other celebrities and the media) would EVER implicitly suggest she should be held partially responsible. And we need to ask ourselves why exactly that is.

    Oh, and some of the comments on this thread are truly depressing. Like, I’m facepalming myself to death over here.

    But yeah, congrats. Very interesting.

  11. um no…..chris brown is amazing…..everyone makes mistakes…..its honestly rihannas fault for being so stupid….she goes back to him….and uses the incident for publicity (we found love music video) trying to make everyone feel bad for her………its sad. if he is talented then let him be….. just because he messed up doesn’t mean we should stop listening to his music and not appreciate his talent. His private life is his own business not everyone else’s. Get over it!!!! If this is something that is really bothering you that much…..then i think you have bigger problems to worry about.

  12. Honestly it really isn’t that big of a problem though….yes what he did was wrong, but by no means should his entire career have to eternally suffer for it. Quite frankly this situation should be looked at again because Rhianna’s music career was dying and then with this scandal and her cries of abuse, she killed one mans career while promoting her own….thats fucked up. even more so when the next albums of yours have songs that endorse abuse and how much she likes it. In the end, none of them deserve pats on the back but Chris Brown doesnt deserve complete condemnation cmon people use your minds.

    • Firstly, Rihanna didn’t kill Chris Brown’s career, he did that all on his own. Secondly, in my opinion Rihanna didn’t cry abuse. Instead she put out a slew of songs and music videos romanticizing sexual violence in relationships. This may have been a personal choice but I can all too easily imagine some record label fat cat saying, “Listen, we can’t have you singing about being a battered woman. Nobody wants to hear you whine about that and you’ll lose your sex symbol image.” And so, coincidentally many songs followed relating violence to sexual prowess as did music video messages that seemed to normalize it. If this was the case (and I’m only speculating), then this only reaffirms that a woman’s sexuality is her value in the music industry, and sweeping Chris Brown’s actions under the rug was the only way to maintain that and thus her success in the music industry. To me, this explains why there was so much silence and not an outpouring of support from other celebrities.

  13. This is a really important article. Thank you for posting it.

  14. Also, I’d like to mention that he didn’t just hit her, be bit her freaking face as well!

  15. I don’t know what to say besides, “Amen, Sister!” There are so many things– political rights, health rights, an overall sense of autonomy– in which women as a whole in this country seem to be moving backwards. If women’s lib started in the late 19th century/ early 20th century, we should be way past this kind of stuff.

  16. Did you really post an article this long? wow

    well then. i didn’t even read the article because once again, this is all for having a hit article just before Chris Brown performes on a big award show. Typical shit.

    Anyways, you people are FAR too worried about Chris, this dude was 19 when he and rihanna who was just 20 herself got into the biggest fight of their lives. Something went wrong and chris snapped, that night became clear that Chris Brown has ANGER issues. an issue he couldn’t control because nobody knew he had them. ever since that one night, chris hasn’t done any harm to a female or even a male physically. WHY ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE SO WORRIED ABOUT HIM?

    all of you damn ignorant people would want to be forgiven if YOU was in chris’s shoes. you may say you would never do such a thing, but so did chris and look what he did. Hypocrites! Everyone of y’all have made big mistakes in your life and i’m sure you still regret some shit and wanted forgiveness for certain things you did. Get over it people, chris is an entertainer and he will stay in the game for the upcoming 5 years atleast, so don’t waste your time on articles like this

    • Its replies like this that are the exact reason articles and posts like this are needed…
      People do make mistakes, yes. People do deserve second chances when they show remorse, he snapped and repeatedly pummelled the girl, granted we don’t know the ins and outs of what happened that night but we do know his action then and since are not ok! He may not have done physical harm to any of us, but as a female myself I am allowed to stand up and say this is not ok.
      He may have not done physical to someone since? Is this really something to stand up an applaud millions of men get through the day without causing physical harm to another person…Chris Brown continues to act in anger…and homophobic twitter tirades…the worry is the man has not learnt his lesson and yet continues to be able to be hailed in the public eye. Should he never be allowed to perform again is not in question, but should he be allowed to perform in such a public event that is an honour for any performer to be a part of despite the fact he is still on probation? The very same event he had to pull out of in 2009 because he was preoccupied with beating his girlfriend…an action he has shown so little remorse for.
      This post quite accurately does not concern itself with Chris Brown but rather with the horrific way in which his actions are so easily swept under the rug by the media, and in some cases those who do stand up and say ‘Hey Breezy, what you did isn’t cool’ are then the people who are demonised in the media for thinking domestic abuse is not ok, because hey you know what the man can carry a tune and dance quite well…why shouldn’t he be able to beat a girl and show no remorse when he can sing so very well.

      It’s ridiculous!

  17. It is ridiculous to think of Chris Brown getting off so easily for BEATING UP Rihanna and being CONVICTED OF A FELONY, while celebrities with mental health issues/drug abuse problems/DUIs are treated like pariahs. I guess it just goes to show our society’s values – people destroying themselves should be shunned instead of being supported through the healing process, and people who destroy others should be supported instead of reprimanded and properly punished by public opinion.

  18. I don’t really agree with this article; why should Rihanna be portrayed as the victim, when she refuses to be seen that way? Personally, I think that more harm is done by re-hashing the issue again and again, than by him performing at the Grammys. The justice system decided that he has been adequately punished — shouldn’t that be enough? Who are we to say that he doesn’t deserve to sell records, or appear on award shows? Sure, domestic violence is despicable. No ifs or buts about it. But he has been punished for what he did. While that doesn’t mean we should forget about what happened, I think that that should be the end of it. After all, if we can’t trust the justice system, how will this country even function?
    I think the real problem here, which you shortly mentioned, is that Hollywood is much too forgiving when it comes to violence, drug abuse, etc. in favor of selling records and boosting ratings. Then again, we as consumers support this system; Michael Jackson was hailed as a hero when he died (child molester, anyone?), Kobe Bryant is one of the best-paid athletes of all time (rapist), and oh yea, let’s not forget that R.Kelly, also a sexual offender, is up for a Grammy this year.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s wrong to make an example of one person, when we really should be concerned with how we as consumers are supporting a system that allows serious criminal offenders to make ridiculous amounts of money.

  19. I used to love Chris Brown’s music. But after this happened, I couldn’t let myself support an artist who treated any woman like that. I knew his songs were still played on the radio, which annoyed me. Chris Moyles (a DJ for BBC Radio 1 in the UK) still flat out refuses to play his songs on his show for the above reasons. I don’t see why people think it’s acceptable, because it really really isn’t. I had hoped his music career would be over, and I have no idea why it isn’t. It kinda scares me how many young women think he is great. He will be forever tainted because of his actions in my eyes.

  20. Domestic violence is still a very taboo subject, most people either try to ignore it and some even blame the women. This page has me holding back tears.

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