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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  5. What really bothers me is people go. “Well so and so has beaten women before but you don’t see people getting upset” or “Rihanna went back to him so clearly he didn’t do anything”. The thing is, Chris Brown is abusive to a lot of people, especially females, whether it be rihanna, in person or over twitter.

  6. Omy gosh awesome! Yes, thank you! I always wondered how people could be OK with him doing that. Like, “Hey, not a big deal. He beat the shit out of his girlfriend. It was probably her fault.” WHAT??!! I lost all respect for him when that happened. I’m SO glad someone finally said something about it, even if most are looking the other way.

  7. I definetly agree about the abysmal backlash of Chris Browns actions. My only inquiry would be if this is really a feminist issue? Honestly, if Chris Brown would have struck a man instead, would the repercussions have been more prominent? Likely they would have been even less recognised, but that’s not the point. I don’t think this sends a message exclusively to women, but rather a message that if you’re famous, you’re allowed to do basically anything.

    That said, I also believe that there must be a limit to any punishment and he shouldn’t be banned from what he does forever if he’s truly a better person now.

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  9. The go out went really and I’m pleased we skilled this lady a chunk more as we chose not to continue along with her. She replied got we played my personal cards better I could have shagged her.. awe.. who cares.

  10. I hear a lot of people saying that we should get over what he did because “everyone messes up sometimes” or something along those lines. And maybe that is true, maybe everyone messes up once in a while, and people do change. MAYBE Chris Brown learned his lesson and will never hit a woman again.

    BUT, even if he has changed, he must live with that mistake forever. He does not deserve to be forgiven. Because if we forgive him, and pass this off as a minor offense that he’s learned from, what does that say to future offenders? What kind of a message does that send to the man who is arguing with his girlfriend RIGHT NOW, and is clenching his fist? If we forgive Brown, we are telling that man that it’s ok. That he can beat the crap out of her just this once, and all will be forgiven in three years. ESPECIALLY if he’s well-liked, and offers a service or product that a lot of people like (and is worth a lot of money, like Brown). Hell, why don’t we just pass a law that says every male who makes a lot of money and is well-liked is allowed to beat up a girl just once. As long as it’s just once and he learns his lesson, that’s ok. Is this the message we want to send to men (and to women!!) in the future?

  11. Completely agree with you. I’ve been saying for years that it’s insane that everyone seems to look the other way. If a politician or average Joe had done this, we wouldn’t be so forgiving, but because he’s a singer, everything’s forgiven?? AND he has the honor of performing at the Grammy’s (a privilege most singers would thank their lucky stars for). He completely disgusts me and I 100% agree that he should not be allowed to perform or have any part of mainstream media again. Along with what he did to Rihanna, he’s just a pompous pig overall. Remember when he dressed up like a Taliban terrorist for Halloween 2012? Or in 2011, when he freaked out and threw a violent fit at Good Morning America? Can’t we all just boycot him already?

  12. Domestic violence happens everywhere, across all classes and age groups, within all kinds of neighborhoods, etc. Animal abuse also happens everywhere, within the same scenarios I just described and more. I’m not for violence, and I’m definitely not defending it, but we’re only human–we’re capable of doing bad things in all degrees. We pay for them either way, at one time and/or another. Celebrities are already vulnerable to paparazzi, and they live under so much scrutiny, the likes of which lay people can’t ever comprehend, unless they become celebritized themselves. Yeah, he did a bad thing. Yeah, he paid for it, and yeah, he went under the grid for a while. Saying that he shouldn’t be able to do his job because he slipped up once, or at least as far as the press is concerned. Saying that he shouldn’t be able to perform, AKA do what he was, is, and likely WILL do in the future, because he was involved in a domestic dispute (seemingly only because it went VIRAL on the internet), is just ridiculous. You’re talking about denying him some of his rights as a citizen forevermore, because he made a mistake. As messed up as LiLo is, again thanks to the paparazzi and related press, she has a point. Would you want everyone else getting into your business and trying to take control of your life for you, because you, perhaps, were caught in a violence issue that leaked to said press? Even people that get DUIs are allowed work release, whether they were completely smashed, barely over the legal limit, or (in the case of AZ and other places with zero-tolerance policies that result in mandatory jailtime if you blow more than 0.00) any other BAC level. Vick was able to still play football because that’s his job, and he’s on a contract with his employer. You can’t make someone stop doing what they’re paid to do. Maybe certain jobs aren’t quite legal, but I’m ignoring those on purpose, because those jobs don’t involve legal, notarized, employment contracts. I don’t approve of the personal behavior, but that’s not my business. I don’t want others controlling me in my personal life. I dislike what he did, what Vick did, what Kobe did, what Tiger did, among a slough of others, but I can’t deny that they’re great at what they do, nor am I legally able, or even obliged, to flip my lip on the internet, with various grammatical/punctuational errors to “back up” my opinion. It’s an event that honors performers in their ARTWORK, not in their personal lives. Get off their nuts, get off your feminist high-horse, and let them get on with their lives. I’m 100% for equal rights, and that means that I am 100% for letting people live their lives, especially when what they’re doing in the present is WITHIN THEIR RIGHTS. If they slip up, or have slipped up in the past, they can deal with that themselves. They’re dealing with it, and/or have dealt with it in the past, so don’t hold them down so they can’t do anything in the future. It’s like disallowing someone that went into collections, or filed bankruptcy, to EVER make purchases on credit again. You’re a writer for a living, even though proofreading was obviously and blatantly skipped in this self-righteous rant online. People need to be able to try again, after being reprimanded and disciplined, or there’s no point in pushing your children, or others’ children, to get back up and try again when they make a mistake. Pull your head out, and let others try to live their lives (pun intended), and the law will stop them after 3 offenses if they slip up and commit the same genre of criminal offense two more times, right? Jesus…

    • You have to be kidding, right?

      You expect everyone to be ok with Chris Brown beating up a woman (or any person, for that matter) two more times before he is condemned?

      Before he will finally be stopped?

      You are obviously a very privileged man, who is not sympathetic to the frame of mind that a victim of violence would have.

      Maybe you should go get put in the hospital by someone who said they loved you; said they would never hurt you; said lots of things you believed.

      Saying that domestic violence is a personal matter between the couple is like saying that murder is a personal matter between the murderer and the murdered. It’s not a civil issue. It’s a criminal one. As in, prosecuted by the state, not the defendant. As in, no, it’s not just between them. It’s between Chris Brown and every woman who has been exposed to this media cover-up. It’s between Chris Brown and the laws of our government.

      • Damn right, Samm. Lonnie I don’t know what you’re going on about but you seem to fail to realize that Brown’s behavior has implications beyond a “private matter” (which, by the way, violence against any person is NOT a private matter in any circumstance) precisely because he IS a celebrity; what he does has implications for the culture he represents and influences those who idolize his image. When thousands of people engage in online behavior such as blaming the victim and dismissing the issue as no one else’s business without Brown himself using his celebrity clout to do the right thing and condemn his own actions as well as the words of those who would imagine ways to defend those actions we know there is a serious problem. There are, perhaps, ways that he could recover some public image, but it would require much more effort on his part. The article was not really about Brown anyway; it was about how corporate and public support of such a flawed character is fundamentally wrong and, frankly, disturbing. We are better than this.

  13. awesome editors note. hahaha

  14. Finally! I have never understood why people were completely fine with him beating up his girlfriend. I’m glad someone in the media has at last actually spoken up against him and said that this is not okay. Thank you.

  15. This was a well written, fully on point article and I commend you for standing in a space which does not allow for excuses, status or fame to rearrange your moral fiber. It saddens me that this article even needed writing, but it’s clear that it did. Thank you for lending your voice to those who may not be strong enough to speak up on their own.

  16. I couldn’t really care less that Rhianna forgave him. That is between them. But I have to agree, this is absurd. People act like he did hardly anything at all. Let me tell you, a man…or even woman, ever beat me like that, I would not be so quick to forgive. Even if they did to one of my friends. So why on earth are we as a society so quick to ASSUME he’s all better? He could have learned something. lets hope he did. But I make the choice not to support people who make seriously erroneous decisions. As for the Grammy’s even further reason not to watch them. Music has left the platform of talent and moved to dancing and putting on a show. Yawn. But I surely won’t support (in this case watch) any organization that is so blatantly self involved and out of touch with decency. Come on people. Let’s stop excusing this behavior, focusing on helping the criminal, and focus on making a difference. Standing up and saying enough. We will not tolerate this any longer. Not just with abuse of a woman, disrespect of the law, lack of kindness, and this growing epidemic of self involvement, it has to stop.
    *end rant*

  17. I think it can be agreed upon that what Chris Brown did to Rihanna is absolutely horrible, there is no argument against that. I also don’t particularly like him or enjoy his music, but at some point isn’t there room for forgiveness? What he did was awful, but is that who he’ll be forever? Isn’t it possible after doing something so awful that a person can learn from that mistake and hopefully move forward to become a better human being?
    I obviously don’t keep track of everything Chris Brown does, as I don’t care for him, but has he done anything remotely as bad in the past three years? Has anyone seen any sort of change or even deep regret for his actions?
    I’m not really sure how I feel about him preforming at the grammys, but I don’t feel it’s completely inappropriate for him to do so. Honestly, it’s a rather complicated issue.

  18. White America wants to be the Moral standard when it comes to other races,that is the bottom line.When one of them does something as horrific as Chris did it will be swept under the rug from blogs to mainstream media..This goes way back..In the 70s Ike turner beat up Tina which everyone knows about to this day but that same time John Lennon ,Paul McCartney,Glen Campbell,Lindsey Buckingham[beat up stevie nicks]all beat up their wives as well but guess who was made the poster child for DV..the BLACK GUY.His career went downhill and the other 4 soared to even greater heights.When asked why they were only targeting Ike most of white america said”he is not as talented as the others and he only did RnB music which is not real music”.Sean Penn beat up Madonna with a baseball bat, he is still around unbothered and even won an Oscar[but how dare Chris Brown win a Grammy,right?]Tommy lee,michael Fassbender,Nicholas cage,Bill Murray,Alec Baldwin,Alan Jackson,Christian Slater.DAMN, Charlie sheen beat up every other woman he has dated including in 2009 same year as Chris offended.Charlie was rewarded with a pay rise and celebrated as a comic God,his show ratings increased by nearly 20pc whilst Chris was been bashed and banned from radio at every turn.The same Grammy event you are talking about (2012), Miranda Lambert slandered Chris for perfoming and winning a Grammy but 10 minutes later her husband was honouring AND perfoming with a woman beater in Glen campbell whilst she danced away near the stage and when other women didn’t applause she had the audacity to ask them to show respect to Glen..Nobody complained about Glen winning and performing that night but went in on chris instead..deny all you want but 70 pc-100pc of this hatred is because of his race and the rest is about DV if at all otherwise if it was truly all about DV none of these white celebs would be getting a pass.NONE.Do you dedicate a 3 page article to Charlie Sheen {a repeated offender with no remorse but has a flourishing career}on his birthday and say I HATE YOU FOREVER…NO..Do you do the same to all the white man i have mentioned of which more than half did this at twice the age Chris did.If it were Justin Timberlake/Bieber this WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE AT ALL..

    • Although I agree with some of your points, I don’t think it’s pertinent to point out this is the fault of white America. I think you could definitely point out that it’s due to the rise of social media. Everywhere you turn… there is a camera. Most of the people you mentioned committed their crimes well before Zuckerberg invented facebook.

  19. Chris Brown has lost my vote in life. At this point, I’m a little weary of arguing over how we can best shame him publicly in order to spread the word against domestic abuse and misogyny. When an opportunity arises in my life to have a thoughtful discussion about those topics with friends or impressionable young people, I will step up onto my soap box and PREACH. Until then, I’m going to try and keep away from the hive-mindedness of it all.

  20. I totally agree with this entire article! I do always try to find the best in people though, and it does seem to me like Chris Brown is trying to get back on his feet and has tried to make it up to Rihanna for what he did. I will admit that I never was a fan of his, and that incident reinforced that decision, but I do hope that one day the world can forgive him.