Posted by: Chasy | 25/11/2009

White Ribbon Day

I have been rather quiet over the past couple of weeks. I apologise for the radio silence – as they say, life happens while you’re making other plans. Or something.

Anyway, it is important that today, of all days, I do a round up of the posts that have been bubbling underneath the surface but never made it into electronic form. Today being White Ribbon Day.

For those not in the know, White Ribbon Day was created by a group of Canadian men who wanted to encourage men to speak out about violence against women. It began on the second anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, where, on December 6th, 1989, a lone gunman, Marc Lépine, murdered 14 women and injured 4 men and 10 women during a shooting spree at the college, before turning the gun on himself. His suicide note stated he was ‘fighting feminism’, that feminists were ruining his life, and listed women at the college whom he believed were feminists and wanted to kill. It inspired a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada, and was made an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women ten years later.

There has been a lot of public exposure lately of incidents of violence against women within celebrity couples; most notably concerning Rihanna and Chris Brown. In particular, and unsurprisingly, the media handling of this situation is deplorable.

Rihanna recently gave a tv interview, which, at most news agencies, was was reported on responsibly, noting that Rihanna wished to set an example for her fans and let young women know it’s O.K to speak out about intimate partner violence. However, some entertainment websites, which are aimed specifically at young women, chose to take the angle that Rihanna didn’t want to send any kind of message at all about domestic violence, as if she wanted to sweep it under the rug.

What kind of message is that sending? Do they not think it’s completely irresponsible to paint Rihanna as a woman who believes that domestic violence should not be spoken about, after such a public beating? It’s true that Rihanna’s exact words were, “I don’t want to be a big domestic violence spokesperson”, because she didn’t want it to define her as a person – and rightly so. A victim of intimate partner violence should not have to carry the label the rest of his or her life, otherwise the abuser continues to abuse.

Nevertheless, she went on to explain that she wanted to show girls in the same situation that they should not accept intimate partner violence and they should not be silent. She told Diane Sawyer about her brief reunion with Chris Brown:

“When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn’t be held responsible for telling them to go back. I just didn’t realize how much of an impact I had on these girls’ lives.

Don’t react out of love. F love. Come out of the situation and look at it third-person for what it really is and then make your decision. Because love is so blind.”

There was no mention of that in either of the entertainment articles, which makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth.

It’s that kind of obfuscation and lack of obvious role models that lead to incidents like Greg Bird’s girlfriend maintaining that the ‘glassing’ incident was an accident, despite the fact that the story keeps changing, and they initially tried to blame someone else. If it was an accident, and someone asked you what happened, you wouldn’t think twice about telling people it was an accident, and would be confused as to why anyone would think it was anything else. If you, instead, tell people you didn’t think they would believe you, chances are you weren’t telling the truth in the first place.

Also, how fucking hard would it be to glass yourself?!

Of course, it’s not surprising that women in such situations think they just can’t win. When Rihanna came out strong after her ordeal, the media had to smack her back down again. In the same week as her recent TV interview there was cause to write a whole fucking article about one bad photo. Why the fuck do we care? Why was it picked up internationally? Why does that bullshit completely overshadow the important message she was trying to convey?

Oh, I know exactly why – we love to see someone fall from the pedestals we put them on. It’s not enough that her privacy was violated in such an intimate way, we have to humiliated just that little bit more, to make ourselves feel better. It’s always women, too. How much beat up have you seen about any male celebrity’s cellulite?

One thing that must be mentioned, is there is a fine line between speaking out about domestic violence, and ignoring someone’s right to privacy. White Ribbon Day is all about speaking out, but women don’t need to have their abuse relived over and over, once it gets in the public eye. Rihanna has spoken about how hard her abuse was to deal with once the press got wind of it, and how disappointed she was to hear that the individuals, who leaked the photo of her injuries to the press, were women. These and other very good points are mentioned in this AlertNet opinion piece.

In the end, all of this means nothing unless everyone understands the point of today. Buy a white ribbon, speak up about domestic violence, and look after your friends.

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