Charlie Sheen, Sean Connery, Gary Oldman, David Hasselhoff, Mel Gibson, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Cage, Gary Busey, Bill Murray, Eminem, Alec Baldwin, Phil Hartman, Tommy Lee, Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Axl Rose, Sonny Bono, John Lennon, Sean Bean, Elvis Presley, Kelsey Grammar, Rob Lowe, and Chris Brown. What do all these men have in common? There has been evidence that all of them have either beaten or raped women. Unfortunately, the list of people that are actually shamed about it is much shorter. In fact, it’s a list of person. It’s Chris Brown. And you can guess why: It’s because he’s black.
This is no way in defense of Chris Brown. I hate how he never truly gave back to the community and continued to disparage anyone who disliked him as a “hater” rather than a “good person who is against domestic violence.” (I hate his music, too). But one of the things I hate most is media sources (the ones that actually shame abusers) and how our society has reacted to Chris Brown’s actions has made me hate him more than people who are equally guilty of disrespecting and abusing women.
This also is not in defense of myself. I have found myself cheering on celebrity men at awards shows or with their respective Hollywood careers who are guilty of similar crimes. Granted, I was not completely aware of some and their crimes, but I still am a proponent of the racist discourse that followed Chris Brown’s actions. And I think we all are. “Blogging elite” and fellow Internet activists, we have all been perpetuators of punishing Chris Brown and glorifying the other celebrities. Furthermore, my lack of education about the actions of these men is a part of the failings that come with not punishing celebrities for their crimes and violent actions.
Take a moment and look back through that list of names. Take a moment and think of all the TV shows, movies, and genres you would have to cut out of your life in your own silent, personal boycott. All these men, past and present, run Hollywood. And, unfortunately, their white skin and privilege is a barrier against punishment. Chris Brown got off easy because our world still prioritizes men over women, but these men got off easier. These men are Academy Award winners, icons for peace and music, and the one percent. These men run our world, and while white men continue to commit crimes against women, those who are not blessed with the same privileges are painted as being barbaric and monstrous. Because of Chris Brown’s race, he has become the symbol and sole media representation of abusers and domestic violence.
Chris Brown’s race has separated him from the rest of abusers, which has led to all verbal action that is done against abusers to be done against Chris Brown. The small amounts of societal and media attacks on abusers is against Chris Brown, and the rest of these men’s actions go unnoticed. A lot of this helps perpetuate the existing bogus stereotypes about men of color – that they’re misogynistic and violent human beings. A separation exists that puts more blame on men of color and continues to place these actions within their jurisdiction. All of these men deserve the same type of blame and one that is more extreme than the current one that exists.
And, of course, I’ve heard more about celebrities’ drug mishaps, mental breakdowns (seriously, leave them alone), romantic lives, and clothing bargains than I’ve heard about violence against women. No matter the race of the perpetuator, the problem still exists that in the airbrushed face of celebrity men, women are still viewed as the lesser. The possibility of destroying an already established career is more important than respecting those whose lives have been destroyed. These men that were listed run our Hollywood elite and continue to do so, despite being criminals and despite actively abusing women. Chris Brown is still being nominated for awards, and so are the rest of these men. While Chris Brown is receiving a bit of special treatment, all these men are still successful celebrities who face little real punishment or shaming after the actions for which they never atoned.
There is nothing that makes this okay, and Hollywood needs change. The media needs change. Women need change, justice, and relief from a world where misogyny and abuse is an accepted part of life, something that’s brushed under the rug if you’re white or famous.
Written by Anisha Ahuja