Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Exploiting Victims in the Name of Activism

So, as we already know, Chris Brown is a giant, girlfriend-beating douchecanoe.  Chris Brown the rapper, not Chris Brown that guy that used to work with my sister.  That guy was pretty cool and to the best of my knowledge, never beat anyone with an umbrella.

No, I definitely mean this guy. - Jeff R. Bottari/Getty Images
So, some folks in Sweden decided to protest one of Brown's concerts and in said protest, decided to put up a huge billboard and posters featuring the visage of then-and-possibly-now girlfriend, Rhianna, shortly post-assault.  You know the one, where he beat the shit out of her.

I am not okay with this.

Don't get me wrong.  My issue with these billboards has nothing to do with any desire to see Brown NOT punished to the further extent of the law by the court of public opinion.  I would love nothing more than for him to be forever known not as Chris Brown, Musician but Chris Brown, Giant Girlfriend-Beating douchecanoe.

Seriously, fuck that guy.

I love the fact that people are putting stickers on his CD's reminding people that this guy beat the shit out of a woman and maybe we shouldn't give him our money.  I'd love to see people do similar to Guns N Roses CDs, or Roman Polanski films or DVD boxed sets of Three and a Half Men.  (Axl Rose was accused of beating two exes, Roman Polanski drugged and raped an underaged girl and Charlie Sheen is.. well, Charlie Sheen).   Sing it from the rooftops.  "THIS GUY BEATS WOMEN."  Blow-horn that shit, seriously.

Can we do that without exploiting the victim?  That is my main issue with this postering effort. Given the fact that it appears that Brown and Rihanna are kind of off-again, on-again, I'd be willing to bet that she has not given any permission for her image to be used in such a way.  This is not a publicity photo from a magazine spread.  It's a picture taken in the wake of a horrific assault, when Rhianna, as a subject, was in a vulnerable position.  It's a haunting reminder of what he did to her, but is not for us, as the public, to consume.

As I said, I do not think Chris Brown deserves anything less than to have his name forever associated with being that guy who beat his girlfriend with, ironically enough, an umbrella and then was known to throw hissy fits when the media refused to just 'get over it'.  But in such cases, the victim's right to privacy should be respected, without being exploited as a poster child for a cause.  It reminds me of The World According to Garp and the Ellen Jamesians, who alienated Ellen James by making her a martyr and, through their movement, refusing to let her move past her own assault.

The use of Rhianna's battered face as a reminder of Brown's wrong-doing feels exploitative to me.  I feel like the people who created these posters were more interested in vilifying an abuser (which, on it's own is not a bad thing) than protecting the victim from further harm.

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