Thursday, 1 November 2012

For White Ribbon Day

November 25 is "White Ribbon Day". This is a campaign designed to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women. As this day draws near, it made me think about all the women out there who have had to live with violence, and fight for basic rights and opportunities that the rest of us take for granted. Recently, the world was outraged by the shooting of young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousufzai. This brave teenager was shot by Taliban gunmen because she is a strong advocate and vocal supporter of education for girls and women's rights in her country. Our own country mourned the tragic death of Jill Meagher, who was abducted and murdered literally metres away from her home. However there is another story that I'd like to draw from because to me it is an example of how violence can touch any woman regardless of race, age, religion, profession and socio-economic status. This story is about pop singers, Rihanna and Chris Brown. Bear with me here. I promise this isn't just a bit of fluff.

Rihanna and Chris Brown are reportedly back together. For those of you who don't read gossip magazines or the entertainment section of the news, they broke up because he hit her. Literally beat her black and blue is probably the most accurate way of describing what happened. They split, and she enjoyed seemingly endless holidays and moved on with her career. He did community service for his crime and then proceeded to pump out a hit record. As time passed it became clear that a large number of people in this world 'forgave' him (why else would people be willing to buy his music and shower him with awards). Now apparently, so has she. 

I am shocked that this woman who has youth, beauty and talent on her side not to mention the wealth, opportunity and freedom to choose a different path, has chosen this. She should know better. She has the means to do better. She is able to be better. Sadly, it seems that even her privileged position does not protect her from the same struggle other women face when trying to break free from abusive relationships. Even her father has publicly given this man (and I use that term very loosely when describing Chris Brown) his blessing and voiced his support for their relationship. Disturbing to say the least.

Yes, I know that I am passing judgment on people I don't even know and who live in a completely different world. I realise that I cannot even begin to comprehend all the thoughts, feelings and actions related to their particular situation. Yet somehow the justifications of "you don't know me", "you don't know him" and "you don't know us" just don't cut it with me. Sure people can change. But this kind of change takes a long time and a whole lot of hard work. We are all aware of the statistics and heard of real-life stories associated with domestic violence. Not to mention the untold damage and the emotional scars that linger long after the physical ones disappear. The fact is human nature is actually quite predictable and past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. So forgive me for being highly skeptical and appalled about all this (should the story about their reconciliation be true).

I certainly do not make any apologies for passing judgment on all those who buy his music, extol his virtues and continue to excuse his utterly repugnant behaviour. Or at those so called news 'reporters' and social commentators who write/speak about these two getting back together as if it is just another piece of celebrity gossip, dismissing the reality of the situation and ignoring the big, fat, ugly elephant in the room. I can excuse her judgement and behaviour because as the victim, she has obviously been through the wringer - physically,  emotionally and mentally. But what excuse do all these other people have? 

Here is a woman who seems to believe that following her heart is simply enough. I wish her luck. I pray for her safety. I hope that I am proven wrong. 

Every woman deserves so much more. Every woman is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. May we - whether we are a man or a woman - never, ever forget this. 

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