“Disturbia”: Why the Rihanna-Chris Brown Reunion Enrages Me

by: Sidney Stokes

I am full of rage. I feel cheated. I feel hurt. I don’t know why, but the reunion between Rihanna and Chris Brown has left me feeling utterly gutted.

Last year I went through a break up. A lot of us have been through them, and no matter how great the terms you end on are, breakups will always be painful and emotional. In the midst of that breakup I felt my weakest. I felt the strength, which I normally feel, drained. I was out of it. It was a feeling that I had never experienced. What did I do? I turned to music. Some in the same position will choose to listen to songs of heartbreak as a way to find a voice to relate to. That isn’t me. If I am feeling down, I want to listen to someone who will bring me back up. I’ll throw on Cher, I’ll throw on Gaga, but there was one person who came on shuffle one day that really put me back on my path to me: Rihanna.

She sang every emotion I needed. She sang the words that lifted me up, “No pain is forever/tougher than a lion/my runway never looked so clear/no fear.”

She sang the words that empowered me to be me again, “To be what you is, you gotta be what you are.”

She sang songs that contain a story of someone who never sacrifices who they are for the sake of others. I needed that more than anything; I needed someone to tell me that message because it reminded me of who I could again be.

Today, I read that Rihanna and Chris Brown have reunited. While I only have confirmation that it is on a musical front, I cannot help think there is much more. I do not know her as a person; I know her as a symbol. I know the message of her music. I know what I saw in the pictures of her mutilated face: the colors of the bruises against her usually flawless skin, her gorgeous complexion violated by the fists of a disturbed mongrel. I felt for her. I could see the damage done on many levels. We all could see how she needed to reclaim her own strength as not just a woman, but as a person. As time went on we saw how she did just that, or so we thought.

For a while the rumor of the two reconnecting has arisen, and after the Grammys, it seemed more apparent than ever; however, it wasn’t until the two reconnected on each other’s songs that I realized: “Wow, this is a real thing.” Three years after images of her battered face appeared online, she has reunited with her attacker.

I don’t care about the why but rather the what. What does this say? What does this say to her adoring fans, those that admired her strength. Her fans who supported her rise from the ashes of brutality to become her own person once again, to go on and release success after success. It is astounding to think that this flawless looking phoenix is actually just a masochistic pigeon, but after all, she did sing about her love of S&M.

Maybe I’m being to- hard. Perhaps Chris Brown has, in fact, reformed and changed his ways. I might be one of the masses that are cynical toward celebrities and believe that — because of their celebrity status — they are unable to change. At the time of the event, he was only 21; we are all different people at that age. I never beat anyone, but I never had such the stress of being a young celebrity that he did. (That isn’t an excuse, I have just heard that it is a hard pressure for some to bear.)

In any event, I cannot relate. He might have changed fully and proved how sorry he is to his victim. I won’t know that…I will never know that 100%.  All I know is what I have seen and what I’ve read in gruesome police reports and seen in the brutal photos released in the aftermath. Has time really healed the wounds or merely covered them up for now? I guess time will tell.

Music has always helped me out so much, in many different ways. Through my breakup, I had fantastic support from family and friends, support that I will never forget so long as I live. Rihanna was somewhat of an inspiration. Was I abused in any way? No, absolutely not. My ex was and is a fantastic person, who I am still glad to call a friend. I was only beaten down and exhausted in the way only a breakup can do. Listening to Rihanna gave me strength. We have all, myself included, done things that we know are bad for us, but we live in a time when resilience and strength are two of the most important aspects one can have. I can’t know whether there is love between Chris Brown and Rihanna; all I know is what I believe, and what I believe is anyone who attacks someone the way Brown did, has no real love to give.

When Ike beat Tina Turner, we saw her embrace her liberation. She didn’t run back to him; she went beyond Thunderdome and proclaimed, “Out of the ruins/out from the wreckage/can’t make the same mistake this time/what do we do with our live/give it all or nothing.” These words encouraged so many people, specifically women, to be strong because they have it in them to be strong; they always were strong. In a time when women struggle for true equality, for equal pay and for a society that recognizes the violence and discrimination many face every day, Rihanna is sending the message “I am not an artist, I am a sound with hollow words. “

You are more than that Rihanna. We need you to be more than that.

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7 responses to ““Disturbia”: Why the Rihanna-Chris Brown Reunion Enrages Me

  1. I get where this is coming from, but it’s disturbingly victim blaming. Someone else responded to a similar post at the Hairpin by saying that it’s not Rihanna’s job to make us/her fans comfortable with how she handles her abuse. I’m sure you have only the best intentions with writing this, but it really erases Rihanna’s agency or any acknowledgement that people’s choices are complex. Just because someone is famous it doesn’t mean they need to make every life decision based on how it will appear to fans.

    We have a responsibility in all of this too. It’s not all on Rihanna. What if the conversation about this was different? What would that say to her fans? What if–instead of making survivors of abuse feel like their every move will be scrutinized and deemed either the “right” or “wrong” way to deal with abuse or an abuser we reframed this whole thing to make survivors feel empowered to make their own choices about their own lives, knowing that they wouldn’t be shamed for them? What if instead the articles that cropped up everywhere after something like this happened let ABUSERS know that all eyes are on them, and that if they screw up again we’ll hold them accountable?

    I just feel like articles like this hurt the situation more than they help it.

  2. I agree, Elise, very well put.

    I have heard a lot of disturbing language floating around this week about Rhianna’s decision making, and I find it troubling that people (especially with the media feeding the fire) treat her as though she is this object without agency. I have seen a lot of facebook posts saying things like “Chris Brown should rot in prison for what he did to her,” often with follow ups of “She is so stupid for even talking to him again.” I have challenged folks by reminding them that it was Rhianna’s DECISION not to press charges and that was, perhaps, her way of dealing with this trauma. We have to start respecting survivors of violence and their humanity and autonomy.

  3. In defense of the article I would like to point out the door was left open to be proven wrong. I do think public figures have somewhat of a responsibility, it is a price they pay for the perks of celebrity.

    I also can not buy the, “She still loves him.” I cannot ever see why someone beaten so savagely would still love their attacker, no matter the passage of time. I will always view that as a wrong choice.

    Articles are not needed to let Chris Brown know he has eyes always on him. He’s at least smart enough to know that he is in the spotlight (that he LOVES) and people will judge him from here on out.

    That said, thank you for taking the time to read the article and your opinion is for sure a very great counterpoint that I can see where you coming from, even if I do not agree.

  4. Maybe that is part of her healing?
    Facing the (probable) fear of that person?
    Perhaps showing him that she is not afraid of him.
    Maybe she feels it’s something she has to do in order to come full circle with her own anger/pain.

  5. Pingback: Bruises and Birthday Cake: What We Talk About When We Talk About Rihanna and Chris Brown « In Our Words·

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