I've had a whole weekend to stew about Chris Brown coming to Halifax for Energy Rush. By now, there's been petitions for, petitions against, sponsors pulling out left, right and centre, discussions of art for art's sake, discussions about race, statements from Mayor Mike Savage and straight up plain vitriol for the abusive Brown.
It's doubtful that the show will be canceled, because sponsors or not, the ticket sales will be there. Team Breezy is adamant and obsessed with Chris Brown. Energy Rush has had more publicity than ever (and there's no such thing as bad publicity).
It's easy to speak against this choice. The stomach-churning photo of Rihanna's beaten face is burned into our memories, even making its way onto a poster decrying the event, featuring just the event details paired with the image, a tactic that was first used in Sweden, in an effort to get his show canceled.
That photo is a concrete example in a world that lives and dies by photographic evidence. The dangerous and disgusting truth is that domestic abuse is often "rationalized" away otherwise ("He just snapped and hit her once, it could have happened to anyone"). It wasn't just a heat of the moment slap across the face (as if that would have somehow been more acceptable). It was a vicious, brutal beating that Brown has showed little remorse for.
Unfortunately, violence against women—be it domestic abuse, sexual assault, street harassment or rape—needing to be seen to be believed is nothing new for women. In Rehteah Parsons' case, even a photo wasn't proof enough.
What makes Brown's case unique and so horrifying is the photo—the proof—still isn't enough to condemn Brown. Women can sit in a courtroom and be grilled about their pasts, their wardrobe, their choice of words, while trying—often in vain—to seek justice for abuse, wishing, praying, they had some photographic evidence, some key eyewitness account to save them. A woman's word is never enough.
As mentioned in this excellent Gawker article by Cord Jefferson, "people hate to read and like pictures."
"…that photo of Rihanna—bloodied, swollen, tear streaked—is not words in a divorce filing or a Hollywood starlet acting out true events. It is an unvarnished, grotesque, and unquestionable reality, and it is the kindling that started the blaze this is the world's hatred for Chris Brown." wrote Jefferson.
But surprisingly, in the PR aftermath that followed Brown's assault of Rihanna (that included throwing a chair on Good Morning America, fighting with Drake and most recently, a hit and run for which his probation was revoked today), even that photo was forgotten. Legions of loyal fans are all too willing to forgive and forget. We must separate the art from the man! Or don't even bother.
Now, I don't pretend everyone I have personally covered as a journalist or supported hasn't broken a law. Without a doubt know that I have. The numbers just support it, plain and simple.
Let's do a rough estimate. I've been writing about musicians for roughly seven years at an average of three groups a week (give or take). That's 1092 groups. We'll average each group at four people each, that's 4368 folks. Just for fun, let's say 50 percent of the people in these groups are female (there's no way it's been that even, but humour me). That's 2184 men that I've spoken to, sat down with, phoned, emailed, had a coffee with, recorded their words and supported by then writing an article about their projects.
In 2010 2.26 women out of 100 were assaulted by a partner in Canada. Exact numbers on abusers are surprisingly hard to find (maybe because this violence against women is strictly seen as a a women's issue). It's not likely that for every abused woman there is a single abuser. Some men may be abusing multiple women or children in a household, which would bring my final number much higher. But let's take a bit of a leap together. Say that every woman abused was beaten by a single man. That's 2.26 men out of 100 who beat their partners.
If we apply those numbers to mine, the rough estimate is that I've likely personally supported 43.6 abusers in their personal musical projects. It's a fact that makes me sick, especially since there's little I can do to vet the past (or present) of my interview subjects. This is just a numbers game that I'm sure we all could play. How many Facebook friends do you have? Or why not take a guess at how many people you stand in a crowded bar with every weekend, maybe even joke around with, who turn into monsters at a moment's notice?
It's enough to drive anyone crazy, but the point is we don't have to be similarly conflicted about Brown. There's no conjecture. We don't just have a sinking suspicion based on numbers of sexual assault, battery and rape. We all have proof.
And for once I can say I won't be involved.