I have to admit: it was terribly difficult coming up with a blog post for this week. Is anyone else feeling the end-of-semester sting? I know I am. Which is why this topic literally fell into my lap at just the right moment. Thank you once again Twitter–you never cease to amaze me. 😉
As I was trudging through assorted trending topics and newsfeeds, I found out the latest bluff from singer (and rapper now I suppose?) Chris Brown. On Sunday, November 25th, he apparently got into an altercation with a Twitter user named Jenny Johnson (@JennyJohnsonHi5). Johnson began the conversation by replying to a tweet from Brown where he addressed his appearance in connection to his age with the words “I know! Being a worthless piece of s*** can really age a person.” From there, the argument escalated into vulgar assaults from Brown to Johnson and Johnson attacking Brown on his assault against singer Rihanna. You can see the entire conversation on Johnson’s Twitter page, as she included his responses with her own in the tweets. The altercation apparently grew too serious for the singer Brown, as he ended up deleting his Twitter account shortly after.
When I initially read the tweets, I definitely was disappointed in both parties involved. It was an encounter that did not need to happen. Johnson did not need to send those tweets and Brown did not have to respond. But what got me fired up enough to actually take this to the blog was not the altercation itself, but the responses from others.
The discourse surrounding this incident on Monday was…intriguing, to say the least. As usual, the popular daytime talk show The View had their opinions on the issue during their “Hot Topics” session. Here is the clip from Monday’s episode.
“Verbal rape”? …..really, Elisabeth Hasselbeck? I don’t know, but when I heard that phrasing, I just felt like she fell on the extremist other side of the rape conversation spectrum. On one side, we have the Todd Akins, who wants to accredit as little as possible to actual rape, and on the other side, we have the Elisabeth Hasselbecks, who wants to accredit too much to actual rape. I am pretty sure Johnson did not feel figuratively penetrated by Brown’s comments because she did not cease to fire back at him. On the contrary, he is the one that ended the dispute and retreated by deleting his page.
But I cannot help but feel like Johnson is getting away with too much while Brown is being chastised heavily. Almost every article I read on the issue focuses on Brown’s past and domestic abuse issues, but not many articles attempt to delve into Johnson’s past. MTV went into this extensively, with little mention of Johnson.
What not many know about Johnson is that she has been harassing Brown on Twitter for at least a year with little pushback from Brown. Here is a screenshot (courtesy of one of my friends) of a series of tweets Johnson sent to Brown since July 9, 2011:
That makes it more difficult to place full blame on Brown with that extra tidbit of information that most news sources are conveniently leaving out of the discussion.
Let me put this out here right now: I am NOT Chris Brown’s biggest fan, nor do I condone his reckless behaviors. What he said misogynist, offensive, and disgusting. And it is terrible that in order to break a woman down, the first thing a person tries to destroy is her sexuality or “deflower her purity”, for lack of better words, as if that is the most essential element to her identity.
But the womanist in me (and I specifically choose womanist) is feeling very frustrated by how this is being treated. Since when did Johnson suddenly receive this “immunity” that allows her to constantly berate this young man without any pushback or, if he does, she receives countless support from celebrities, followers, etc.? (I will not ignore however the ignorant postings from Brown’s fans, including death threats. Boneheads.)
I’m sorry, but there is something outrageously twisted about a 30 year-old woman consistently harassing a 23 year-old young man via Twitter for at least a year. We are not in middle school, where cyber bullying runs rampant. Way to set an example.
I believe our media is treating this story largely like a damsel-in-distress scenario, when it is far from it. She initiated the contact. She did not back down. She ran him off of Twitter.
I also wonder would the story be different if Brown was not African-American and Johnson Caucasian. Our past has a strong history of trying to separate black men from white women, deeming black men too “savage” to interact or even challenge the” pure”, “chaste” white women. It makes me think of the film Rosewood (1997), which chronicles the infamous 1923 Rosewood massacre in Florida. The massacre was sparked when a white woman named Fannie Taylor falsely told an account which included a nameless black man breaking into her house and beating her. Rumors spread, however, that she was also raped. The townspeople ended up rioting, killing 19 people, and burning down the town where the black residents lived. In actuality, Taylor was not raped, but was beaten by a white man with which she was having extramarital affairs. I encourage you to watch the film.
Now do you see why I was disgusted by Hasselbeck’s “verbal rape” comment?
While it is not as serious as a bloody massacre, I do believe we have the tendency to be quick to not support a black man’s side or story. This is where womanism comes in. Our society largely takes away a black man’s right to defend himself, and womanist theory recognizes that. Womanists do not believe it is all about making sure women’s equity is achieved, but also that of the black man as well, that success can be achieved through the success them both. This is why a large portion of black woman could not fully identify with the feminist movement early on.
With that being said, I will once again state that I DO NOT CONDONE CHRIS BROWN’S ACTIONS. What he said to Johnson was simply wrong. But did he have the right to defend himself? Absolutely. However, in the context of him being a public figure with a past like his, it turned out more negative than positive. But he still possesses that right regardless, and it is a shame that because of one horrible mistake he made, our society subconsciously yanks that right away from him, even in situations when he is not the aggressor.
After all of that, if you would like to know what side I am on, I will refer to Whoopi’s reaction and say that I am on no one’s side because everyone was wrong in that situation. But it is incidents like this that show us that we still have some pervasive “genderized” ideals present in our culture, and we have a long way to go before we will see some type of relief.