Rihanna and Chris

My recent discovery of Spotify has me wading back into the world of pop music for the first time since Salt-N-Pepa were on MTV (does MTV still exist?) With the recent sparks flying around Chris Brown and Rihanna’s latest collaborations, I thought I would take a listen to their music. I discovered that I’m not a fan, but you certainly can’t miss the passion in their songs. And yet it’s alarming that this passion sounds a lot like violence. Blogger Yolo Akili is right on when he says “Pop songs about love sound more and more like war every day. And that should be frightening to us all.” Pop music has often been criticized for its portrayal of women and relationships, and most of the time for good reason—but that’s another post entirely.

Today I’m talking about Rihanna and Chris Brown. Maybe it’s just industry smoke and mirrors, or maybe there is still passion and even affection between these two. Either way, I was struck by the lack of compassion for Rihanna as the public opinion swirled around their new collaborations. Here’s a newsflash: people who have been abused often have contact with their abusers after they leave. Sometimes it’s about kids, but often it’s about reconnecting, giving a second chance, knowing the good in a person and hoping for a better outcome.

I’m not in any way minimizing what Chris Brown did. That was despicable. But Rihanna reconnecting with him, whether personally or professionally, does not equal her accepting or condoning the abuse. I’ve heard the outcry that she’s a role model for young women… what is she thinking? What are we thinking that we are holding her responsible for exemplifying the kind of relationship we want for our kids? Why aren’t we saying that it’s Chris Brown’s responsibility as a role model to not use violence to control his partner?

Although I am alarmed by a lot of what is being said, I’m glad people are talking about it. Let’s keep the conversation going. Reese Witherspoon is talking to her kids about it. Talk with the young people in your life and ask them what they think. Did you know a recent study found that most teens said they knew what a healthy relationship looked like, but didn’t expect to be in one? Come on, we can do better than that!

4 thoughts on “Rihanna and Chris”

  1. While I am equally disturbed by the idea that celebrity relationships are “models” for us, and by general relationship messaging in pop music, I do think that celebrity gossip can become a good platform for safely exploring issues as a soci…ety that might normally remain hidden. I talk about pop music messages about sex and love all the time with my 11 year old daughter.
    My 11 year old had wonderful (if inexperienced) comments about Chris Brown and Rihanna. After a radio dj commented “they recorded together, but they can’t legally be in a room together” she said “I’m GLAD they can’t be in a room together. Its not SAFE!”
    She then went on to ask me why would Rihanna choose to be with someone who punched her? And we had a conversation about the cycle of abuse, power and control dynamics, how hard it can be to leave.
    When we discuss these issues with our kids, its an opportunity to show them where we stand on violence- that we don’t accept it, or excuse it in any way, and that we respond to it by showing compassion and respect for the survivor. Its not Rihanna’s fault that Chris hit her. This attitude tells our kids what to expect from healthy relationships, but (maybe as important) it also tells them that we are safe people for them to come to if someone mistreats them, because it is not their fault, even if they made choices they regret.

  2. The other advice I have on this subject is don’t reject your kid’s music. It will feel like you’re rejecting them. I know this because my mom was critical of Nirvana because they of the song “Rape Me”…ha. I can’t imagine why.
    Instead, notice things they might like about the music, like the talent of the artists, and also talk about the parts you are critical of.
    My kid wanted to know what I thought about the Bruno Mars (who I hate…shh) song “Just the Way You Are” and it was a great conversation, because I could say well on one hand I like that he is communicating that he loves his partner just the way she is, but on the other hand I feel like the song still communicates really superficial values about women, and reinforces the idea that insecurity is sexy and you need a man to validate your awesomeness. If you watch the video this is especially obvious and it really doesn’t sound like such a special song since he chose a supermodel-looking woman to play the insecure partner. *eyeroll*
    Having these conversations has made my kid a critical consumer of music (she can now critique the messages of artists she likes) and I hope it will help her also be a critical consumer of relationships when she gets to that point in her life.

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