Wednesday, March 25, 2009

And Here I Was Thinking The Chris Brown/Rihanna Incident Was A "Teachable Moment."



So, I’ve been pitching in as the "Real Talk Mom" over at Momtourage, doling out, well, real talk to moms looking for help dealing with their parenting dilemmas. Recently, a mom wrote asking for advice on how to talk to her kids about the Chris Brown/Rihanna domestic violence incident, and I think I did a pretty decent job giving her some solid talking points—talking points I had to give my own daughter to help her make sense of all the gossip and innuendo she’d been hearing about the incident in her 4th grade class.

Now, I expect tweens and teens to say dumb stuff like what the kids were talking in last week’s New York Times “Teenage Girls Stand By Their Man” story; 9th graders, whose mamas are clearly falling down on the job, were flat out saying Rihanna got what she had coming for making her boyfriend mad, and that Brown shouldn’t be punished because he and his girlfriend had kissed and made up. “So he shouldn’t get into trouble if she doesn’t feel that way,” one girl said. “She probably feels bad that it was her fault, so she took him back.”

Lord.

Imagine my shock, then, when I got a gander of the raucous e-shouting match over at Momtourage, where presumably grown women—mothers!—are suggesting that maybe, just maybe, Rihanna got what she had coming because she hit Brown, and that she was equally culpable for the whipping that allegedly led to her looking like this:



What in the world is wrong with people?

The fact of the matter is that while none of us ever wants our child to have to face such heady issues at this young of an age, they ARE talking about the incident, and it's our duty as parents to help them understand how to process the stories floating around. I feel reasonably confident that I've taught my daughter that she shouldn't ever physically hit ANYONE—girl or boy—in anger, and that it is NEVER acceptable for a boy/man to hit a girl/woman—period. No matter who said what/who hit who in that car that night, the bottom line is that Rihanna should NOT have emerged with her face looking the way it did. NOBODY deserves that. And I especially don't want my son thinking it's okay to do that to a woman, or my daughters to think a man who would do that to them should be forgiven and taken back.

How many little girls are learning different—from their mothers? And why would any mother think it’s okay to have her daughter date/love/stay with/defend a man who settles arguments by beating his woman like a grown ass man? What happened to the "teachable moment" thing--you know, when you use an incident like this as an example to impart your wisdom and family values on the kids? Can someone please help me make sense of this?


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24 comments:

  1. I do NOT understand this. Not at all. Where are the people who love her?

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  2. i agree with you. it was a great opportunity for a teachable moment. as beautiful and as talented as she is we as adults know there are many, many wonderful young men who would love to date her and treat her well, but she is young and can't see beyond her attachment to chris brown. i worry that our teachable moment will happen a ways down the road when he strikes again. of course i hope that doesn't happen and hope they both are getting help that they both so desperately need.

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  3. I agree completely and don't know what is wrong with these mothers. It drives me insane...

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  4. I have even heard discussion that it's not a big deal because Rhianna isn't from the States, she's from an island in the Carribbean (??)--it's a cultural thing they said. It's OK, accepted, and expected for women to take the abuse in that culture. WTH? That makes it a double teaching moment in my head: 1) all the reasons you pointed out and 2) break the cycle. Explain how culture doesn't make it right. Point out why she may be forgiving that jerk and make it clear that it's a mistake.

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  5. Denene,

    You took the words out of my mouth. I heard similar sentiments from grown women I work with and friends of mine. I was totally shocked.

    And with regard to Melanie's comment, Melanie girl, PLEASE tell those people that such an assertion regarding abuse being acceptable culturally because Rihanna is from Barbados is a total and complete LIE. As a first generation American of West Indian/Caribbean descent, I can assure you that is not true at all. Caribbean society, just like all others, have their bad apples but to assert that abuse of women is a norm in the Caribbean context is completely wrong.

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  6. @Melanie: My God, are you serious? People are actually walking around saying that? Ha' mercy! I'll bet you any amount of money that even if someone does think it's acceptable and expected for women to take a hit, the women probably aren't co-signing. And you're absolutely right: Culture doesn't make it right. But it's not simply a cultural thing; it's an abuser thing. Any man who hits a woman is sick and needs help and where he comes from/what color his skin is doesn't change that. I'll tell you this much though: It's pretty scary to know that there are SO many women/girls out there justifying this behavior. Just. Scary.

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  7. A teaching moment indeed. My father used to say that if you can teach your children self-worth, you have won half the battle:)

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  8. Wow! This is so heart wrenching but I am not surprised. Even Whoopi sat on the View and said she heard Rihanna hit him first and that women should not hit men. She implied that if you are a woman you should not hit a man if you don't want to receive a beat down in return. I just turned the TV. I can't stomach the View anyway. But many women and girls do have this philosophy that if you hit him, then it is okay for him to hit you. But it is never okay. My husband and I have been teaching my 4 year old son, since he was 2, that regardless if the little girls hit him, he is to never hit a girl. Period.

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  9. I can't agree with you more. I have had to re-talk about this situation with my daughters since the whole turn around came about. My daughter's reactions were "How do you go back with someone that did that to you?" "there's not that much love in the world that any guy can do that to me and I would go back with him".

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  10. @Sheliza: You've got a smart little cookie on your hands! Keep her mind right!

    @Sherry: Girl, thanks for breaking it down so it'll forever be broke!

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  11. Hi Melanie,
    Not sure where you heard that domestic abuse is cool with my peeps, but as a Puertoriquena, please know that it is NEVER "okay, expected or accepted" that women take this abuse in the Caribbean culture. I can emphatically state that it will NEVER be the case.

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  12. Sheliza: You are a great mom and your daughter is really smart. We need to teach our children not to use their fists and hands in anger, but it is particularly important to teach our boys that it is NEVER ok to hit a woman, and to teach our girls that it is NEVER ok for a man to hit them.

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  13. This situation saddens me. These are the women that wonder why their daughters didn't come forward when they got raped or punched or molested by the males in their lives. These girls know from a very young age that it's the girl's fault. She should have known better. And on top of that, a boy's future is more important than letting him suffer the consequences of his violent behaviour. "I hope this doesn't hurt Chris' career".

    There are laws that send people to jail for using force, violent force, to resolve their disagreements. But yet we seem to give a pass when it's a man 'putting his woman in check' because after all, that is his right as a man, and she is his property. His pet. She needs to be disciplined. Like a child. But we can't beat our children like that, because that's a crime. But not this. This is not a crime. Right? Right.

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  14. The underlying issue here is that people don't understand the mentality of victims of domestic abuse. The refrain is, "Well, if she's dumb enough to stay, she deserves it." Obviously someone as rich, pretty, talented and successful as Rihanna couldn't possibly have low self-esteem. She couldn't possibly hate herself enough to think she deserves this treatment. But she is still a classic victim of domestic abuse. If adults don't understand this, how can we then expect them to teach their kids about it? And then look at all our celebrities, who immediately spoke up to DEFEND Chris or say "We shouldn't judge him, he is only 19." EXCUSE ME?! I don't care how old he is, he was dead wrong and he needs to sit in jail and think about what he did to her and he needs to get some help with his anger issues PRONTO. The ONLY black celebrity who didn't act a mealy-mouthed fool and came out and condemned Chris without then retracting his statement was Blair Underwood. Thank you, Blair! A real man doesn't hit a woman. End of story.

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  15. @Melanie: I am born and raised in the Caribbean and this is the first time I am hearing about abuse being "OK" in our culture. Trust me when I tell you it is not! I completely second what Yazvia said. It is no more OK there than it is anywhere else. If anything, in my experience, I think there is a lot less tolerance in the Caribbean for any man who would dare to put his hands on a woman. From what I understand, her entire family is against her being back with Chris, but they can't MAKE her stay away from him.

    In part, I am happy that my daughter is too young to know what is going on, but I assure you that we are teaching her, even at this age, that hitting is not OK for her to do to anyone else, and it's not OK for anyone to hit her either.

    I am really saddened by the reaction of these teenage girls who still think Chris is the catch of the century, but I am even MORE saddened by the mothers who clearly are failing at teaching their daughters that this behavior is not acceptable.

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  16. Oh Denene...you took the words out of my mouth on this issue. I can't even fathom why any woman would justify what this young man did. And then to tell their daughters that it was okay as well?! Just unbelievable to me...and terribly, horribly sad.

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  17. Hurt people, hurt people. Women and men who think it's acceptable to physically harm each other in relationships have been hurt. That's why they think it's okay to use their fists. It's not okay for either one of them to beat on each other. It's not okay, but it happens. Both the kids have to grow and learn from whatever happened there that night. Moms who can't convey to their daughters that it's not okay to fight within a relationship, probably haven't fully accepted that it's not okay themselves. They are still hurting from their own pasts.

    Both the families of Chris and Rihanna have not taken a super hard stance against what has happened, and that might because they have some healing to do themselves.

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  18. Somewhere in Rhianna's mind, she must feel that either she is to blame or that he's "sorry" and won't do it again. Those are the only reasons I can think of that she'd do that.

    I hate that our kids are watching this play out and thinking that she had it coming. There's no excuse for laying a hand on a female but there's also no reason to hit a man either. I know a man that is abused by his spouse and has been for years. He won't fight back and he won't have her arrested. But that's beside the point.

    Good topic, Denene.

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  19. It makes absolutely no sense to me. It IS a teachable moment, the problem is some parents are teaching the wrong thing.

    It was perfectly clear to my 7 y.o. son who immediately told me, "Mama, that's really bad. That should never happen. I guess that means I can't listen to his music anymore."

    How can he get it and grown ass folks totally miss the boat?

    Winks & Smirks,
    Wifey

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  20. Hello Denene,

    I hear you! There's absolutely no excuse for what happened to Rhianna. I cringed and cried while viewing her photo.

    As the father of a 5 year old "pearl of a girl," it's my responsibility to "lead by example," to teach her how "real men" treat the wise women God has gifted to this world. I'm the first man she'll ever love. She's constantly watching how I love, honor, and respect her mother.

    I've lived long enough to know that only weak, insecure men beat women. Unfortunately, Chris Brown isn't the only man who needs to know that a "meek man" is not a "weak man." Meekness is "power under control."

    It takes a strong man to turn the page and walk away before his emotions begin to rage.

    Manchild

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  21. Sorry, I can't help you make sense out of nonsense. But, it's apparent that our daughters are riding and dying. They think it's functional to be in dysfunctional relationships. I don't understand domestic abuse at all, because I've never been hit by a man. My daddy set the raised that bar HIGH. My brother were not allowed to hit their sisters under ANY circumstances. My daddy didn't whip his girls, nor did he allow any other man to do it.

    I committed to blogging about domestic violence for seven days after I posted a discussion in a forum about Chris Brown and Rihanna reuniting. I needed to learn more about it when a grown woman lashed out at me stating that we don't know the whole story...well, DUH! But, she went on to defend why she stayed in an abusive relationship until SHE got tired and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Now her daughter is in a similar relationship, and the mama doesn't say anything because she knows her daughter won't leave until she gets tired. What the...? As a parent, how do you stand by and say nothing? What does it say about Rihanna's father that he "agrees" with his daughter staying with an abuser?

    While writing those series of blogs, I got an email from a mental health professional telling me that she doesn't know why everyone has placed Rihanna on a pedestal because clearly there's money involved and she and her father are not as innocent as they're making themselves out to be. I certainly won't be recommending this woman to anyone seeking any type of psychotherapy.

    This is a teachable moment, not only for our daughters, but also for our sons. After BeBe Winans was arrested earlier this month for domestic violence when he went to pick up his kids from his ex-wife, I knew it was time to reiterate to my son that a simple push can land him in jail. He must know when to walk away--even if the woman is being "unreasonable" or creating drama--and let cooler heads prevail.

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  22. I so agree with you that we need to take full advantage of teachable moments at any age...and those moments are happening every day, moving quickly in and out, and we have to pay attention and do our duties as mothers and parents to grab them and do our thing.

    I believe, too, in keeping those teachable moments age appropriate. Like you, our message was you don't hit or commit any type of violence against anyone. Period. The other message I thought served my 5th grader was that it didn't matter if you're a celebrity, a neighbor, rich, poor, have a big house or a small bungalow...violence is wrong. Period.

    Values. Values. Values. They're the basis of how we live our lives, how we behave, what we believe in. We must stand by our values. That is the most teachable, most critical lesson we owe our children.

    Anne Witkavitch
    www.theeclecticwriter.typepad.com
    The TravelingSanity Mom and blogger at www.travelingmom.com

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