Saturday, February 21, 2009

Question of the Day: Saturday, February 21, 2009

Providing Presence to Domestic Violence or Invading the Privacy of a Recovering Human?

On Friday, the celebrity gossip site TMZ released the police photograph of Rihanna. (You can see the photo here if you wish.)

The photo reveals the bruises on her face after the pop singer was beaten allegedly by Chris Brown. According to TMZ, Brown received a text message from another woman about meeting later in the day and this text message started the argument between Brown and Rihanna. Brown turned himself in to authorities on February 8th.

The question, of course, involves the leak of the photograph. According to the Times (UK), which reproduced the photo in the story, the LAPD are investigating who leaked the photo of Rihanna to the press. When it investigates cases that involve domestic abuse, the LAPD attempts to maintain the confidentially of the victim of domestic abuse cases and does not release information about the person involved in the case.

It is unknown who or why a person leaked the photo of Rihanna though a reasonable guess would be to cash in on the ordeal.

The question: does the release of the photo violate the privacy of Rihanna or does the release of the photo provide more presence to cases of domestic violence, allowing for more women to come forward if they are involved in this case?

I am not asking about whether or not the release of the photo may alter the investigation in the case though I imagine it could. Rather, I am interested in knowing whether or not readers believe that these photos should not be published because Rihanna, celebrities, or women that suffer in these types of cases should be able to go through these cases without the pressure of the public spotlight; or, on the other hand, if this case is transcendent for the way in which it allows people to see what is kept behind closed doors.

Should a right to privacy cover these cases or does publicity bring of these cases bring something greater to the cause?


Supadiscomama said...

I don't have an answer to your question, Solon--although I'm sorry that Rhianna must deal with this so publicly. I think it's one thing to talk about your experiences with domestic violence after the fact--but having to deal with public discussion of your experiences while you're still recovering is potentially damaging, I think. Of course, the outpouring of support from her fans and other celebrities may help her. And the public condemnation of Chris Brown's alleged abuse is a good thing--though his "apology" was a bit weak.

Something that has struck me during all of this is the fact that all of this attention is focused on an African-American couple. As has been the case with missing white girls vs. missing black girls, I feel like few people would care if they weren't famous. I had similar thoughts about the murder of Jennifer Hudson's family members--I'm sure that such violence is not unheard of (as residents quoted in the articles about the murders confirmed) in that particular neighborhood. How many people found themselves in a similar situation and received absolutely no attention from the media.

Perhaps, though, both incidents will draw more attention to issues of violence that have previously been ignored--especially when both the suspect and the victim is African-American.

Anonymous said...

I have a related question, but no answers. I've been reading lots of calls to Rihanna to become a public persona in the fight against domestic violence. Do we, as a public, have the right to ask this of anyone? And, as Supa has pointed out, particularly a young woman who is in the midst of the crisis as we speak?

As someone who has been in a long-term relationship with a verbally abusive man, I can say through the curtain of the computer that it is an extremely difficult thing to even admit, let alone talk about in any great detail, even with my closest friends. And now this young women in an incredibly fragile state is being summoned as our potential hero.

I'm also rather disappointed by other artists' public reaction to this. In particular, I'm wanting more from Jay-Z, whom I really respect and who was/is Rihanna's mentor. Here's what he's publicly said: "“You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that.“ And this: "I just think we should all support her. She’s going through a tough time. She’s very young.” All true and all supportive, but very, very vague. There is no perpetrator in any of his statements. Only a victim. It's all well and good to focus on Rihanna, as she's the important one here in terms of health and well being. But, if it were my mom or sister, I'd also want to address the fact that someONE has done this to her and needs to be brought to justice.

Supadiscomama said...

At the same time (expanding upon your original point), Jay-Z's comment does call into question whether 1) one would want or ask their sister or mother to deal with this in the public eye; 2) one would expect their mother or sister to become a spokesperson while she is dealing with the problem; or 3) would anyone want others to speculate about the nature of the relationship in which one's mother or sister is/was involved? I kind of view his comment as a call for privacy, though I agree that it was very vague--he could have easily said outright that Rhianna's privacy needs to be respected, as well as claim the importance of prosecuting this crime (if Brown is, indeed, guilty--which by all accounts it seems he is...)

solon said...

A few comments:

Megs, the public has a "right," if you can call it that, to ask Rihanna to be vocal and public about what happened. In Western culture, the presumption focuses on that it is better to discuss problems that to internalize or turn away from them. For example, the Ted Haggard scenario is the exact opposite of what should be run.

Whether or not Rihanna responds, discusses this in public, or becemoes a vocal, public figure against domestic abuse is something entirely different and it is her choice.

Second, I wonder if there politics in the music industry presents further condemnation against Brown, especially before a trial. It seems that musicians may not want to criticize other musicians because too many have skeletons in the closet.

Further if this video is correct, which states that Jay-Z stated that Chris Brown is a "dead-man," presents a terrible response as it perpetuates a culture of violence.

Finally, I think that it is better if this is public rather than private as it helps society confront the problem. In the long run there may be problems with desensitization but, right now, there are too few cases in which this is public.

Supadiscomama said...

You make good points, Solon. In fact, Terrence Howard, who "apologized" for "insensitive remarks" made about the case--claiming that he didn't really know the details at the time of the comments, was recently attacked in the media as someone whose p.o.v. doesn't matter, b/c he has charges of domestic violence on his record.

Also, much of the discussion of Chris Brown has centered on his "wholesome" image as an entertainer--his songs don't include obscenities, etc.--and the horrible impact such accusations will have on him (regardless of how it all turns out). I find this particularly interesting.

I question this idea that it's reasonable for Rhianna to become a spokeswoman against domestic violence. Because of her celebrity, it seems that she has no choice but to become an activist. Of course, activism against domestic violence--especially with a famous name attached to it--is important. But expecting her to become that activist simply because her experience with domestic violence has been made so public is unfair and potentially damaging. This is, after all, a 21-year-old girl.

The Roof Almighty said...

I don't see how "what is good for the cause" should, or even can, be mutually exclusive from "what is bad for her."

There is not upshot to this except in the individual reactions members of the public may have when they see an almost ethereally beautiful women beaten unrecognizable.

(I'm not even sure I understand the point of her becoming a public voice, "don't hit women" commercials aren't going to do anything and I don't know if Rihanna could/should make the argument that "women should take this as public as I did" since she didn't. I almost think that a reformed Chris Brown would make a bigger impact {{ouch}} as a public voice and the representative body on the pillory.)

solon said...

I think that if Rihanna were to be a public spokesperson, it allows for greater identification and solidarity between those who are abused: "if she can step forward, then I can step forward."

I do not think Chris Brown can be a public spokesperson for this cause because it will always look too self-serving unless he makes his public pronouncements and then gives up his public career. Anything short of this would be very self-serving as the public should she it as an attempt on Brown's part to protect his career rather than focus on what happened or the larger issue of domestic abuse.

This is, of course, if someone brings forth charfes against Brown and he is found guilty.

The Roof Almighty said...

I have a problem with the mindset that she should/must/can become anything like a public face for the domestically abused if the domestically abused still have to fight a system that doesn't give a fuck unless you are famous. If she weren't Rihanna, the odds that the police, the doctors, or (if it went this far) the the lawyers (there would be no press on a domestic abuse story, none) would try to make as little splash of this as possible.

However, pressing the assault with a deadly weapon charge, giving him some level of punishment greater than community service and making a public show of his pillorying.

But, then again, he is a black celebrity, and we love destroying them in public.

Anonymous said...

Roof, I very much agree with your last point, in that expecting Rihanna to use her celebrity is ridiculous considering the lack of publicity given to "normal" domestic violence cases. The fact that she is, without the celebrity, a black woman gives the argument even stronger legs. But it also undermines the public love of punishing the black man. Usually, if a black man hits a black woman, nothing is said. (Now if a black man hits a white woman, that's a whole different story.)

The Roof Almighty said...

You should agree with all of my points. They are equally valid and equally well made.

Otherwise, I want to make it clear, when proven guilty in a court, I want to see Brown punished to the same level of fullness as any monster. In the same way, however, I would like to see John Travolta investigated and tried and, if found guilty, just as any parent who neglects his or her child's medical needs.

A fair and just application of the law regardless of race or level of celebrity.

But, but.