It’s hard to read any kind of news page without seeing story after story alluding to sexual assault, violence, and misogyny. It’s difficult to know how to react when it comes to such a horrifyingly familiar crime being perpetrated by a well-known celebrity. But, despite all the differing opinions, it’s clear that someone who has been proven to have serially abused anyone, should not be allowed to carry on doing what they were doing prior, as if nothing has happened, which is exactly what we’re allowing artists like Chris Brown, R. Kelly, and producer Dr Luke to do.
The way the allegations with some recent cases of harassment and abuse have been dealt with has been impressive considering the nonchalance that these cases are usually met with. In response to all the people coming forward with assault allegations, users of social media posted the hashtag #MeToo and shared their own experiences exposing the deeply entrenched misogyny that still pervades the workplace. And, the abusers seem to be facing actual consequences, as Kevin Spacey was recast in a Ridley Scott film that had already been made, and all future seasons of House of Cards were defunded. It’s been incredibly overwhelming, and the world is having a reckoning where we’re finally learning that it’s probably a good idea to listen to people who are saying they’ve been hurt by huge Hollywood moguls. But it seems we’re only listening to certain people. For example, the only person of colour (at the time of writing) to speak up about Harvey Weinstein was Lupita Nyong’o, who instantly roused a response from Weinstein, which was interestingly his only response to any of the allegations put against him. Jane Fonda was hit with backlash as she said that the general public were only listening to Weinstein’s victims because they’re “famous and white.” This phenomenon isn’t new, either; the media has a long-dated history of assassinating the character of anyone who dares accuse a rich, famous man of assault. However, it’s not on the victims to solve this problem. They shouldn’t have to make themselves more palatable for the sake of the press – or in Nyong’o’s case, more palatable means whiter. They should be believed outright, and their accusations should be taken seriously from the get-go, regardless of who they’re accusing. Strangely enough, when it comes to Chris Brown, whenever he’s accused of battery and/or assault, the allegations are mentioned and there might be a small discussion, but it’s quickly glossed over and is forgotten about. The conversation never lingers, and it’s never talked about on TV anymore (though potentially it’s because we’re so used to these kinds of accusations about him, or that some of the allegations are now years old). This is the same with R. Kelly and Dr Luke, as for all three, their allegations date way back.
It has become increasingly important to dissect why we’re taking some cases seriously and ignoring others. We’ve known for a long time that Chris Brown is an abuser – in fact photos of what he’s done to a certain woman are only a google search away. Yet still, he continues to have a lucrative music career, make albums, go on tour, have a documentary made about him on Netflix, despite him showing no remorse for the way he’s acted in the past. Whether we can separate art from the artist is an incredibly long and complicated question for another time, but I reckon we can all agree that the allegations held against Chris Brown (and the lack of consequences) should stop him from being a globally respected pop star, until he can prove he is no longer a danger to anyone. His success as a musician and the internalised misogyny that exists in the music industry is allowing him and others to stay in positions of power that, frankly, should’ve been dismantled ages ago. The power that we blindly give to certain people simply because they make nice songs needs to be interrogated, especially given the fact that people like Chris Brown seem to be intent on proving that they don’t deserve it. R. Kelly is another who is profiting from this system; he has repeatedly been accused of child molestation and rape, yet he’s still making money from “classics” such as Ignition, Down Low, and Bump ‘N’ Grind, being bought and streamed. They might be songs that we all grew up dancing to at the school disco, but they’re sung by a predator, which taints those memories just a tad. In the knowledge of these accusations, hearing the lyrics “keep it on the down low, nobody has to know”, “my mind’s telling me no, but my body is telling me yes” is nauseating at best.
And with the case of Dr Luke, the nitty-gritty details of his case with Kesha was spread all over the news like it was entertainment, with that well-known picture of Kesha sobbing in court as he was found not guilty attached to every article and news clip. Again, as was with the Weinstein cases, this is another case of a man using his power and influence to manipulate and abuse women. And with him being a producer who’s earned Sony millions of dollars he has the ability to make and break a career, and in the immortal words of Kanye West, no one man should have all that power. Sadly, money appears to outweigh morals in these cases, which just further illuminates the complete lack of respect we collectively have for assault and/or abuse victims, especially when they’re women.
There are a lot of people who think that it doesn’t matter if a famous person is nice or not, but when someone is using their position as a celebrity to get away with abusing women, it sends the message that you can abuse whomever you want if you have enough authority and money to get away with it. For the sake of pretty much everyone on the planet, it’s important that the people we pedestalize and admire should not represent ideas that explicitly harm others, nor should they be allowed to stay in the position that can make or break careers. Therefore, letting known abusers carry on doing exactly what they want is causing harm, however indirectly.
The economic and masculine power structures in place here are so complex that it’s difficult to comprehend or put into words. Which is why many of us aren’t bothering. We’re sweeping the problems under the rug, or what’s worse: pointing at them and naming them, then not doing anything about them. It feels like we’re looking at a car full of people that’s on fire and then just walking away thinking someone else will deal with the problem. If there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind about the ease of getting away with assault, look no further than Donald Trump; a man (see: troll) who’s been accused of sexual misconduct 16 times and is somehow still president. Not to mention the fact that the White House’s official position on the allegations is that they are all lying. Why should anyone be exempt from prosecution– including the U.S. President?
Furthermore, the shock that some men are exhibiting is astounding, as they’re acting like women haven’t been experiencing sexual abuse for centuries, like we haven’t been speaking out against it for centuries, like we haven’t been trying to get protective legislation for centuries. It turns out that women have been talking, it’s just men haven’t been listening. Women have been talking and we never stopped. Many of us have been silenced, yes, and the bravery both men and women have been showing over the past weeks as they’ve spoken about their trauma for the first time has been extraordinary. But there was never complete radio silence. We must ask ourselves if we’re with women because we genuinely believe them, or because we want retweets on Twitter, and if we’re ignoring certain cases because we don’t want to admit that our faves might be problematic. We always say, “if we knew, we’d have never let it happen.” Well, we know. We know details, in fact. What are we doing about it?
Written by Rochelle Asquith