Monday, February 13, 2012

3 Years

When I was about sixteen years old, a girl I was kind of friends with regularly got beat up. I suspect it was by her boyfriend. I'll probably never know. 

I almost didn't write about this. I'm too predictable a feminist; I get angry at all the things the media tells me to. Besides, it's like everyone knows not to beat up their girlfriends. We take it as a given. Violence is so passé, so we can go back to critiquing the role of Miranda in The Tempest & make ironic tumblrs about rape culture. It felt, & does feel, exploitative to talk about her. We shared smiles & sighs, but not much else. I had her on MSN, back when Myspace was weird and I couldn't imagine Facebook yet. I never went over to her house. We were bored of everything. She, let's call her A, was a lot cooler than me, so I justified not acting like her best friend by assuming someone else would deal with what was so obvious. It seems like no one did. Maybe she wasn't that popular. Maybe I was just looking for an excuse not to move.

Sure, maybe it wasn't her boyfriend. Maybe it was her mom. Maybe she really loved Fight Club. I only know that she got the shit kicked out of her, & that mainly happening during the periods that she was with him. 

Try asking someone you only ever exchange snide remarks about popular music with (the teenager version of pleasantries) if the guy she says reminds her of a love song (Led Zeppelin II, bien sur) caused the cigarette burns on her arms. It could have been a night of excessive drinking dares until you notice she's nervous all of the time. She doesn't eat like you, so it's not unreasonable to assume self infliction, but she never mentioned practicing TaeKwonDo like you until her collar bone is bruised... 

Here is a list of things that I care about more than the Grammys:
-Why CBC plays Nickelback before Hockey Night in Canada
-Any given article that could appear when you hit random on Wikipedia
-Why my dog gets so terrified when I blow into a bottle

But still.

A bunch of people much sassier, smarter, & with more of a following than me have already spoken out about why Chris Brown is still a dirtbag even if it was "three years ago", but I still heard people cheering someone who beat up a woman, no matter how much I turned up The Simpsons. 

Maybe you think it's okay, some big joke even, because celebrities aren't really human, not like you & I. Maybe you think whatever gets published in TMZ is fair game. I don't know. I guess this phenomenon goes both ways; it's so easy to get outraged at what you see on television. It's a convenient, safe, outlet to express disgust. On TV, you don't have to tell Rhianna, who you only kind of know, that you're worried about her. The disconnect can make the choice easy. You don't have to look anyone in the eye. If the people on TV don't like you, well, that won't happen because they'll never know you. I still don't know why I never said anything about A; I tried to justify preserving a friendship that never really existed. Like A with her boy, I just wanted to be liked. I didn't want to start crap. A was real.

Maybe it's Jesus or maybe it's a whole other kind of worship, but I never completely realized the culture of forgiveness we lived in until I heard "It's okay, he apologized" time after time after time last night. It's easy to pass off outrage as angry chickens clucking when they're mad about something on TV, but why did A decide to take back a douchebag who broke her heart & maybe two of her fingers? Good girls can definitely chaaaange him
If they try hard enough.
Nice girls forgive & nice girls forget. 


We love underdogs. CBC decides some guy with money can give it to ex cons because it's edgy and it will get people watching. Forgiveness is okay on screen, as long as it's not in our neighbourhood, but we don't think for a second that it ever could be. Comebacks are sexy because they always involve makeovers. Falling down is just part of getting higher. I do not think that people need to be branded as evil & set away from society forever, but to accept people who have made mistakes & to elevate them to the point that they are considered entertaining are very different things. 

In school we learn websites to go to, but they're just free bookmarks we may or may not use. We need to empower communities to the point that when one points out that another is suffering, it does not feel like an accusation. There should not be shame in getting hurt. Girls need to know that it's okay not to forgive, that it doesn't make us mean bitchy people, but just more who have had their trust betrayed, and that's completely okay. Anyone who has enough love, no matter how conflicted, to try to forgive is someone who can be the pillar of our country. Truly, they can do the greatest things. We just need to teach them that sorry isn't enough.

What's three years anyway? What would you say to a man who decided his emotions were more important than a woman's face three years ago? Would you tell your best friend that he said sorry? Your daughter? Some girl you shared a break with once? What could have possibly changed in three years?

Funny, because it was also three years ago that I saw A working at Tim Horton's. I was on a date; we both smiled awkwardly. I didn't ask about any relationships. She didn't make eye contact with me. We both pretended we'd talk again. She was still much prettier than me, so she probably had lots of friends to help her through any tough times she was having, right? 

I hope she can forgive me too. 

If you need number to call, there's a lot, but here's one that warns you about browser history. If you're a bit younger, this might be more helpful.
I was looking for a website with warning signs of physical abuse, but truth be told I didn't really find one that was very good, so I am very open to suggestions.

The image above in my own screencap from Les Nom des Gens, which is excellent.


Anna Elizabeth said...

Amen. You make so many good points here. The whole Chris Brown-Rihanna incident has really exposed how much work there is left to do in our society when it comes to domestic violence. I can't tell you how many times I have heard otherwise intelligent, compassionate women who just happen to prefer his music to hers joke that "whatever, she probably deserved it." Ugh.

mouse said...

this is an amazing post, and needed to be said. still does, in as many contexts as possible. awesome xx

Kirstin Marie said...

My dog doesn't like the blowing in a bottle thing either. He gets so freaked out & stars barking! This is a really great post, and you really made some fantastic points.

Peter said...


First time visitor, on the recommendation of Ben Boudreau. (After I asked him for some good fellow Nova Scotians to read)

He was right.

Rebecca Jane said...

As always an excellent post. I think sometimes it is easy to feel like the prevention of violence against women has come a long way, but it is instances like these that remind us it hasn't.

ALthough I don't care a whole lot about Chris Brown, he is a high profile figure who is celebrated in spite of the fact that he beat up his girlfriend. Ridiculous? Absolutely. And if he doesn't have to be held to account, it's setting a bad precedent too. Frustrating.

Suzanne said...

Very good piece with lots to think about, along with some practical help. I shared on FB and Twitter and I don't share everything.

Erin said...

Thank you for this post. I always kind of wondered why people weren't more shocked or angry about the whole Chris Brown thing, and why he was able to bounce back so quickly and completely. I'm relieved to read this!

Lena at A Crimson Kiss said...

Allison, this is really incredible. As always, I'm blown away by your clarity, your thoughtfulness, and your message.

Indy said...

This is a wonderful post...thank you for the inspiration!!!!