Rosemary MacCabe on Chris Brown, Violence Against Women & Earning Forgiveness

chris brown

Inspired by Jim Carroll's post 'The Problem With Chris Brown' on his On The Record blog and the many suprising and disappointing comments that followed - many of them artfully rebutted by that paper's fellow Fash Mob blogger and journalist Rosemary MacCabe - we decided to ask Rosemary to expand some more. Here are her thoughts on The Problem With Chris Brown.

“You have to forgive me” will, I’m sure, go down in history as one of the most irritating, misplaced and legendary lines in TV history - said, of course, by Carrie as she begs Aidan not just to forgive but to forget her having cheated with Mr Big. Forgiveness is, of course, an important step on the road to both absolution and new beginnings or, in more modern parlance, “getting over it”, but the past few years’ events have given it far more credence than it is due.

Example one: Roman Polanski deserves to be forgiven for raping a 13-year-old girl because she, 34 years later, is “over it”. She doesn’t want the events of 1977 rehashed; she doesn’t want him tried - for which he will have to be extradited to the US - and she most definitely doesn’t want to talk about it. Hollywood comes out in force - Whoopi Goldberg, Diane von Furstenberg and Neil Jordan are among the more surprising names to sign the “free Roman Polanski” petition. Held wisdom is that, because his victim has “forgiven” him, what right have we to sit in judgment?

So, to summarise: a grown man rapes a 13-year-old girl but it’s not that big a deal because, 34 years later, she’s moved on.

Example two: Chris Brown deserves to be forgiven and we all need to just move the hell on from thinking about that time he beat the living daylights out of Rihanna for asking him why he was texting another woman on the eve of the 2009 Grammys - Rihanna has, after all, forgiven him, even going so far as to duet with him on her latest single, Birthday Cake, while providing vocals on his tune, Turn up the Music.

So, to summarise: forget about the fact that he punched her in the face repeatedly, got her in a headlock and slammed her head against the passenger window of his car. Hurrah! Rihanna and Chris make up = the world is a safer place.

Now, I’m not in the business of hating on women for forgiving their oppressors; hell, I’m not in the position to judge. If your husband beats the crap out of you and you choose to go back to him, I feel very, very sorry for you - but in the most compassionate way possible. If you are raped at the age of 13 and, 44 years later, you don’t want to go to court and face your rapist and talk to reporters who camp outside your house every day wanting quotes and details and disturbing descriptions, that is your prerogative and I will never say a word against you.


On the other hand, if you are a 24-year-old R’n’B superstar whose ex boyfriend beat the living daylights out of you because you got jealous of some other woman he was texting, and you then publicly forgive him; duet with him; tell everyone it’s time to move on and go so far as to retweet his birthday message to you - you can be damned sure that I’m judging the hell out of you.

This isn’t a story of love conquering all; this is not a story of Rihanna’s “big heart” or Chris Brown’s “repentance” (if he showed any awareness of or remorse for his actions, things might be a little different, but his now-deleted 2012 post-Grammy tweet - HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY. Now! That's the ultimate FUCK OFF - tells a very different story). This is a story of two very young stars who will do anything for publicity.

And then, worryingly, it’s a story about society’s attitude to domestic abuse. After Brown’s controversial 2012 Grammy performance (how’s that for an anniversary present, Ri-Ri?), he began to trend on Twitter with thousands of (I hope) teenagers saying things like, “Chris Brown could punch me all night if he wanted! Chris Brown 4 EVA”. Oh yes, yay! Let’s make light of his battery and assault charges and instead imply that, because of how “hot” he is (on a scale of 1 to 10, incidentally, I’d give him a 0 but that might be because I find violence against women a bit of a turn-off), he can beat whomever he wants - all the better if he’s beating on you, you lucky beyotch!

What’s the moral of the story? People don’t “deserve” forgiveness because their victim has “moved on”; they earn forgiveness by repenting, showing remorse and acknowledging the serious error of their ways - something that Brown and Polanski have yet to do. How long until the Polanski trend starts up? “Roman can rape me all night long if he wants - <3 Roman 4 EVA!” At this rate, I’d hardly be surprised.

Rosemary blogs about fashion and - when she can shoehorn it in - feminism at

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