Violence inflicted by one partner in a relationship upon another is absolutely unethical, yet it is one of those embedded cultural habits from the bad old days that still flourishes. Over at the Whitney Houston post, where I am being over-run by the drug-legalization zealots, sicced on me by a sad website where people indulge their dreams of legally de-braining themselves on a regular basis, there is widespread contempt for the concept that cultural norms of what is right, wrong and worthy of shame controls our worst impulses. That contempt is as crippling as it is ignorant, for controlling behavior is what cultures do, and why they are essential. And our culture is still giving confusing signals about domestic abuse. Two recent examples:
- The Chris Brown tweets. After singer Chris Brown performed at the Grammys, the singer who notoriously beat up his girlfriend, super-singer Rihanna provoked these responses in the Twitterverse:
If women find abusers attractive, and worse, feel no shame in saying so in a public medium like Twitter, something has gone seriously astray with feminism, common sense, and values. An abusing pop star shouldn’t have any fans, much less get “He can beat me up” fan tweets. Domestic abuse will wane when the culture consistently sends a powerful message that love and abuse are incompatible, because one is the ultimate expression of ethical values, and the other is the extreme expression of unethical values. These tweeting women undermine that message.
It makes me want to belt them right in the mouth.
What, you didn’t think that was funny?
Then maybe you’ll understand the problem with this…
- The Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt Commercial. It aired during the Super Bowl, and some thought it was the funniest ad of the day. In it, actor John Stamos cruelly teased his lady-love by hogging all the delicious yogurt for himself, until she seized control by viciously head-butting him off-his chair. I have to admit, I’m an unapologetic slapstick fan, but the naked violence took me by surprise and did not have me laughing. Perhaps it’s because I know that if the sexes had been reversed, NOW would have been screaming. I was reminded that during the California recall election that gave the Golden State the Governator, candidate Arianna Huffington actually criticized Ahhhnold as being hostile to women for slamming Kristianna Loken’s head into a toilet bowl, even though 1) she was playing a killer android, not a real woman 2) the android was beating the living daylights out of Arnold’s good Terminator and 3) it was a movie. Why is female on male abuse funny, and male on female abuse taboo, unless it’s Chris Brown or someone similarly hot? Male domestic abuse is believed to be widespread and under-reported, and one reason is that men are ashamed to report it…because, you know, it’s funny.
Like in this Super Bowl yogurt commercial.
There are some things that need to join slavery, rape, racism and child abuse as things that we no longer joke about, and I nominate spousal abuse—by either gender— for membership in the club.
[ Thanks to my friend Laura Quinn Anderson for the Tweet trail]