Sunday, March 15, 2009

Teachable moment? Or learning by example?

So, let me get this straight. Evidently, texting in front of your boyfriend is an offense so rude it deserves a beating, complete with black eye? (By now, I'm assuming you know that the singer Rihanna was recently assaulted by her boyfriend, hiphop artist Chris Brown.)

It's all horrible, but what I find most shocking is the public's reaction. Depending on what entertainment blogs you're reading, young female fans are coming to Brown's defense, theorizing that Rihanna provoked him, and deserved what she got. The Boston Globe's site published the results of an informal survey of teens about the incident: nearly half said Rihanna was at fault. WTF?

"Health counselors are specifically concerned with teenagers' views of the controversy. Of the teens questioned, more than half said both Brown, 19, and Rihanna, 21, were equally responsible for the assault. More than half said the media were treating Brown unfairly, and 46 percent said Rihanna was responsible for the incident."

Let's look at this another way: if you were texting in an important budget meeting, and your boss pummels you, is that ok? If you're listening to your music on the train, and it's a little too loud, is it ok for a stranger to beat the shit out of you?

If we did a survey on either of those above scenarios, I don't think we'd get the same numbers the Globe did. Neither of those situations are acceptable, and neither is domestic abuse. The only difference is the relationship, and that doesn't give an abuser free reign. Just because he's dating you, doesn't give him any right to lay a hand on you. Sure, if you're doing something rude, he can get angry, but never so much that he can't control himself or his actions.

In what universe is this type of behavior acceptable? What leads teens, as well as some adults, to think it's appropriate? Sure, texting some friends while you're with your honey can be rude, but it doesn't deserve a hospital visit for stitches. Some counselors are trying to use this very public example as a teachable moment, but instead, it seems teens are taking their cues from the stars.

Slate's XX Factor has some in-depth thoughts on the whole debacle here. Funny how the incident happened in February, which is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (Rihanna might be in her twenties, but Brown is nineteen).

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