Banning Chris Brown may have made a statement, but is it the right one?
Well, it’s happened. Chris Brown, known more for his abuse of ex-girlfriend and singer Rihanna than his talent, has been refused entry to Australia. Just days before tickets for his concerts went on sale, the Australian government has denied him a visa. The decision comes in the wake of the government’s 100 million dollar campaign to combat domestic violence and sexual abuse in Australia.
The bashing and strangulation of Rihanna in 2009 resulted in more than the six months of community labour and five years probation on Chris Brown’s home soil. The singer has also been banned from the UK, Canada, and New Zealand, with other countries likely to follow suit. The message so far is clear; Australia doesn’t want violence against women to continue, and as such has figuratively told Chris Brown where he can stick it, to much praise by the Australian media.
But here’s the thing; I’m not sure what banning a celeb is actually going to achieve (aside from costing Brown hundreds of millions of dollars while giving him an unprecedented amount of publicity). Don’t mistake me, I don’t like Chris Brown, and I won’t be crying the singer a river for being kept off of Aussie soil, but Chris Brown’s very public visa denial is not going to solve Australia’s domestic violence crisis. I mean, are we going to deny every man who’s ever smacked a woman a visa? Probably not.
Preventing a popular artist from performing in Australia isn’t going to teach teenage boys and grown men to respect women. At best, it’s going to annoy fans. The issue of violence against women goes much deeper, and starts at a much earlier age than the demographic of Chris Brown’s groupies.
What we should be addressing, is the culture of male entitlement entrenched in the way we treat women. The idea that a woman’s behavior and sexuality should be defined by the whims of men starts as early as primary school, when fathers instruct their sons to dismiss female teachers who reprimand them, or even tell female authority figures they’re not to speak to them in this way, and grows when a father tells his adolescent daughter to preserve her virginity, and his teenage son to sow his wild oats.
It’s a chronic ideology that’s crackling through the minds of otherwise intelligent, affable men. It’s an instinct to ask what the woman who was punched by a male spectator at the recent Fremantle vs. Hawthorne AFL game in Perth did to provoke the incident. It’s the urge to ask a woman what she was wearing when she speaks out about unsolicited sexual advances from men on the street. It’s every time a man has joked his female colleague must be on her period when she’s acted in a way that deviates from demure.
And most of these men are not the oft depicted instigators of male entitlement. They are not the ice addicts, alcoholics, rampant misogynists, or chauvinistic middle-aged white men we see in the media and on our news feeds. These are nice, normal, well bred, intelligent friends who have never displayed any other signs of potential aggression.
And that’s a worry.
I’m not saying we should demonize men. That’s horrendously unfair to the many members of the male species who rally against this attitude. However, we absolutely must pay attention to the unassuming sexism that permeates our society, because it spreads like a wildfire. Both men and women must confront it when it rears its ugly head, and try as hard as we can to prevent it from infiltrating the ranks of young boys and teenagers.
One thing I do take heart from, is the reaction of the men in the crowd after the AFL game punch that swarmed on the man in question, pulled him away from the woman, and let rip. Although I don’t condone their violent reprisal, at least their initial reaction was one of outrage, rather than complacency.
Refusing a celebrity entry into the country is simply not going to rectify anything. It’s a media-grabbing stunt rooted in a bandaid approach at an issue that’s already proven it can’t be fixed with an ice pack and a few bandages.
Changing the attitude of generations of men takes a hell of a lot more work than that, and we need to start there first.
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