On September 8th, Ray Rice’s contract with the Baltimore Ravens was terminated and he was suspended indefinitely from American football’s National Football League.
His crime was simple: he had knocked his then-fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer unconscious with a punch in an Atlantic City hotel on the night of February 15th. Rice was initially banned for an underwhelming two games. It took the leak of security footage of Rice’s attack on Palmer by TMZ, for the NFL to come to the right decision: Ray Rice should not be allowed to play in the NFL.
Looking around the entertainment industry, I see to my dismay that the most fan-driven industry of all has repeatedly failed to come to the same conclusion that the NFL eventually did. Ray Rice currently sits unemployed, unable to earn a living with his sporting skills. Anyone familiar with the NFL will know that being behind it in terms of social policy is embarrassing, and yet the entertainment industry has shown itself to be unconcerned if the people supplying the entertainment are convicted or accused domestic abusers.
The story of Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna need not be told again, but the public’s reaction in the ensuing years has told more about the public’s attitude to these issues than Brown’s offences. Brown’s most recent album, X, was released on September 12th and debuted at number five on the Irish album charts. Major female artists Ariana Grande and Jhené Aiko appear on the album as well as A-list stars such as Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. His sales and collaborations are not indicative of a public and industry that has taken the rightful judgement of a man so embarrassingly unpunished by the U.S. Justice System.
There could be an argument made for accepting Brown back into industry circles had he been contrite following the Rihanna attack and repaired his image, but instead, his image has actually been dealt further damage. The fallout from his spat with Frank Ocean, in which he was accused of homophobia, remaining seated while Ocean received a standing ovation at last year’s Grammys did not point toward a grown man who had rehabilitated himself.
Similar to music, the world of television remains loyal to a man who is still being employed despite his numerous controversies, not least his threats of violence to one ex-wife and a conviction for domestic assault of another. The pilot episode of Charlie Sheen’s sitcom Anger Management ranks as the most-watched television debut in U.S. cable history. Sheen assaulted his then-wife Brooke Mueller on Christmas Day 2009, and yet he is portrayed by the media as some sort of maverick entertaining madman instead of what he actually is: a domestic abuser in need of help for his drug addiction.
The success of Brown’s music and Sheen’s television show say one thing: the public does not seriously care about the welfare of women enough to disregard the gutter-level entertainment that these two men offer up. There can be an argument made for the separation of art and artist, but this cannot be done responsibly, especially in the case of Sheen, whose characters in Two and a Half Men and Anger Management are so reflective of his real-life persona as to be almost impossible to separate.
Another argument can be made that just because somebody tunes into a Charlie Sheen broadcast or buys a Chris Brown song, it doesn’t mean that they like or support Sheen or Brown. It doesn’t matter if, in your head, you condemn their actions. If you financially support the output of artists like Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown; you condone their actions by proxy.
The lack of care for the welfare of women is a blight on our society. The blight that leads us to buy a Chris Brown album is the same that leads us to think it is Jennifer Lawrence’s fault her naked pictures were leaked because she took them in the first place instead of realising that she and countless others have been violated and objectified by the theft of their private property. It is the same blight that leads us to watch a movie like Don Jon and laugh when Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his friends relegate women to nothing more than a rating out of ten, yet we balk when Nicki Minaj raps about promiscuity.
Next time you say Drake makes “music for girls” or ogle a stolen naked picture, please reflect on what you’re doing. It may seem like a stretch, but all of these little things add to the widespread degradation of women and it’s time the entertainment industry ceases to be such a hostile environment for the women who shape and fund it.
Odrán de Bhaldraithe