There is no denying that our culture has a problem in the way it handles tales of celebrity abuse; you only need to open Twitter to be deluged with news stories outing all your favorite stars as closet abusers. Reactions have ranged from empowering to downright disturbing.
The latest story to break was that of Naya Rivera, former Glee actress, who was arrested for the domestic battery of her partner, fellow actor Ryan Dorsey. social media reacted with hot takes on how we ought to respond. Mainly, there was a heavy focus on that fact that it was a female abusing a male, a less common occurrence, and what that might mean for the world’s reaction. There is definitely a problem with the way we talk about male victims of abuse, stemming from the masculine ideals that our society upholds – such as men being ‘strong’ and any sign of emotion being taken as ‘weak’ and therefore making them less of a man- there is a tendency to downplay the hurt and pain that men go through, which discourages them from reporting or escaping domestic abuse, and leads to a lack of culpability on the part of the female abuser.
But there is a simplification occurring across social media that doesn’t seem in line with reality, as people are urging the world to condemn female abusers in the way we condemn male abusers, without acknowledging that the world doesn’t actually condemn male abusers as much as we wish they would.
A tweet went viral when it seemed to showcase people in the comments section of a post about Rivera’s arrest defending her, suggesting the situation would be different if the genders were reversed.
But I don’t have to ‘imagine if it was the other way around’ because the reality is that male abusers are similarly defended by their most dedicated fans. A quick search of the name on Twitter of someone accused of domestic abuse, Johnny Depp for example, reveals comments brimming with similar sentiments.
There have been people drawing direct parallels between Naya Rivera, and the case of Chris Brown, infamously arrested in 2009 for assaulting singer Rihanna so badly she required hospitalization.
But again this seems to be a disingenuous comparison, because Chris Brown really hasn’t been ruined by his previous convictions. I could walk into any party and hear his songs playing through the speakers, a documentary about him recently appeared on Netflix, and he had a new album just released this year, he’s winning awards and thriving in his career.… so this is the kind of energy you want us to bring to Naya Rivera? That doesn’t seem to be what these people tweeting mean, but their argument falls apart if it isn’t.
It seems that people want to use this as an excuse to rail against ‘hypocritical’ feminist, that don’t seem as abundant as the volume of these tweets make it appear. I’ve seem many more people criticizing people defending Rivera than I have seen people actually defending her. That isn’t to say those people don’t exist, or that male abuse victims aren’t seen as less credible, but all this indignant tweeting seems to miss that it is domestic abuse in general that is not taken seriously enough. Our idols and award show winners are filled with men accused of acting similarly to Rivera, and they are excused – as some excuse her – and they are successful – which she may be in the future.
No abuser should be getting a free pass – man or woman – but, the truth is, society has been giving it to both.