On Not Posting the Rihanna Picture.

I went looking this morning after I heard that TMZ had gotten a post-altercation photo of Rihanna from someone in the LAPD.

From the beginning, in dissecting this case, the debate I had was often over the term “visible injuries.” My closest friend was skeptical, saying ‘women fight dirty and we don’t know what happened…she could have a single bump or bruise.’ I disagreed, pointing out, as others have, that Brown is a large man and that he could easily have restrained her without injury.

So I went to see how bad it was. I expected a couple of bruises, which would’ve been bad enough.

But the child (well, not anymore — today is her 21st birthday) looked like she’d been jumped. Once I shoved down the horror of looking at her injuries, I was able to notice her expression. Sad. A little broken. With her eyes closed, she looked defeated.

And I felt immensely guilty for participating.

I don’t know Chris Brown or Rihanna, but I know they both need something they’re not going to get from having their lives dissected in the public sphere.

I was talking to another friend and she expressed her outrage that we only care about domestic violence when it happens to people we don’t actually know. I don’t think that’s strictly accurate. I’ve seen a lot of gruesome statistics over the last few days. A woman gets abused every 9 seconds. On average, 3 women a day are killed by their significant others. 1 in 4 women will report domestic abuse or rape at the hands of an intimate partner (and how many aren’t reporting?). Women who leave their partners are at 75 percent higher risk of violence or death than those who stay. And these numbers are even higher for black and latino women.

Of course, if you haven’t seen it by now, you can easily find the image on any number of gossip websites. But you won’t see it here, because ultimately, it’s not about “how bad he beat her.”

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12 thoughts on “On Not Posting the Rihanna Picture.

  1. Ron February 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Thank goodness.

  2. rakia February 20, 2009 at 2:48 pm Reply

    I am one of the (probably millions of) people who went straight to TMZ’s website the moment I heard about the photo. I was stunned. Absolutely speechless. Rihanna looked like she’d been badly beaten. And I mean BADLY. It didn’t look like he punched her once and then caught himself. It looked like he fucked her up completely. And that’s just her face!

    I agree that it shouldn’t matter “how badly he beat her.” But it does matter. Particularly to how the court of public opinion will respond and also to how Chris Brown will try to defend himself. He’s got millions of fans who have stuck by him. But after these pictures, I don’t know how anyone can chalk this up to a youthful mistake or lost temper.

    These photos give him and his fans less of a defense.

    • G.D. February 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm Reply

      rakia: for a lot of defenders, their arguments will probably just shift. It will be less, “he didn’t beat her that badly” and instead “what did she do to make him beat her that badly?”

  3. sugarlips February 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm Reply

    GD: But I will quote my HS Principal who said, “It doesn’t matter what the person does to you. You are only responsible for your actions. You need to be the bigger person.” Unless your life is in danger, there is no reason to go all Street Fighter on someone. Girl or Guy. And from reports, she was seated in the car. SEATED. How life-threatening to him was she, sitting inside a low-riding Lamborghini? You’re practically lying down in that thing!

  4. ladyfresshh February 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm Reply

    I clicked, i saw, i’m sad

    I agree with G.D regarding the shift

    it’s a difficult issue

  5. Angela February 20, 2009 at 5:47 pm Reply

    G.D.- I’m glad you explained your reasoning behind not posting the picture. I respect it. I personally chose to post the picture because I thought about my little brother, and other young men like him, who can easily find a way to not care about this entire situation (or at least not for long). I think an image like this needs to be ingrained in his memory, and not just from “gossip” or less-reputable sites. It shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure (or punishment). You shouldn’t have to sneak on a site you don’t like visiting to take a peek at it then go back to your comfort zone. The statistics about domestic abuse, particularly abuse involving women of color are harrowing, yet to a 17-year-old high school senior like my little brother, statistics just don’t get through. An image does.

    People say that it isn’t fair that Rihanna’s beaten face should have to be used to teach people the realities of abuse, but at this point, it is what is is. The image is out there, people might as well learn from it. A lot of non-gossip black blogs haven’t even discussed the picture today let alone post it and are instead discussing the NY Post cartoon. I find this quite disturbing. Part of me feels like hiding the image is suggesting that Rihanna has something to be ashamed of and she doesn’t. To be honest I’m frustrated by the lack of serious discussion the entire issue has gotten on the “black internets” in general.

    • G.D. February 20, 2009 at 5:49 pm Reply

      sugarlips: oh, def. But you ain’t gotta convince me. You gotta convince them. I wonder, tho, why they would let him off the hook because they like him/his music. There’s this real strong desire to keep the narratives about the people we admire from being as uncomplicated as possible, I guess.

      Angie: shani-o wrote this post. All props should go to her.

  6. Angela February 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm Reply

    GD: Good looks.

    Shani-O: My bad…too many tabs open in the browser at once. 🙂

  7. shani-o February 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm Reply

    Angela, there’s a good post and discussion going on over at Feministe about why they think it’s inappropriate to post the picture. One thing that came up is that Rihanna is a person, not an object lesson for the rest of us. It’s not about whether or not she should feel ashamed over it…she should feel however she does feel about the situation.

    Here’s the link:


    Cara writes: “And every woman in this situation should get to decide for herself how public she wants to be about it, and whether or not she is portrayed in this way. Not you. Not me. Not some stupid entertainment website that clearly just wants to make a profit. Just her. Her, and only her.”

    I think the discussion needs to be about black and latino domestic violence, not about Chris Brown and Rihanna. I get what you’re saying about the visual getting through to your brother better than statistics, but chances are, he knows women who are being abused or have been abused (chances are, we all do). Abuse isn’t just looking like you got whaled on. And statistics don’t make for great visuals, but the sheer numbers should be shocking.

    G.D. and I both thought about posting it, and we both decided against it; but once an image is out there, it becomes a choice each blogger has to make for themselves. I don’t think we chose to ‘hide’ it, but we just didn’t see the benefit of posting it here.

  8. Angela February 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm Reply

    Shani-o: Thanks for the link. Again, I respect PB’s decision and I understand everyone’s argument. I still don’t think enough black blogs are tackling the issue at all — not even from a broader angle than Chris and Rihanna. Perhaps it’s easier for folks to express outrage that a picture is released than to actually discuss it. Or maybe they’re playing it safe and waiting to see what everyone else does with the image before they decide for themselves. You did discuss it though, so props for that.

  9. Talulazoeapple February 27, 2009 at 10:53 pm Reply

    I don’t think some young men and women are taught how to resolve conflict in a relationship, or in general nonviolently.

    I have heard young guys say that if a girl hits them, they are going to hit her back. Some mothers even teach their sons this.

    They are both young and had a bad situation elevated to a national stage. I think its their celebrity people are interested in, not their general health, safety, and welfare.

  10. Scott February 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm Reply

    People.com is reporting that the two are back together again. I hope for her sake that this report is not true.

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