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Brown ban helps parents talk about domestic violence


Writing at Fairfax's online women's site Daily Life earlier this week, columnist Clem Bastow raised concerns about the campaign to ban US rapper and convicted woman basher Chris Brown from touring here.

Chris BrownShe wasn't trying to spurn her fellow feminists. What Bastow did — and with no little aplomb — was to take aim at the hypocrisy behind such community-led campaigns.

Pointing out that all efforts seemed aimed at the 'alleged misogyny of rap and R&B' even though there were many other acts with questionable lyrics allowed to tour here, Bastow writes so convincingly, so dispassionately and with such insight (she also had the Australian Government in her sights, pointing out that while the immigration minister denied Brown a visa he turns a blind eye to the abuse of women held in detention) that it's almost ludicrous to argue otherwise.

But what resonated most for me was this: 'the use of immigration law to "send a message" is something any feminist should be profoundly uncomfortable with even in the face of Brown's well-documented crimes'.

I'm a feminist and, yet, I welcome the banning of Brown.

And here's why: I am the mother of two young boys, and have I've come to realise that in the dialogue I have with them regarding violence against women, rhetoric, posturing, instances where high-profile names are made example of and, yes, hypocrisy have their uses, too.

In my children's world, things are pretty black and white. And when my eight-year-old looks over my shoulder while I'm reading about Chris Brown and the ban looming over his upcoming concert, his curiosity gets the better of him.

'Mum, why do they want to ban that man?' he asks.

'Because he's a bad man,' I say.


'Because he hurts women.' And with that he's satisfied. I know, because I can see it in his face, behind his eyes, where no further questions dance. Hurting women is unacceptable and, therefore, the man who hurts women is bad. Simple.

(Brown has since appealed his ban, claiming that his life mistakes should stand as a lesson to other men. But repudiating his actions is, frankly, the least he can do, and earns him no sympathy from me.)

It's the second time this week that such rhetoric has come in handy in our house. And, as chance has it, the other, too, involved men behaving badly; very badly in one particular instance caught on a mobile phone camera.

That such behaviour was there for the whole world to see was one thing. Of more immediate concern was that it was beamed straight into our lounge room — during last week's AFL Preliminary Final between Hawthorn and Fremantle in Perth.

The first of two nasty incidents occurred as a player was catapulted out of play and towards the boundary where a couple of spectators punched the air in front of him with intent. The second time fans attacked a player with a blow-up hammer. Both were acts of pure menace.

When the footage of the man shoving the woman in the neck appeared on the evening news, my boys were all questions.

'Why', they asked, 'is that man so angry?'

And, 'What did that lady do to him?'

This time the posturing came via my husband who told them — in no uncertain terms and complete with body language — that this man had broken every rule of the gentleman's code. The man's actions were definitely not the actions of a 'nice guy who had a few too many' as he was described by his family to waiting media outside the court room. This was the behaviour of a thug; a bully. Only weak men use their fists, shout obscenities or make rude gestures. Only weak men terrorise women or children.

'I'll never be like that, Mum,' says my son. 'Because I'm strong. You've always told me I'm strong.'

And there it was.

That was the message we've been working on ever since our children became cognisant beings. It's the message we hope our boys will take on as a mantra as they edge nearer the cusp of young adulthood.

That's why it feels good to tell my son that Brown will probably not be allowed to enter the country, and I give examples of other 'bad men' the country has closed its doors to, such as boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr and Holocaust denier David Irving.

He knows there are bad men are out there. But he's reassured by the news that one more has been stopped from coming our way, for now at least. The news means he'll sleep well tonight.

As for me, I'll probably have another fitful night. Hypocrisy isn't the best bedfellow at the best of times. But for now, anyway, I'm at peace with that.

Jen VukJen Vuk is a freelance writer and editor.

Topic tags: Jen Vuk, Chris Brown, violence against women, Rihanna, AFL, Fremantle Dockers



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Existing comments

In a society where violence towards women seems so ingrained, we have to take positive steps to change hearts and minds, as well as providing adequate laws and punishments for breaking those laws. Changing hearts and minds starts with children. Society needs to send powerful messages to them, and banning a violent man from our community is one such message. Clem Bastow's point is worth considering, but it's too individualistic, I think. This is about our society, not about one individual's rights.

Joan Seymour | 01 October 2015  

Domestic violence isn't confined to certain socio-economic groups, or postcodes, or employment profiles. It can happen in any family. Having said that, though, poverty and interrupted education leave women much more vulnerable to suffer domestic violence. And when I think about women's vulnerability to attack I don't sleep very well either. A powerful message has been sent to Chris Brown about Australia's attitude towards violent men. Statistics on domestic violence are shameful and women at the bottom of the rung need so much help. And men of all ages should be our heroes, not villains.

Pam | 01 October 2015  

If his behaviour were not enough to get him banned, then his tattoes certainly should be. What does say about self-respect?

Eugene | 02 October 2015  

Two articles on violence against women in the one issue - stimulated by the banning of a rap singer. It is hard to encapsulate the various ways violence against women and children happens. 'Domestic violence' makes one think of violence within the family in the family home, whereas violence, in its broadest sense, can also take place at work, at school, at play, in detention centres. 'Violence against women is always wrong' intones the PM. So too is violence against children. And yet our government joins in armed conflicts as if the bullet and the bomb were not going to kill women and children. How does a parent explain that to a child? I remember when I studied International Relations at Melbourne University in 1960s our tutor told my class: 'When discussing international relations I want you to leave your moral principles outside the door.'

Uncle Pat | 02 October 2015  

By all means - any means? - get the message out that domestic violence is evil. It must end and it boils down to education and personal choices and community sanctions. My concern, however, is whether we are in danger of sending other messages as well - that there is no 'forgiveness' or moving on from the past - that whatever punishment or restitution exacted is never enough - and that the past will (and should) stay with you and define you forever. I smiled when Jen's son said "I'll never be like that, Mum". Good for him and his parents! But should the horrible happen and the 'strong' boy-when-a-man 'fall', what will the lesson of Chris Brown teach him then?

George | 02 October 2015  

Dear George, What you say is so true. Paying for our mistakes and learning how to forgive are also lessons my sons are still in the process of learning. When they're older I also hope we'll have a relationship where insight will play a much bigger role in our discussions...thank you for raising the very important point that Chris Brown's ban has many lessons to teach us.

Jen V | 05 October 2015  

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