Sexism and violence against women – Time to take a stand

The lenient sentencing of R&B singer, Chris Brown, to five years’ probation and six months’ community labour for assaulting his former girlfriend and pop star, Rihanna, illustrates that the courts are not serious about tackling violence against women. In a vicious assault, Brown punched, chocked, bit and threatened to kill his former girlfriend.

By Laura Fitzgerald, Dublin Socialist Youth 

Brown’s pig-headed statement after the assault was  – “Everybody that’s haters, they just being haters. I ain’t a monster.” His attitude is indicative of the hip hop and pop genre that he is part of, in which women are objectified, legitimising sexism and taken to its conclusion, can send a message that women’s bodies are playthings to be used, abused and violated. This sexist culture is, like violence against women, a product of an economic system that forces women into low-paid jobs, poverty and economic dependence. Sexist images and attitudes in popular culture ideologically reinforce and justify this systematic discrimination.

This has a dangerous impact on young peoples’ self-esteem and attitudes to relationships and sex, as graphically illustrated by a recent University of Bristol survey of 13-17 year old girls. One in three girls interviewed said that their boyfriends had tried to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity by bullying them or by using physical force. One in four said that they had been punched or slapped by a boyfriend.

Chris Brown’s music videos feature flawlessly good looking women. Lyrics like
“I swear it’s crazy how your man be treating ya…
I’d cut him out of the picture because he don’t deserve you.”
only show how vacuous his music is, given his own history as a violent partner. Macho threats of Jay-Z (of “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” fame) to beat up Brown as a result of his actions hardly help matters.

In contrast to the degradation of the ‘bitch’ and ‘n-word’ filled world of mainstream hip-hop, the genre was originally an opportunity for young African-Americans to express their anger and alienation at poverty and discrimination. The corporate takeover of hip-hop has put outrageous misogyny and worshipping of greed and violence to the fore and should be rejected.

Young people’s very future is threatened by the crisis. We need a united movement of young people demanding jobs, education and a future. Attacks on health, education and welfare, are disproportionately affecting women. Rising unemployment, debts and poverty can increase domestic tension and force women to stay in abusive relationships. This movement can’t be neutral on the question of sexism and women’s oppression and its most lethal expression, that of domestic violence. As well as speaking out loudly and clearly against the latter and all forms of sexism, issues that specifically affect young women should become demands of a youth movement that’s struggling for a decent future for all.

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