by Malaka Gyekye Grant
What do Rhianna and my daughter have in common? Nothing at the moment, but if the retarded manner in which we raise and socialize girls to respect and preserve patriarchy at all costs doesn’t change, then I fear they will one day have very much in common indeed.
I wish I could find a way to remove Rhianna from my cypher, but her beating has proven to be an essential pop culture event that epitomizes what can go wrong when girls are raised badly. I actually NEED this reminder of her battered, bitten face when I find myself in the middle of a parenting dilemma.
For those who don’t know – and I can’t imagine who you might be – Rhianna is a pop yodeler (I can’t call what she does actual singing) who was dating Chris Brown a few years ago. One night they were on their way to an awards show, they got into an argument, exchanged words, she threw his keys into the bushes and he beat the crap out of her. The male hip hop community jumped to his defense and tried to shield him, saying that all men make “mistakes” and people needed to let it go and forgive. Women – mostly unlearned, untraveled, hardly educated women in their teens and early twenties – also took up his defense, siting that it was likely that Rhianna knew that she was pushing his buttons and that the beating was most likely her fault.
I was left gobsmacked and enraged, and hoped that Rhianna and Chris Brown would just go away…preferably to some remote island where each of them was given a knife and wished the best of luck.
Now they are back in the news and back together, with him posting nude pictures of her on Twitter and then taking them down like a silly game, denigrating her with every key stroke, she gushing over him and openly pining for him like a fourth grade love struck idiot on her Twitter feed, and worse, proclaiming her unconditional love for him on that Oprah special. A few of the twenty-two year old girls on my retail job echoed the same sentiment.
“You just don’t understand, Malaka,” one of them squeaked. “She has unconditional love for him!”
“Yeah,” added another in her New Orleans drawl. “That type of love that can forgive anything.”
“Y’all are crazy!” I howled. “Unless your name is Jesus Christ, clearly love has to have some conditions.”
They laughed, but I was dead serious. Even God has conditions for His love. You blaspheme the Holy Spirit and it’s curtains. Case closed.
I feel ill every time I see a TMZ photo of them together on a basketball court or out to dinner somewhere. Secretly, I hope he beats her again, and this time so bad that she loses the power of mobility for a few months or so. What nkwaaa can Chris Brown provide that NO OTHER MAN on the planet can do for Rhianna? I honestly can’t say. I can only imagine that it has something to do with her experience with men and how she has been taught to view them.
The other night on Christmas Eve, my husband and Nadjah were joking around and poking at each other. Pretty soon, their pokes turned into punches and slaps and their giggling became hysterical cries to stop it. But Marshall, who has yet to learn certain boundaries, did not stop.
“Have you ever had an Indian burn?” he laughed maniacally while twisting bony Nadjah’s arm this way and that.
She howled in pain and balled up her fist. She struck him as hard as he could. In retaliation, he twisted her arm behind her back and held it there. She began to cry in frustration and as soon as she was loose turned around and released a flurry of punches on her father’s chest. He wasn’t hurt, of course. He’s so massive and she’s so tiny it was like watching a bee try to sting a brick wall.
The wild look in her eye told me something had snapped within her. I didn’t bother to stop her, because I thought that the incident should play itself out. My mother-in-law heard Nadjah’s frantic howls from the other side of the kitchen and put an end to it.
“Nadjah!” she said sharply. “Don’t you hit your father like that!”
She told her son not to mess with her like that and put an end to the brawl. The conversation should have ended there; or at least in my estimation it should have done. After I’d put the kids to bed, I walked into the kitchen where Marshall and his mother were engaged in intense conversation. She was kvetching, frowning and vigorously rubbing down the counter. He was leaning against the wall saying mmhmm, mmhmmm.
What was going on?
“I don’t understand why it should take you more than one time to say something to get her to something,” she was saying. “Nadjah needs to learn some respect. She also should never feel like she’s at liberty to hit her father like that. There are certain lines she should never cross.”
What? Had she seen how this all played out? Marshall took it too far with the Indian burn! I was about to cut in when Marshall piped up.
“Ma, I was the one who provoked her,” he said repeatedly.
My mother-in-law wasn’t hearing it. She kept going on about little girls respecting the male figures in their lives and not feeling like they could hit them.
It took every ounce of restraint to keep me from sucking my teeth as I abruptly walked out of the kitchen and descended into the basement. What sort of utter foolishness was that? Should Nadjah have respect for her father? Absolutely. But he must also respect her and not touch her in ways that make her feel uncomfortable.
The problem with this scenario is that people associate “inappropriate touch” between an older person and a child as something sexual. Inappropriate touch is anything that is unwelcomed, even if it is a playful punch. The older I get, the less tolerant I am for the view that says adults have earned a certain level of respect merely because their sequential DNA has achieved a particular level of degeneration. So what? I’m supposed to teach my daughter’s that it is okay for any man to hit them in a way that is uncomfortable, even if that man is their father?
Can you not see the lunacy in this logic?
Oh…I am incensed! These are not the lessons that the most vulnerable among us should be learning. I’m sure somewhere along the line, Rhianna was encouraged to submit and yield to all male authority. The poor girl, who wields a considerable amount of power and influence, is clearly confused. This is a toxic mix, not just for her, but for impressionable women everywhere. What sort of message does it send when a woman with so much global presence gets her face bashed in and actively seeks the attentions of her former abuser? I don’t think I have to tell you.
What does that have to do with Nadjah, her grandmother, and her father? I have already played out the scenario in my mind, and I will do everything in my power to stop it. One thing is for certain: if any person hits my child, I will only encourage her to hit them back as swiftly and as hard as she possibly can.
What lessons are you teaching your girls?