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Why Society Condemned Chris Brown And Laughed About Solange Knowles

Is there a bigger story this week than the leaked footage from a Standard Hotel elevator, showing Solange Knowles physically attacking brother-in-law and “best rapper alive” Jay Z?

Over 200* school girls are still missing in Nigeria, Antarctica is melting at a scary and “unstoppable” pace and there are life-claiming fires, death and destruction in almost every news article you read. But let’s be real — probably not.

While our fascination with celebrity is certainly nothing new (guilty), this Jay/Bey/Solange feud has taken us to new levels of intrigue. And understandably so — not only are they arguably the most famous family in entertainment, but until now, Jay Z and Beyoncé have seemingly had a perfect, trouble-free marriage.

We swooned when they danced on stage to “Drunk in Love” at the Grammy Awards, so it only makes sense now that when we watch that TMZ video with horror, we wonder what could be so bad that Solange would resort to physical violence to make her point.

But the #JayZSaidToSolange trend and all the others who have taken funny spins on what’s shaping up to be the entertainment story of 2014-so-far kind of miss the point. By creating (and consuming) memes and other humorous stories to take on the unsettling surveillance footage, we ignore that whatever the issue, Solange decided to take to physical blows as the way of confronting it.

And despite all the conspiracy theories, there is really no excuse for that, right?

Perhaps more troubling is how media outlets have chosen to spin the whole Solange attack. When Chris Brown hit Rihanna, we didn’t come up with clever hashtags speculating as to what Rihanna did to make Brown get so pissed off. We didn’t write LOL lists, because while funny, they would have minimized our repulsion to Brown’s actions, and in a way, blamed the victim.

Brown hit someone he allegedly loved, and that wasn’t OK. So instead of humorous talk show discussions or Internet gifs, we condemned him through serious news coverage, while domestic violence advocates let Rihanna know that she wasn’t alone and wasn’t at fault.

Now, I’m not advocating that someone call the hotline on behalf of Jay Z, because images of him getting counseling for sister-in-law abuse would probably seem pretty silly and spawn their own set of viral jokes.

But it’s an important double standard to be aware of: In one instance of violence, we quickly acknowledged that the abuser’s actions should be seen as totally unacceptable in our society. In the other example, we simply laughed it off.

These cases are similar in that both feature high-profile figures, but they’re obviously different in important ways. Of course, domestic violence is viewed differently when it is perpetrated by a man, someone who, in most cases, has power (and not to mention pounds) over the subject of his anger. Solange’s outburst is confusing because it’s a woman who lashes out with her fists, and she’s clearly trying to hurt someone much bigger who is way less fazed or injured by her kicks and hits.

But again, even if women are less likely to inflict serious injury, that doesn’t mean that physically violent actions can be condoned or justified as any less problematic when dealing with certain issues.

This whole incident highlights how we gender our acceptable responses to conflict, which is only exacerbated by the media’s discomfort with putting women in the role of aggressor.

Instead of turning her into a joke’s punchline, Solange should be seen as someone who needs to learn how to better confront her feelings and frustrations in a less drastic and harmful manner.

*Editor’s Note: The actual figure of Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted varies from source to source, but US intelligence estimates that number to be 276.

Photo credit: WENN

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Katie Gonzalez

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Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting fo ...
Katie Gonzalez is a contributing writer covering fashion and feminism. Katie graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and currently lives in Haifa, Israel, splitting time between academic research and scouting fo ...

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