The Questionable Behavior Of Male Celebrities And Female Fans’ Tradition Of Forgiveness
Bill Cosby, R.Kelly, Chuck Berry, Ray Rice, Michael Jackson, Tupac, Dr. Dre and Chris Brown have all been accused or found guilty of sexual misconduct or physical violence against women and/or children. Yet most, if not all of these men, continue to have a devoted fan base, and many of the people who admire them are women.
To this day, Bill Cosby is considered one of the most valued men to ever grace the small screen thanks to his role as Heathcliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” This is true despite numerous accusations of rape. Chris Brown continues to have millions of fans who sing his songs and declare themselves #TeamBreezy, many of them young girls and women, even though he battered longtime girlfriend and fellow pop star, Rihanna. Ray Rice knocked his then-fiancée (now wife) out on camera and Baltimore Ravens fans still clamored to defend him to get him back on the field. Women who were fans told reporters, “I absolutely 100% support him.”
So, how do we, as fans, cope with the disgusting behaviors of those in the media who we are fans of and/or glorify? And when do we transition from cheek-turning consumer to apologist? That’s a big question for anyone who’s ever embraced “Bad” or “P.Y.T.” as a personal anthem. Rather than immediately questioning Michael Jackson’s colorful and odd behavior when allegations came out about him, fans determined that the child who slept in Jackson’s bed was lying and that his family was trying to extort the singer. The public questioned, “Who would let their child sleep in bed with a grown man?” Yes, many fans were hopeful believers in the King of Pop and dismissive of the boy, and to this day, those parts of his past are ignored by those who have known and loved Jackson since they were young.
As a rambunctious adolescent, I happily blasted “Dead Wrong” by the Notorious B.I.G. on my Sony Walkman (the portable anti-skip CD player kind), so much so that I wasn’t fully taking in the problematic lyrics that people pointed out to me. I tried to quickly rationalize the song, claiming that “He probably doesn’t believe a word that he’s saying.” And I’ve made similar excuses for other artists, actors and athletes, but I’m starting to feel a way about it…
And the reason why I can not blindly consume certain media like I used to is because I realize that everything we take in affects us. And while I know that “Dead Wrong” has been a favorite of mine in the past, I have to remind myself that problematic music simply isn’t palatable for me, as a woman or a feminist. That music looks to undermine me via content that is often hateful, misogynistic and homophobic at times. Even without content that is abrasive, such as those delivered by the late Notorious B.I.G., I continue to be offended by artists and actors I once revered, who I’ve realized often exhibited, or still exhibit f’ed up behavior. And no matter how lovable the Huxtables still are, I can’t continue to endorse a man who’s been accused of violating women over and over again.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to pay for or entertain anti-woman behavior anymore, which is what I’m doing when I pay for the products and/or art of celebrities whose values don’t align with mine. I don’t want to negotiate away that part of my awareness, but, that’s just me. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. If you can comfortably listen to Dr. Dre, knowing that he once violently attacked a woman and then bragged about it, then do you. But for me, I feel that I’m condoning that behavior each time I bounce my head to any of Dr. Dre’s music or I look to buy one of his overpriced products. Others may not feel that way, which I can respect.
Guilt isn’t the goal here either. Listen to and watch your stars proudly, understand the messages that they’re trying to convey and recognize that while some content or conduct is product of a facade, a lot of it isn’t.
All things considered, I’ve only mentioned black male celebrities in this article, but there are PLENTY of women, as well as non-black artists and entertainers, who betray women with their actions and words, and real dialogue should take place regarding their place in our lives.