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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

GRAMMYs: If ‘It’s On Us,’ it’s on you, too


During Sunday’s (excessively long) broadcast of the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards, a video featuring President Obama implored viewers to help put an end to sexual and domestic violence against women. In the video, part of the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, Obama says, “It’s not OK, and it has to stop.”

“Tonight, we celebrate artists whose music and message help shape our culture,” Obama begins. This, during an awards show that featured both Chris Brown and R. Kelly on the list of nominees. It’s hard to take Obama’s message of advocacy to heart when the industry so influential over young people can’t even stand up against the assault issue itself, as Obama notes: “Nearly one in five women in America has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, and more than one in four women has experienced some form of domestic violence.”

To recap, a February 2009 disagreement between Brown and then-girlfriend Rihanna led to the female singer nearly losing consciousness and sporting some serious bruises after Brown tried to kick her out of his car. According to Billboard, Brown hit Rihanna multiple times, leaving her with a mouthful of blood, and bit her ear as she tried to fight back. Brown, then 19, was charged with two felonies. In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, he called the incident “probably the biggest wake-up call for me. I had to stop acting like a little teenager, a crazy, wild, young guy.”

The list of pedophilic (and just plain disturbing) allegations against R. Kelly is detailed, though many of the cases were settled with monetary payments to his accusers and their families. But, records of the rapper liking them young go as far back as the early ’90s, when he falsified a marriage license in order to wed a 15-year-old Aaliyah. Not to mention the physical evidence that shows Kelly taking part in sex acts with underage females. In 2013, Kelly posited Twitter to #AskRKelly, which—obviously—backfired pretty tremendously.

Music journalist Jim DeRogatis has chronicled R. Kelly’s offenses over a 15-year period, taking on a story that no one seemed to care about. Rather, a story that was overshadowed by the artist’s success. DeRogatis writes, “according to a woman who worked at Kelly’s label, Jive Records: ‘At the time it seemed disgusting, but it was the music business, an industry built on the foundation of white male sexual fantasy, so a lot of bad behavior was not only condoned, but enabled and encouraged. And of course I was complicit to some degree because I never spoke out against it.'”

So, back to the GRAMMYs. While it may seem empowering to bring the issue to the forefront of a show that some may argue helps to dictate the conversation of the culture, the same show is highlighting the works of individuals who have used their success as an excuse or a cover for their actions (Neither Brown nor Kelly won, but the nominations were a problem alone). Yes, Obama said it, sexual and domestic violence are not OK. But does “it’s not OK” really do justice to the trauma a survivor of assault endures? Something along the lines of, “This is heinous and barbaric and has to stop being glamorized” probably would have been better.

Obama’s message was followed by a powerful spoken word performance by Brooke Axtell in which she recounted her abuse by her boyfriend (Stats show that 2/3 of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.). “My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him, and ashamed I was in this position,” Axtell says. Her performance was coupled with an emotional Katy Perry performing her ballad, “By the Grace of God,” penned after her divorce from Russell Brand, which features lyrics: “We were living on a fault line/And I felt the fault was all mine/Couldn’t take it anymore.”

While the whole thing was intensely moving, it doesn’t really have much of an effect. Until the music industry, and the NFL, and our educational institutions and our society as a whole stop protecting the perpetrators of these crimes, stop downplaying the seriousness of assault, stop shaming victims into silence, the advocacy really means nothing.

GRAMMYs, thanks for letting us know that “It’s On Us,” but shouldn’t it also be on you?

(photo via)

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    AnonFeb 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Im starting about here

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GRAMMYs: If ‘It’s On Us,’ it’s on you, too