I read Toure’s article about Rihanna collaborating with Chris Brown on two new songs—three years after he beat her—after she made a public statement about how her responsibility to her fans meant she could never go back. Toure was brave and tried to give it a good face, but it made me so sad. Just another woman, he said, who returned to her abuser. I once read that women return as many as five times, on the average, before they finally have the strength to leave and stay away—if they do. I don’t know Rihanna, but my heart broke for her nonetheless.
Last night, I saw Anita Hill at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. She has a new book, about re-imagining equality. Someone asked her how she can re-imagine equality in a world so filled with bias and fear.
She said it was because we—the 200 or so people who had come to hear her lecture—believed her, all those years ago when she testified that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. And, she said, because we believed her, we took action. We wrote letters. We worked to elect women to Congress. We registered women to vote. And we talked about her courage in truth-telling. We did not look away because we understood that, when one woman is in trouble by the words—or the hands—of one man, all women are at risk. All women are harmed.
Where are the people around Rihanna? What action will they take to keep her out of harm’s way? Toure wrote that two women inhabit Rihanna’s body: one who is just another abused woman going back to her abuser, and the other a shrewd business woman who knows that collaborating with her enemy will enhance her own brand. Am I crazy to think that someone will look past the dollars and make some sense of it all?