I was wondering if you could help me out with a little matter.
See, a few years back I overheard one of my students talking about Rihanna and it wasn’t very nice. Matter of fact, she called the singer “that beat-up girl,” because of course her boyfriend Chris Brown had punched her and otherwise smacked her around when the two of them got into a fight.
“That beat-up girl” as though Rihanna’s black eyes and bruises should be what defined her from that terrible night forward, as though … well, you know what I’m going to say … she was asking for it.
“Doesn’t your husband hit you?” another student asked me in the same get-with-the-program tone that someone else might ask, “Doesn’t your husband help out with the housework?” Or “Don’t you think women deserve equal pay for equal work?”
I have never been in a physically abusive relationship, I told the girls. Nor do I think it’s an inevitability that I would or should be beaten up by my partner because I am a woman. The girls looked at me like I had said I had never French kissed — nor ever would.
Now, all the students at our school – which is a school for girls – come from under-served neighborhoods in this hard knocks city of ours. Lotta folks from other neighborhoods avoid this part of town. Objectively, I hate to say, it’s one of the areas in the city that has the most violent crime. So, the same folks that avoid these neighborhoods might say that’s why our girls don’t think twice about violence against women.
Live by the bullet, die by the bullet.
Except the same year these students asked me if my husband had ever hit me, I got an early morning call from my mother, who told me a friend of the family had been killed. She wanted me to know about it before I heard about it in the news.
In the news? I was so confused.
The girl was named Yeardley Love and her old boyfriend is serving jail time for beating her to death at the University of Virginia weeks before they were to graduate. Yeardley wasn’t poor. She went to private school all of her life. She played sports and did the other things that teenagers and young adults do when they want to lead a good and trouble-free life. The only thing that made her at risk was the fact that she was a woman.
Here’s where I need your help, Beyoncé. My principal asked me last week what I thought – as a woman – about your performance at the recent Grammys. My first thought was that it was no “Single Ladies,” which my students loved and mimicked for years. Then I read the lyrics to “Drunk in Love,” where your husband talks about being like Ike Turner, beating his wife and abusively forcing cake into his spouse’s mouth.
Now, I found myself confused again. As a woman, I don’t know what to think. Mainly, I have a lot of questions. Does your husband beat you, Beyoncé? And if so, why would you stay with him? I don’t have to tell you that you got all the money and the power a person needs – I mean, when you sang about girls running the world, you were telling it like it is. So, why would you stay?
If your husband doesn’t beat you, then why did you let him sing about it like he did? Did you think this was some kind of fun “50 Shades of Grey” hip thing? “Hey, let’s act like my man ties me up and knocks me around, because they make a movie about stuff like that! And then we’ll just go home and rock that baby of ours and call it good, OK?”
‘Cause it’s not good. It’s not good at all.
See, I don’t know what to think or how to talk about this, because I still work at that same school for girls. And our girls, in the course of growing and living, tell us the darnedest things, like they gotta great boyfriend … who’s unemployed. Or who is looking at other girls. Or who accidentally shot somebody along time ago.
Sometimes our girls have unexplained cuts and bruises, and they say they fell. Of course, I wonder how a girl, who is so good at dance or maybe sports, can be so clumsy. If it’s one of the girls that I meet with several times a year to make sure her grades are fine and she has what she needs to succeed, then I’m going to have to ask her about those marks on her body.
So, here’s where I really need your help, Beyoncé. If you were me, and you had to look at a girl with a fat lip or maybe strange bruises on her arm, how would you handle it?
What is it exactly that you would say to her? ’Cause at this point — as a woman — I think I really need to know.