Rihanna needs to do something about the men in her life. First, we have Chris Brown, who I like to call the new-age Ike Turner, and now her father Ronald Fenty, who seems to think that the fat-shaming of his daughter is a key factor in her success. Fenty’s recent interview with Heat Magazine may shed light on why Rihanna seems so willing to put up with abusive behaviour.
Our first role models are our parents; for those raised in a two-parent heterosexual household, that means mothers and fathers. There is a constant social emphasis on how boys need their fathers to teach them how to be men, but girls also need their fathers to model what a good man is and how they should demand to be treated by their partners (should they happen to be straight, of course). Speaking on the role that her absentee father played in her life, Halle Berry once stated, “If I had a good father in my life growing up, then I do not think I would have made the mistakes I made. I would not have been lost in love.”
For many women, our fathers serve as our primary model of masculinity and those of us who choose to partner with men often notice that our spouses share very significant qualities and character traits with our fathers. From the time that I was a little girl, I knew that I wanted a man to treat me the way that my father treats my mother. I knew that settling for less would not make me happy. However, Rihanna’s father doesn’t seem to take the intimate partner violence his daughter endured very seriously. According to The New York Post, Fenty said, “Chris is a nice guy and everybody’s entitled to make mistakes in their life. God knows how many I’ve made.”
As if those remarks were not vile enough, he went on to discuss her weight. “I actually thought she was a little fat the last time I saw her,” he said. “When I saw her at this year’s Grammys, I thought she was back to her normal size. I used to joke with her, ‘Robyn, you’re getting too fat.’ But I think she’s fine. I think she looked excellent, as everyone saw, at the Grammys. She’s dieting, she’s working out.”
A mistake is forgetting your girlfriends’ birthday, not beating her until she is covered in bruises. Abusers are charming people; they have to be in order to instill confidence on the part of their victims. They build confidence, separate the victim from their support group, and systematically attack the victim’s self esteem to prepare them for the idea that they deserve to be beaten and abused. To the outside world they appear to be charming and sweet, but in private they are violent, controlling and cruel.
Chris Brown assaulted Fenty’s daughter, yet he is ready to forgive him and chalk it up to an innocent mistake, thus ignoring the cruel and abusive act of violence Rihanna suffered. Fenty’s dismissive attitude toward intimate partner violence, as well as his judgmental comments on his daughter’s diet and body image, speaks volumes regarding his position on women. Is it any wonder that Rihanna decided to go back into the studio with Brown, when her own father is not capable of validating her bodily integrity enough to be enraged at what she endured? Fenty may well have seen this as being a supportive father. Perhaps he even thought his statements would validate Rihanna’s autonomy; however, a parent’s job is to tell their child the hard truth, even when they don’t want to hear it.
Any kind of interaction between Rihanna and Chris Brown will not be good for her emotional, and potentially physical, health. Brown continues to act violently in public and has on many occasions attempted to thwart responsibility for his actions. This is, after all, the same man who saw winning a Grammy as validation for his behavior. Brown took to Twitter to write, “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate F**** OFF!”
From his language, it’s clear that Fenty is an emotionally abusive father. Rihanna is at the top of her game, and since becoming aware of her, I have yet to see a single image of her so-called fat body. He clearly does not have a positive attitude and sees being fat as something shameful, something to be avoided at all costs. After reading his comments, I wondered if Fenty realizes that there are fat people who go to the gym and work out regularly? It is more than possible to be fat and look good, as well as to simultaneously be in good physical heath and be fat.
Fenty is not far removed from Chris Brown because he engages in abuse as a mechanism of controlling women. Calling Rihanna fat and demanding that her body conform to his standard of thinness is absolutely controlling behavior. His comments suggest that she is not worthy of his love or attention should she fail to remain within his image of bodily perfection. This is classic abusive behavior.
I no longer wonder about the hold that Chris Brown has over Rihanna. If Fenty is her primary male role model, no wonder she doesn’t believe that she deserves more from a relationship than to be beaten, controlled, and abused. Children who grow up in abusive homes often repeat the same patterns in their adult life, as both Rihanna and Brown have so clearly done. Breaking a pattern of abuse takes serious work because it means fighting an understanding of violence that has become ingrained in the formative years. Clearly, Brown has identified with the oppressor and Rihanna, unfortunately, seems to have identified with the victim.
What do you think?