Rude Boy/Rude Girl #5

Posted: August 11, 2010 in Eminem, Gender Violence, Rihanna
Tags: , ,

What do heterosexual ‘normal’ relationships and family structures look like?

Do they look like this?

Or do they look like this?

And are we allowed to talk about how one becomes the other, quite often, when the cameras stop rolling, the music stops playing and the doors are closed?

I remember waking up frightened next to my partner each morning.

I remember being screamed at for throwing away some spaghetti.

I remember that when I told some people what had happened to me, they looked embarrassed and didn’t want to talk to me.

I remember when I told other people what had happened to me, they looked grateful and sorrowful, for it had happened to them too, but they never told anyone.

I remember his barrister asking me about my history of ‘mental illness’ in front of a whole courtroom.

I remember being terrified of going home.

I remember watching Happy Days on telly as a kid, and thinking ‘families aren’t like that’.

I remember watching Nil By Mouth and seeing myself in Kathy Burke’s character.

I remember my friend sat at my kitchen table, telling me her husband of only one month had been beating her up for ages, but she didn’t cancel the wedding because she didn’t want to let her family down.

I remember my mates being friendly to this cunt even though they knew he had terrorised and assaulted one of our friends.

I remember watching Love The Way You Lie and feeling relieved that the complex ways in which violence enters relationships were being shown on a pop video.

And then I remember being told I wasn’t allowed that feeling of relief. Because I was wrong to identify with something so ‘cliched’ and ‘glamourising’ of violence in a relationship.

But you glamourise relationships all the time with your nice houses and your wives and your holidays to Cornwall or the Algarve. You are a walking cliche with your wine cellar and your DVD collection and your oak kitchen table.

Pornography is ‘other people’s erotica’. And violence is ‘other people’s domesticity’.

He silenced me once, with his threats and his violence. I learned from him, that the only way you can get me to be quiet is by coming over here and actually punching my lights out, kicking me to the ground. Even then I will get up and come back fighting.  Isn’t that what Rihanna did? Do we make you feel uncomfortable? I hope so. I really do.

  1. Amelia Jane says:

    “But you glamourise relationships all the time with your nice houses and your wives and your holidays to Cornwall or the Algarve. You are a walking cliche with your wine cellar and your DVD collection and your oak kitchen table.”
    THIS. Fucking, yes. The other day, my brother put a knife to my throat. I’ve been trying to write about, to tell people, because we are a NICE family and NICE families don’t do shit like that, except,of course, THEY DO. And my Mum accept it’s any kind of problem, because she can’t stand to admit to her neighbourhood that we are not a NICE family. Even though none of them probably are either.
    What the fuck is a ‘normal’ family?

  2. Amelia Jane says:

    *my mum doesn’t and won’t accept it’s any kind of problem

  3. shit Amelia. Are you ok? my email is if you want a chat about anything.

  4. talking about these things in a way that doesn’t fit in with the ‘cliche’ of what family and partner violence are is very difficult and very brave! I hope you get to write about it (you may need a bit of time and distance. I did).


  5. Dan Holloway says:

    On people telling you you’re not allowed to associate with glamourising material. Not in relation to violence, but in relation to suicide. One of my best friends has tried to kill herslef four times, most recently just a few weeks ago. The only way she is able to cope at all is by writing and producing art that is unflinchingly honest about it. One video she made featured her writing at a desk whilst she read a passage from one of her novels featuring a suicide attempt. She was told the video was irresponsible because she’s pretty and that glamourised suicide. It’s so easy to point out the dangers of what happens if you DO speak out, so much harder to point out the equally real dangers when you don’t. So easy to list the people who suffered because of what was said, and so hard to find the statistics for those who suffered because they were kept silent, explicitly or by the conventions of a society in which the decent is equated with the passive aggressives who “would really rather you didn’t talk about it. Or at least, not here. Or, well, not like that.”

    • englishthorn says:

      Dan, I think I understand a little. Sometimes I struggle with depressive thoughts and I’ve tried to kill myself in the past. Sometimes I glamourise in an unhealthy way, I know, but sometimes you need to get things out there. It’s not attention-seeking or glamourising to talk about things dramatically – because they are dramatic. It’s very British stiff-upper-lip to keep quiet or dismiss things as unimportant by “keeping them in proportion” or “trying not to upset other people”, but we’ve got to be honest aobut these things.

      QRG, I know my words don’t mean much, but I am really really sorry you had to go through that. And I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Can I ask about your and your friend’s socio-economic background? I wonder if the reason why I think I don’t know *anyone* who’s experienced anything remotely like this is because it’s because us upper-middle class, largely privately and university educated English types, have escaped this, or we have the veil of silence over this horror.

  6. Oh Dan I am sorry to hear about your friend.

    This post and your comments so far I am finding very moving. I always find that when people tell me I am not allowed to respond to something in a certain way, to do with portrayals of violence, it leads me to share very personal stories, partly as a way of asserting my right to respond how I damn well want to. And you and amelia have also shared very personal stories which I really appreciate.

    I think there are ways we can talk/write about our own experience that makes it impossible for others to take it away from us. But it takes a bit of courage to do that.

    Thank=you both.

  7. HI English thorn
    Your words mean a lot! Nobody who argued with me about my ‘wrong’ interpretation of Eminem and Rihanna’s song bothered to tell me they were sorry about what happened! I value your compassion.

    My friend (the married one) and I are both middle class, post-grad educated. I think she comes from a more lower-middle or working class background originally. Violence in families and relationships doesn’t distinguish along class lines. But social attitudes to that violence do. I think my middle class background benefitted me in the fact I had access to knowledge and contacts in the legal system so I took my case to court. Many many people don’t even report violence from partners/family members.

    I think socio-economics play a role in these situations. But it is by no means the whole story.

    It was weird there was something about my experience of domestic violence that made me feel myself slide down the class ‘snake’ as it were, into the underclass, with all the ne-er do-wells. I felt like I lost all my status in society as a result of my experience (and I did lose my job at the time). It was an interesting exercise in ‘social mobility’!

  8. Nikki says:

    I’ve thought about posting this for a while, it’s taken time for me to put into words what I feel. So I apologise for the late post:
    For me, my dislike of the song is the nostalgia that it brings. I miss the abusive relationships, even the ones I walked away from. For me, love and pain are interchangeable and part of me genuinely believes that one can’t be had without the other.
    I can’t deal with hearing it, can’t deal with that feeling that makes me want and feel dirty at exactly the same time. Music is supposed to be evocative and it’s succeeded in that (with me at least) but it’s not something that I can comfortably listen to in public.
    I don’t know if your interpretation was “right or wrong” but all the arguments you have heard making you wrong were pulled out by me. Not because I believe in them, but because it’s easier to react that way to other people, than to explain exactly why I don’t want to hear it.

  9. Thank-you Nikki for taking the time to comment. You are very honest and brave in your words.

    The thing I have come to realise is that yes, love, or even just sex, and pain are inextricably linked a lot of the time. We don’t have to be ashamed of this fact or think it is ‘bad’. We just maybe could benefit from not being so secretive about it. That’s when the real ‘pain’ can occur.

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