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The Taliban and Eminem Make me Burn! by Vyda Bielkus

Today at the doctor’s office, I picked up the August 9, 2010, issue of Time Magazine.  On the cover is a startling image of a young, pretty woman from Afghanistan with no nose. It had been cut off along with her ears after she ran away from her abusive husband’s family.  As I read the article, I was so saddened to read that the Taliban’s rules and laws will be part of the fabric of Afghani daily life as the country rebuilds.  Women as second class citizens will remain the norm and horrific violence against women will continue to be lawful.

Whenever I read stories like these I often think about the men. What could they possibly have been thinking when they took the young woman to a mountainside in the middle of the night and brutally disfigured her and left her to die?  What justification did they use in their minds? What threatens them so?  I thought to myself, how asleep this group of people.

Driving home from my appointment, recalling the disturbing image, I started to think what if anything can be done.  Should the US increase its force against the Taliban in Afghanistan? Can it? Why are we not more outraged? Have we as citizens of this great nation just become numbed into complacency that nothing can be done? As long as we are not suffering, do we care so little about others suffering?

As my mind contemplated these questions, Eminem and Rihanna’s Number 1 hit “Love the Way you Lie” came on the radio.  And I realized, we are just as asleep.  Our world accepts violence, hatred, and mistreatment toward women everywhere; and in turn, our world is not at peace.  We are at war.  The few more violent, more powerful have us all afraid of demanding change.

If you haven’t heard the song, in this popular catchy hip hop tune, Eminem outlines the course a violent and abusive man takes in a relationship, culminating in the lyrics: “I just want her back/I know I’m a liar/If she ever tries to fu***ng leave again/I’ma tie her to the bed And set the house on fire”.  Through out the song Rihanna sings the part of the dutiful abused girlfriend: “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/But that’s alright/ I like the way it hurts/Just gonna stand there and hear me cry/But that’s alright/Because I love the way you lie.” Is Rihanna trying to justify her personal experience of abuse as the “new normal” by singing along?  Rihanna being quoted as saying this is a “beautiful song” just exemplifies how unwilling we are to take a stand and to say enough is enough.

Now, I am all for free speech but to be playing on the radio a song that so glorifies a toxic relationship has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with normalizing violence against women.  And yet where is the outrage?  Instead we have people downloading the song at warp speed.  It has so struck a cord with people that it has leaped to number one, what does that say about the status of our most intimate relationships?  Is the violence, the volatility, sexy, even desired?  I am afraid that we are so utterly confused that we actually accept that love and hurt go together.  I also believe this is why at some level we are okay with women being brutally tortured in Afghanistan.

This song being played on the radio, with a survivor of abuse singing the chorus, clearly punctuates our collective hatred toward women.  Along the way to this song being made and produced did not one person stop and say “What are we putting out here?  What are we really saying?  And what do we want to teach the children who are the ones buying the music?”

Taking no action to stop the production of such a song or worse yet to justify it as something good and acceptable, is exactly how the Taliban gets away with abusing half the population. And to those who say don’t buy it if you don’t like it, I say wake up!  Just because we might not see a women stoned to death in the street doesn’t mean it is not happening. Do we not have a human responsibility to stop turning our heads or demand that misogynistic songs be removed from the airwaves?  Isn’t it time to get outraged?  To call out and step out against those who keep violence against women as part of our collective cultural experience.

Many of us grow up without a healthy picture of what love is.  We all come to relationships with different parts of ourselves to be healed.  When you first fall in love with someone it is so all consuming that you feel it has to be love.  We all know that feeling of having your heart super-charged.  This is one of the best feelings in the world. No one instantly falls in love with an abuser.   When a partner becomes abusive (verbally/physically) it is so unbelievable and out of context that you rationalize it away.  Unless you have been or know someone who has been in a relationship like this there is almost no way to grasp this cycle.  But once you are free from the cycle and healed from the pain, it is hard to imagine saying the words “I love the way you lie.”  There is no loving it when a partner is yelling at and lying to you.  There is no loving it when you are verbally put down.  There is only pain.  In all those moments there is only deep, deep pain.

Our world will not heal and be at peace until we fully expose and heal the rage that is taken out against women.  As a women said in the Time article, “If you sacrifice women to make peace, you are also sacrificing the men who support them and abandoning the country to the fundamentalists that caused all the problems in the first place.”  By doing nothing, by continuing to lower women’s position and power, through culturally accepted media outlets like this song, we do not get any closer to bringing peace to our individual hearts, our country and our world.

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