“It’s unfortunate because he’s a great guy, he just has stupid advisors around him.”
This is Reebok CEO Uli Becker, as tweeted by Footwear News, speaking about the rapper Rick Ross. Amongst Ross’ “great guy” credentials? Rapping in a song by Rocko the following lyrics about drugging and raping a woman: “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” When critics decried his rapey lyrics and he got dropped by at least one radio station, Ross called the whole thing a “misinterpretation” because he never said the word “rape.” (Ross also added he wants all the “sexy ladies, the beautiful ladies” to know rape is bad.) After getting dropped as a Reebok spokesperson, two weeks after the initial kerfluffle, he finally issued an apology, calling rape a “crime” and “wrong.”
I was reminded of Rick Ross just yesterday when I read about Constable Jason Peacock, a veteran Toronto police officer who was found guilty of assaulting his then-girlfriend and damaging her home. On Christmas Eve morning 2010, Peacock showed up unannounced at her place and refused to leave; he punched holes in her walls, smashed glasses, overturned her kitchen island, and shook her hard by the shoulders. In her statement, his then-girlfriend wrote, “There was a period where I thought he was going to kill me.” The judge who sentenced Peacock to 100 community service and $4,300 in restitution fees called the officer “a good man who, but for his involvement with [the ex-girlfriend], led not only an unblemished by exemplary life.”
Or what about the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was defended by John Thompson, Jr., a former Georgetown coach, as a “good man” who did “something that he maybe would be sorry about.” That “something” that Paterno should “maybe” be sorry about was allowing child rape to happen.
Let me be the first (apparently) to tell you, guys. You are not good men.
All the good guys that I know, and I know many who truly do deserve the term, don’t use physical violence or threats to intimidate or control. They don’t pretty much offer instructions on how to rape someone and then tell the “sexy ladies” they’re “misunderstanding” when they critique it. They would never in a million, billion years let children be sexually abused by a serial predator. Why? Because they’re actual people of integrity. People who abuse, hurt and rape or condone abuse, hurt, and rape are not good people. In fact, that’s the very definition of being a bad person. No human being is a saint; I certainly am not. But there’s a hell of a difference between being that selfish jerk who takes two cupcakes at the office party and being either a direct or an indirect cause of irreparable damage to others.
But I’m not just talking about people, I’m talking about men, because it is men who are so often not held accountable, even reminded they are “good” or “great” people. Why is it we as a culture do this time and again in the face of violence? All these various examples I’ve given (not to mention Chris Brown, a Pandora’s box I’m not even going to open here) have been defended as, like, really actually pretty nice people! by judges and colleagues and friends. Maybe all of our bars for what makes someone else an A-OK person are perilously low.
Or maybe, just maybe, confronting our fear of a violent, patriarchal society is scary. It’s almost too scary. It means we actually have to confront that other people can be mean and cruel and not to be trusted. If we have to admit that there’s a problem of sexual violence against girls and women, then we have to admit that there are perpetrators. If we have to admit there’s a problem of intimate partner violence overwhelmingly against women, we have to admit there are perpetrators. Those perpetrators are our brothers, our coaches, our spokespeople, our cops. It feels better to be in denial. Then we don’t have to do the actual dirty work of rehabilitating them and changing the culture that sculpted them in the first place.
But I’m tired of it: the denial, the fear, the bar being set so low. I respect the actual good men I know more than that to lump them in the same category as domestic abusers, rape apologists, and people who turn a blind eye to child rape. And I respect the victims more than to dismiss them as some very unfortunate collateral damage. What does it say to the victim of Constable Peacock or all the sexual assault victims who heard Rick Ross practically rapping instructions about how to rape when people say this kind of stuff? Really, he’s, like, a REALLY GREAT GUY! We sound like the little 13-year-old girls who were defending Chris Brown on Twitter after he beat Rihanna’s face into a bloody pulp. I mean, really, grown-ass adults. How offensive as a culture can we be?
Ross may well have “stupid advisors” around him. More likely, as with anyone in a relative position of power, he is surrounded by ass-kissing “yes men” who will never call him on his shit if he does something wrong. In all too many cases, those “yes men” are us. And that is not what good people do.
[Photo of shocked man via Shutterstock]