Illinois action blog

Monday, April 18, 2011

Charlie Sheen & Victim-Blaming

By now, we've all read quotes from his nonsensical rants plastered under pictures of kittens, as captions to New Yorker cartoons, and featured in hundreds of other Internet memes. Charlie Sheen has been basking in the spotlight lately due to his colorful statements about his fame, "epic" partying, and dangerous drug use. But why is it that Sheen's self-abuse is seen as an endless stockpile of entertainment, but his history of violence towards others is simply sidestepped? In 1994, a college student sued Sheen for allegedly striking her in the head for refusing to sleep with him. In 1996, sex film actress Brittany Ashland said he had thrown her to the floor in the middle of a fight. In 2006, Sheen's then-wife Denise Richards filed a restraining order against him after stating that he had pushed her and threatened to kill her. And these are just a few cases.

In a recent interview, Piers Morgan asked Sheen if he had ever hit a woman. Sheen dizzily rambled that "Women are not to be hit; they're to be hugged and caressed," and the subject was dropped. While the long-term effects his career may suffer are still in question, there's no doubt that Sheen's behavior has won him major publicity and even increased fandom. His antics have been chalked up to his "bad boy status" and "rebellious" lifestyle, but his domestic violence cases have been dismissed almost entirely. Why is it that other celebrities' (such as Chris Brown's) careers suffer from their violent behavior but Sheen's violence is lumped in with his Hollywood lifestyle?

One possible explanation for this may be the questionable reputations given to the various women who have accused Sheen of threatening or hurting them. Several of the women are escorts or porn stars; some are less-famous stars mostly recognized for their appearance and sex appeal. Most of the women have been labeled "sluts" and "gold-diggers"--but not only are these words hurtful and judgmental, they are also not an invitation for violence. Unfortunately, we see a lot of victim-blaming in our culture. Women who suffer abuse but who also engage in partying or sex work are often written off with claims that "they were asking for it" or should have expected it. People assert that women put themselves at risk when they enter parties, the sex business,or when they get involved with erratic personalities like Charlie Sheen.

This demeaning outlook on violence needs to stop. Discounting a victim's experience because of his or her identity or choices is not only problematic, it holds serious implications for how our culture approaches instances of rape and violence, not to mention how it values women. Women (and all humans, for that matter) are not disposable, and individuals should never be written off or blamed for the violence other's inflict upon them.

Technorati tags: Planned Parenthood, abuse

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